New Vehicle Labels Trick Stingy Consumers Into Going Green

(Image credit: /EPA/DOE)

As consumers continue to rank economic concerns over environmental issues, the federal government has crafted an ingenious method of tricking those worried about their bottom lines into going green. 

Beginning in 2013, all vehicles – including gasoline-powered, plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric – will be labeled not only with their usual miles per gallon, but also how much consumers will save in fuel costs over five years compared to if they were to purchase an “average” vehicle, thanks to a new initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The label also states the estimated average annual cost of fuel for the vehicle, and rates the car both on greenhouse gas emissions and smog.

The emissions information will surely interest the more environmentally minded, but for those who tend to look the other way when it comes to their carbon footprint, the costs of owning a gas-guzzler could certainly be an eye-opener. As gas prices soared close to the $5-per-gallon mark in 2009, there was a marked uptick in sales of energy-efficient vehicles.

As shameful as it may be, money has proven to be the most effective motivator of consumer behavior, and I commend the government agencies for not only recognizing this truth, but using it to benefit the planet.

Of course, the system is not without its flaws. The annual costs of fueling the vehicles will invariably change along with fluctuating gas prices, thus rendering the new labels inaccurate. Moreover, each car model’s savings compared to the “average vehicle” will depend on that “average” shifting over time. For instance, a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon is now on the leading edge but may soon become “average,” affecting these calculations.

Nonetheless, the agencies have pulled off a brilliant marketing campaign – PR for emissions reduction, if you will. No, we will never convince everyone to be environmentally friendly, but saving money is something we can all agree on. Just don’t tell the climate skeptics they’re helping the Earth, too. 


EPA’s Actions On Human Pesticide Testing: Confused Priorities, Motives

I was really starting to get tired of complaining about corrupt industries. First, it was tobacco. Then came financial services, real estate, insurance, pharmaceutical — the list goes on. But when I found out that in 2006, the EPA canceled its ban on human pesticide testing, I had to put my censure moratorium on hold.

According to a statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), public records show that researchers paid people “to eat or drink pesticides, to enter pesticide vapor ‘chambers,’ or to have pesticides sprayed into their eyes or rubbed onto their skin.”

“In one experiment,” the NRDC statement adds, “the people tested were even told that the chemical was a medicine instead of a pesticide.” Under the rule in place since 2006, it is legal for adults get paid for pesticide testing done on their own children.

It’s bad enough that these products are releasing their harmful toxins into our environment, inevitably affecting human health as well. The pesticide companies know their products are harmful; that’s why their effects on humans need to be measured in the first place.

The good news is that EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson is taking another positive step forward to reverse the corruption that took place under the previous administration: Under a proposed rule, which is currently under a 60-day comment period, the EPA will eliminate the incentive for pesticide companies to conduct testing on humans, the NRDC says.

However, even if it is passed, the rule will not ban human testing altogether — nor will it ban animal testing, which is another issue entirely. But instead of merely proposing stricter regulations — which is a start — maybe we should be taking a harder look at the need for these toxic chemicals in the first place, and instead of wasting money on lawsuits, spend it on researching and developing safer alternatives.