Energy

Energy Policy.  So-called "clean" coal.  Nukes.  Wind.  Compressed air.  Batteries.  What's Watt!

Gentlemen we have the technology

Biking American Cities: for Richer or for Poorer

or
"One way - or Another - We're Gonna Getcha."

People talk a lot about how Portland is a model bicycle community. Through aggressuve engineering and forsightful land use they've managed to create a city that is easy for the everyman or everywoman to bike in. Last year they were recognised as the first major American city to earn the "Platinum" level bicycle friendly community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Jeff Mapes devotes an entire chapter of his book "Pedalling Revolution" to Portland. Recession notwithstanding, Portland has managed to prosper and has the "creative class" emigrating there in droves. That's the sunny, happy model of bicycle adoption.

But there's another, darker, model. Detroit has shrunk so much, that there's more than enough infrastructure left for bicycles and drivers to "share the road". As a result, some residents are hailing it as a bicycling utopia-in-waiting.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country hangs in a balance between the two visions. As oil prices continue to rachet back up, will we respond by quickly adopting the Portland model, and prospering? Or will we collapse like Detroit, and all have to ride bicycles because that's what we can afford. The rest of the country is poised on the top of the oil bubble, not sure yet if they'll fall left or right. The only way they don't go either left or right is if the automotive energy crisis is solved - Good luck with that!

Sidewalk Bonanza!

I am often amazed by how quickly my brain can absorb a new acronym so that I can barely remember a time when I didn't know what it meant. This has been the case with ARRA (pronounced air-rah), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Many people just simply call it The Stimulus.

I use the word ARRA about 10 times a day, usually while harassing someone at KIDPA or Public Works, asking for lists of ped/bike projects. I was happy when I discovered the following sources of information: a list of ARRA projects from KIPDA including this list of sidewalk improvements. The new Louisville at Work website is also a helpful source of information about local ARRA projects. I am sharing these resources with you, dear readers, to spare you the pain I experienced while trying to find them.

Tell your Representative to support a national vision for transportation

[Ed's Note: Copied & pasted from Steve Davis's article at Transportation for America.]

“… It’s important to develop a long-term transportation strategy when it comes to our economy and environment. We must rebuild our aging infrastructure in a smart way that addresses our economic and energy challenges.” — Rep. Carnahan

In the revolutionary transportation bill of 1991, Congress officially declared that Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System had been completed, signaling an end to one of the greatest national investments in history. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a new national vision to take it’s place, and our transportation system has been operating as a ship without a rudder since.

We’re in desperate need of an overarching strategy that determines when, how, and where transportation dollars are spent. As of now, we have no firm plan. No vision. No goal for what the billions in taxpayer dollars should accomplish. That can all change with the National Transportation Objectives Act of 2009 introduced last week by three members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Jay Inslee (D-WA).

These three Representatives made a great step towards a 21st Century transportation system by introducing this bill, but this legislation needs us to stand behind it to have a real impact. Let’s send a message to Congress loud and clear that this is the kind of vision the American people support.

HR 2724 Sets Sights High

HR 2724 sets 20-year goals for the federal transportation bill. They are goals we can really get behind:

  1. Reduce per capita vehicle miles traveled by 16 percent.
  2. Triple walking, biking, and public transportation usage.
  3. Reduce transportation-generated carbon dioxide level by 40 percent.
  4. Reduce delay per capita by 10 percent.
  5. Increase proportion of freight transportation provided by railroad and intermodal services by 20 percent.
  6. Achieve 0 percent population exposure to at-risk levels of air pollution.
  7. Improve public safety and lower congestion costs by reducing traffic crashes by 50 percent.
  8. Increase share of major highways, regional transit fleets and facilities, and bicycling/pedestrian infrastructure in good state of repair condition by 20 percent.
  9. Reduce average household combined housing plus transportation costs by 25 percent, using 2000 as a base year.
  10. Increase by 50 percent the number of essential destinations (work and non-work) accessible within 30 minutes by public transportation or 15 minutes by walking, for low-income, senior, and disabled populations.

UPDATE: CART and Bicycling for Louisville have both endorsed this bill, and are calling on Representive Yarmuth to endorse it.

UPDATE #2: T4America finally got off their duffs and posted on their website about this. They do a better job of explaining this than we do.

Exxon bags 45% of Fortune 500 profits

Of the $99b pocketed by the Fortune 500 corporations in 2008, Exxon Mobile's accounted for almost half of it. No wonder the economy collapsed - almost nobody was making any money except for the oil companies. So can we develop alternative energy yet?

Extra Alternative Transportation: Florida Police to Start Paragliding (NPR)

Palm Bay Police ParagliderPolice in Palm Bay, Florida are starting up a paragliding program for their officers. I didn't hear the whole program, but one use mentioned was searching for alzheimers patients who have gotten lost.

NPR has the story. See also: a print story at policeone.com.

Utility Bikes Take the Nation By Storm!

Okay, so the headline was a little overdone. But I needed to get your attention somehow. And with Obama doing all sorts of fancy rail stuff, no one is paying attention to all the cool stuff happening on the utility bike scene. 

Joe Bike in Portland Oregon recently released their utility bike.  At $2699, it's a bit pricey, but is still a lot less than a car, and you can carry people and/or lots of stuff on it.  There is also a lot of buzz these days about Madsen's utility bike, which debuted at Interbike last year. Modeled after the Dutch bakfiets, but having a basket in the back, it is a bit cheaper at $1299.  The company, based in Salt Lake City, popped on the scene quite recently. Don't know what they were doing before, but I like what they're doing now.

Nice to see some U.S.-based companies getting people interested in showing people just what bikes can do!

British Government Offers Financial Incentive for Electric Cars (approx. $8000)

Although this article covers many angles, one environmental activist interviewed said, " 'Low carbon vehicles are certainly part of the future, but more extensive measures are needed to make the necessary cuts in transport emissions. Far more must be done to get people out of their cars by making public transport, cycling and walking more attractive options,' he added."

BBC has the story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8001254.stm

 

NYT's Friedman: Integrating the EPA with the Energy Department

Lessons from Costa Rica

Click here to read the full column, "(No) Drill, Baby, Drill". Selected teasers:

"More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called 'payment for environmental services' — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore."

"'In Costa Rica, the minister of environment sets the policy for energy, mines, water and natural resources,' explained Carlos M. Rodríguez, who served in that post from 2002 to 2006. In most countries, he noted, 'ministers of environment are marginalized.' They are viewed as people who try to lock things away, not as people who create value. Their job is to fight energy ministers who just want to drill for cheap oil."

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