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can hybrids end our addiction to foreign oil?

When choosing a new car, is the high cost of hybrid cars keeping consumers from going green? Consumer Reports has just come out with an article that says that six of the twelve hybrids they analyzed can pay off their price premium in just one year.  2008_Honda_Civic_Hybrid_rear.jpgToyota_Prius_1.jpg

They also found that considering the current high cost of gasoline, when compared with a similar, conventional vehicle, a typical hybrid can save drivers up to $4,000 over a five-year period.  Federal tax incentives can further accelerate the hybrid payoff.  It would take many years for most hybrids to pay back their premium price just on fuel savings. But fuel costs are only 25 percent of the overall owner costs in the first five years. Other factors include depreciation, insurance, interest on financing, maintenance and repairs, and sales tax.*

The current push to increase offshore oil drilling and exploration is all well and good if you support the assumption that we will continue with our ‘business as usual’ approach to fuel economy standards.  (An ineffective EPA standard of 31 mpg is set for 2011.)  If the real issue facing American consumers is energy independence, then an acceleration of EPA fuel economy standards is obviously in order.

A switch by a majority of Americans to hybrid cars would push our average mpg fuel economy toward the magic 40 mpg figure that could totally eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. The additional use of alternative fuels and development of new technologies can further lower our dependence on fossil fuels.  It appears to be a no-brainer.  (Now, about that addiction to foreign cars — pictured above: Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrids.)


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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Heat Surge Update

You may have seen the two-page ads in your local newspaper. The Heat Surge “Miracle” heater keeps on advertising and selling hundreds of its 1500 watt electric heaters. The deal: buy the Amish-made “solid wood” mantle and get the Chinese-made heater for free.  Things to remember: all 1500 watt electric heaters produce 5118 BTU’s of heat – no miracle just math, and the only way to save money heating your home with a space heater is to only heat the room you’re in while leaving the rest of the house chilly. Electricity is 2.5 times more expensive than natural gas when used as a heating source.


There have been many complaints from Heat Surge customers anddozens of complaints made to the Canton, Ohio Better Business Bureau about both the ads and company’s policies and practices.  The company may have solved some of these problems. As pointed out in our original (12/2007) post questioning the wording of the Heat Surge newspaper ads we suggest a careful reading of the ad and thorough consumer research before investing your hard earned cash in this product.  You may ultimately end up loving the looks and convenience of the roll-around unit and its fake fireplace design, but it will not be a ‘miracle’ solution to your home heating situation.  Insulation, weather-stripping and programmable thermostats are probably a much more effective investment.   If you decide your home will benefit from an electric space heater there are plenty of less expensive (albeit not so fancy looking) alternatives on the market.

Review some of the over 400 comments on our original post for further customer insights.

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stinkweed as biofuel

stinkweed.jpgOur search for alternative energy sources — in this case, inexpensive, non-food crops that can serve as economical sources of biodiesel, has lead us to New York-based, Innovation Fuels and its pilot program to grow Stinkweed, aka field Pennycress, as a biofuel crop.

If you live in the northern U.S. you may have encountered this weed in your backyard garden.  Stinkweed has traditionally been either an invasive enemy to farmers or a nickname you gave to one of your less-talented or odiferous cousins. The weed produces seeds that are a robust 36% oil, making it an attractive alternative to food pennycress1.jpgcrops such as soybeans as a source of biofuel.

Early tests show Pennycress may be superior to soybeans as a source of biodiesel.  The weed seems to be easily grown and readily harvested. Grown as a winter annual, it can be planted in fall and harvested in May or June; cultivating the weed may provide an opportunity for a summer crop, like wheat or soy, to be grown on the same land, providing farmers an additional source of income and crop rotation.

Innovation Fuels is test plantings on farms in Easton, N.Y., Washington County and two other locations in central New York.  Though early results have been positive, domesticating and testing the weed will take a few years but could ultimately result in a long-term positive for both the energy industry and U.S. farmers.

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pedoodles – happy feet, happy kids

Kick up the cool factor of your toddlers by strapping on a pair of eco-friendly Pedoodles from the Next Steps Collection, made from remnants of premium leather (free of Lead, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Mercury, Selenium and harmful Amines).


These fun and comfy babies are reasonably priced —  Petal Jumpers (above L, $36) and Little Caesar (above R, $36) and are available in sizes ranging from 8 months to 3 years.


To-boot, the green packaging is made from recycled materials, and the tote gift box is intended to be either reused or recycled again. Having walked the walk, we give the eco-friendly styles of Pedoodles Next Steps Collection a Tried and True, Green Thumbs Up!

look for the eco logo @

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a mixed bag of green news


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