From the Kenosha News on 1-21-07

Search on-line and save the planet

Recently, I saw a TV documentary about global warming that gave lots of information about the impact of rising temperatures, including simulations of coastal flooding. However, it didn’t include many suggestions about what the average person could do to help. It got me asking some questions which I researched on-line. Here are some tips for researching topics like this.

First, I didn’t catch the name of the show or what channel it was on, but I wondered if I could find it or info about it on-line. I remember that it was narrated by Tom Brokaw, so I went to Google.com and typed in “global warming Tom Brokaw.” The second site on the list was about the show I saw – a Discovery channel program called “Global Warming: what you need to know.” I couldn’t find any video clips on that site because of errors, so I went back to the Google search page and this time clicked the Video link above the box where I had entered the search terms. The first hit listed featured a 2 minute clip from the show.

What I really wanted is more info on what could be done by average citizens. The show had only suggested a few things, including driving a hybrid vehicle, using compact florescent light bulbs, and reducing the trash you generate. I returned to Google and typed “fight global warming.” Lots of useful web sites came up. Most of them pointed to the same strategies, and some were pretty useless.

I had some pretty specific questions; we’ll look at two of them. 1) Would it help to use fuel containing ethanol from corn? (The show explained that Brazil was making ethanol from sugar cane and completely eliminated its dependency on foreign oil. I grew up on a farm that raised corn. Put the two together…) 2) How much does a hybrid car cost and are there tax or other incentives to buy one?

For the first question I went to Ask.com and typed in “can ethanol reduce carbon emissions?” (Carbon emissions are greenhouse gases.) The “Why Biomass?” site seemed to be most convincing that ethanol would indeed reduce greenhouse gases, but the source is likely biased. Another site said some Californians think that ethanol causes more pollution. The overall consensus was that ethanol would help reduce carbon emissions.

To find out about hybrid cars, I tried carmax.com, autotrader.com, and beepbeep.com. Only Carmax’s site let me search for hybrids directly. The other two sites require that I know the specific make and model of the car, so I went back to Ask.com and asked “what car models are hybrid?” Hybridcarguide.com was very helpful in providing information about several options. For the second half of the question, I went to Ask.com and entered “are there tax incentives for buying hybrid cars?” On the carbuyingtips.com web site, I had to use the Find feature under the Edit menu to search for “tax” since there was so much info on the page. Scrolling down, I found a link to the IRS form for 2006. An even easier-to-understand site is at www.whybuyhybrid.com.

My final Google search was for “Carbon footprint calculator.” I filled out the info on the BP global site to calculate my carbon footprint. It was an eye-opener.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 1-21-07