Sunday, December 31, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
* Now even the Bush administration is admitting climate change is already here, finally recognizing the threat to polar bears.
* China has issued its first report on the impact of global warming in the world's most populous country. The results are ominous but not unexpected -- higher temperatures along with more rain AND more droughts (the extra rain will evaporate faster in the heat). Meanwhile, some American companies are recognizing China as a huge, untapped market for green products and services.
* Cool story from Forbes about a guy who figured out how to make big bucks by convincing people to recycle.
* Over at Bacon's Rebellion, Jim points out one reason why Arlington has fewer traffic problems than Fairfax -- it has 38 times as many people working to convince commuters to ditch their cars.
* And as the nation remembers Gerald Ford, I couldn't help remembering this classic 1996 Saturday Night Live skit, with Dana Carvey portraying Tom Brokaw recording some potential breaking news bulletins before leaving on vacation.
UPDATE: Chinese officials suspected of faking smog data to make clean air targets.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Other environmental news & notes ...
* Some great tips from Arlington County on going green over the holidays.
* California is getting ready to spend more than $3.4 billion over the next 10 years to subsidize the installation of 1 million solar roofs, or about 3,000 megawatts of electricity capacity, enough at peak output to match six modern natural-gas-fired power plants. It's the biggest solar energy effort in U.S. history.
* Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) flatly says the era of silent but deadly environmental rollbacks is over.
* Think we humans know everything there is to know about everything on this planet? Here are 52 reasons why not.
* Questions about whether a science association is looking out for students or its oil industry funders.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Metro faces two major problems, one financial, and one social. While the causes are beyond the reach of 15 cent fare hikes and such, this package seeks to address the effects of both.
There is only one major transit system in the country that lacks a dedicated government revenue stream. There is only one major transit system in the country that serves three states/districts in very similar proportions. Metro.
This year, Congress, DC, Maryland, and Virginia came closer than ever to agreeing on a dedicated funding source, but Virginia Republicans killed the deal. Lacking that funding source, fare hikes are Metro's quickest way to balance its budget is to raise fares. It's not necessarily the easiest, as the public backlash shows, but that Metro is willing to take that heat shows how tight its budget is.
More radical are the financial incentives for commuters to avoid riding during peak hours (5-9:30am or 3-7pm). I do agree with critics who say commuters are at the mercy of their bosses, and that the fare incentives target the thousands of ants marching and not The Man who decides when they work. But the suggested fare incentives are a nudge, not a shove, and hopefully employers and the federal government will take notice.
The overcrowding issues on both Metro and our region's roads are frequently and wrongly labeled as capacity problems. They're not. Metro is half-empty for 18 hours a day, as are all but the most congested local roads like I66 or the Beltway.
The traffic is a result of a social problem -- every employer asking all of their workers to come in at the same time, then telling all of their workers to leave at the same time. As a result, we make extremely inefficient use of our transportation systems.
Aside from high-tech companies, both private employers and government agencies have resisted telecommuting, and individual commuters are left to arrange their own lives around a reverse commute or fight their bosses to let them work a 7-3pm or 11-7pm shift. I pitched something similar to my boss once and was quickly shot down with, "I need you here when I'm here." Nice to know I'm wanted, but what am I, her favorite teddy bear?
It's sad that it's fallen to Metro to try to address decades of short-sighted choices, shirked responsibilies, and failed leadership. But as DC's growth continues, commuters are going to have to let go of the idea that one lane of highway or one rail car should be exclusively theirs to zip straight to work at their chosen time.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
* General Motors has put together a futuristic green concept car called the "Hummer O2." Never mind that it looks nothing like an actual Hummer ... or that the current H2 gets around 10 miles to the gallon of gas ... GM thinks this proves they care about being environmentally friendly. Right.
* It takes the equivalent of 100 million trees to create the paper to print a year's worth of America's junk mail, but a new organization is pledging to cut down drastically on your junk mail for about $3 a month. It's called Green Dimes, and I don't know if it works, but it's worth checking out!
* According to the Washington Post, car sharing is catching on fast:
[November 29th], one of the two major car-sharing companies that operate in the Washington region, Zipcar, announced a $25 million investment that will allow it to possibly double the 350 vehicles it already puts on area streets.
In June, Zipcar's rival, District-based Flexcar, announced a major investment by a company started by AOL co-founder Steve Case. That could set up the Washington area -- one of only two major markets where the two companies compete -- as a testing ground to see just how far car sharing can go in reducing congestion, pollution and parking woes.
"Some of the highest adoption neighborhoods in the country are in D.C.," said Scott Griffith, chief executive of Zipcar, based in Cambridge, Mass. He said that in the Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, where parking can be difficult to find, more than 10 percent of residents older than 21 use the service.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Environmentally friendly buildings can include simple design elements such as abundant natural light -- which can save energy by minimizing the need for artificial light. They can feature windows that open to allow in fresh air, unlike those in most office buildings. Low-emitting carpet and paint can be used to improve indoor air quality.
Green buildings are likely to be equipped with low-flow water fixtures and even, perhaps, no-flush urinals, which use a chemical trap instead of water, Moore said.
Builders can also earn points by recycling materials. Carpet, for instance, is typically replaced in a building every seven years and lasts 20,000 years in a landfill, Moore said. But it can be recycled by shaving the nylon off the top and reusing the backing, she said.