An experiment in social tagging using EPA documents

[Post author: Scott Butner]

Social tagging (also known as social bookmarking) is a practice that has been gaining some steam over recent years — it relies on the actions of a large crowd of users to assign topical categories (“tags”) to documents or other information objects (photos, videos, etc may also be tagged) in order to help categorize their meaning.

Some popular web sites, like Flickr,, even Facebook — make use of tags, as do most blogging applications.  The basic idea is one that has sometimes been called “folksonomy” — creating controlled vocabularies by consensus and from the bottom up.

This is the sort of thing that gives librarians bad dreams at night, or so I’ve been led to believe.  So it’s somewhat ironic that a group of library science types has launched a pilot project to improve the accessibility of EPA documents by opening them up for tagging via the popular web site.

Now, it’s not clear to me what this group is expecting to accomplish.  I’m not even sure it’s clear to them.  But it seems to revolve around the issue of “findability” of EPA data — an important issue, as Wikipedia and other social media continue to gain ground on more authoritative sources of information about regulations.

I’ll continue to monitor this experiment, and report back if anything interesting happens.

The beginning of my GLRPPR blogging career…

[Post author: Scott Butner]


The other day, I was invited to make the occasional contribution to this blog. I was handed a password and a user ID, few constraints and even less guidance as to what would be an appropriate set of topics on which to record my thoughts. I guess they figured someone who has been doing P2 related work for 20+ years can be expected to say something relevant now and again, even if only by accident.

This is akin to giving your 16 year old son the keys to the Porsche (and no, I do NOT have a Porsche — yet) and telling him to “feel free to take it out for a spin, but don’t get in any trouble.”

Yeah, that’ll work out real well.

Well, we will see what we will see. I promise to try and be well-behaved. If I find myself diverted down some back-country dead end miles from the Information Superhighway, I will rely on our readers, and the good folks at GLRPPR to point me back in the direction of the main road.

What I intend to write about — mostly — is the intersection between pollution prevention (and other forms of technical assistance) and information technology. How do we put the right information — in accessible forms, at the right time, and most importantly in the right context — in the hands of people who are faced with decisions that make a difference to the environment? How can emerging technologies and trends — social computing (turning loose the wisdom of the crowd), semantic web technology, even this blog — play a role in producing a greener world?

These are the sorts of questions that have kept me up at night for the past 20 years. Well, those questions, and “where’s the remote control?” — that one’s usually good for a few hours. And while, as a researcher, I have always been more interested in the questions than the answers, I’ll try to at least point to people and programs that I think may be on the right track in some way.

So. We’ve got a full tank of gas, the keys to mom and dad’s car, and miles of road ahead and behind us. The iPod is filled up with songs.

It’s time for a road trip.

We may not get there very fast, but then again, it’s all about the journey, right? At least, that’s what I always told my parents when my trip to the grocery store ended up with me 80 miles down the highway, wondering if they’d hidden any gas money in the car.

We’ll see how far we get before they take away my keys.

road trip

More Sites Added to GLRPPR’s P2 Search

In May, GLRPPR announced the new P2 Search tool, designed to search several different pollution prevention (P2) related web sites simultaneously. Now we’re pleased to report that the total number of sites currently included in this search engine is 45. GLRPPR Help Desk Librarian Laura Barnes has added the “GreenBiz” family of web sites (,, and, as well as OSHA, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to this customized Google search tool. The complete list of sites included in P2 Search is available at If you have suggestions for other web sites you think should be included in P2 Search, contact Laura Barnes.

We appreciate feedback on P2 Search. Our thanks go out to Harmony Madill of Environment Canada’s Canadian Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse (CPPIC), who contacted us recently after trying out P2 Search and noticing that some documents available on CPPIC weren’t showing up in the search results, even though they were showing up in the results of a standard Google search. Laura Barnes did some investigating and discovered that P2 Search was looking at the index of the English version of the CPPIC site (it’s available in English and French, of course), rather than the more generic (sometimes you can be too specific). Laura remedied the situation by broadening P2 Search to include the entire Environment Canada domain. Nice catch, Harmony!

You can add P2 Search to your own web site or to your customized Google homepage (iGoogle) by following the links and instructions available in the lower right hand corner of the P2 Search homepage. Code is provided for adding the tool to your web site, so if you’re not technically savvy or not authorized to alter your organization’s web site, you’ll need to provide this to your webmaster. If you do this, tell us about it to help us get a feel for how many people are using this option. Happy searching!

New P2 Search Tool Available on GLRPPR Web Site

P2 Search Box

The Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) is pleased to announce the new “P2 Search” function available on the GLRPPR web site. Powered by Google, this search box allows you to search 37 web sites simultaneously for pollution prevention (P2) and related information. These sites include the U.S. EPA web site, each of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) Center web sites, all of the national compliance assistance centers, the Department of Energy (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as well as the Office of Science and Technical Information), P2 Gems, the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention (C2P2), Environment Canada’s Canadian Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse (CPPIC), UNEP, Europa (European Union portal), and Australia’s environmental portal.

Note that when you type in a search phrase, the results page will feature links at the top allowing you to refine your search by limiting your search to the compliance assistance centers, energy efficiency-related sites, international sites, the P2Rx centers or to U.S. federal government sites.

Also, please be aware of the fact that unlike a standard Google search results page, the results page for this specialized Google search will not tell you the total number of results at the top of the page (e.g. “Results 1-XX of YYYY for your search phrase.”). Ten results are shown per page. Scroll to the bottom of the results page to advance to subsequent results pages and to get a feel for the total amount of information your search retrieved.

Take it for a test drive and let us know what you think. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for sites to add to the search, contact GLRPPR Help Desk Librarian Laura Barnes at

From the GLRPPR Help Desk archive

The GLRPPR Help Desk Librarian is here to answer your P2 questions. Previous questions and answers are archived on the GLRPPR web site and also appear in related sector resource categories. Below is a recent inquiry.

Question: I have heard about a $1/gallon government incentive for biodiesel. I would like some information about who provides the incentive and who gets it.

Answer: This incentive is also known as the Biodiesel and Ethanol (VEETC) Tax Credit. According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-357) created tax incentives for biodiesel fuels and extended the tax credit for fuel ethanol. The biodiesel credit is available to blenders/retailers beginning in January 2005. It also established the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), which provides ethanol blenders/retailers with $.51 per pure gallon of ethanol blended or $.0051 per percentage point of ethanol blended (i.e., E10 is eligible for $.051/gal; E85 is eligible for $.4335/gal). The incentive is available until 2010.

Section 1344 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended the tax credit for biodiesel producers through 2008. The credits are $.51 per gallon of ethanol at 190 proof or greater, $1.00 per gallon of agri-biodiesel, and $.50 per gallon of waste-grease biodiesel. If the fuel is used in a mixture, the credit amounts to $.0051 per percentage point ethanol or $.01 per percentage point of agri-biodiesel used or $.0050 per percentage point of waste-grease biodiesel (i.e. E100 is eligible for $.51 per gallon) (Source: U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)

For more details on this program and other incentives for using alternative fuel sources, see:

Getting bucks back for your biodiesel production
This article provides a good overview of the tax credit and related incentives for biodiesel producers.

State & Federal Incentives & Laws
This database captures state and federal laws and incentives related to alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, fuel efficiency, and other transportation-related topics. State-level information is updated annually after each state’s legislative session ends. Federal information is updated after enacted legislation is signed into law.