Category: "Environment"

From Elsewhere . . .

November 6th, 2012

  • Cyclelicious has collected links to bike computer manuals to help you adjust to the time change.

    (Richard's secret is that he just doesn't change the time on his computer.)

  • Velouria at Lovely Bicycle! overheard this conversation:

    "Salesperson: "Oh, well you need to ride the bike for several weeks for the gears to wear in. They should feel lower after that than they do now. If not, you can bring the bike back and we'll get you lower gears. But they usually wear in."

    Advice that is appallingly wrong but when you think about it, sometimes "works."

  • Maria Popova at Brain Pickings gives us The Beatles performing "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

    Yes, really.

    As Maria says, "unscripted, decidedly unshakespearean" and, as I would say, awful, awful, awful, and definitely worth watching. (The first sentence of her post has links to all sorts of whacked Beatles stuff.

  • Freewheeling Spirit extracts "one sentence of pure truth" about writing from an essay by Barbara Kingsolver.
  • Glowing, solar-powered highways coming to the Netherlands:

    [Special paint] charges up in sunlight, giving it up to 10 hours of glow-in-the-dark time come nightfall. “It’s like the glow in the dark paint you and I had when we were children,” designer Roosegaarde explained, “but we teamed up with a paint manufacturer and pushed the development. Now, it’s almost radioactive”.

    Special paint will also be used to paint markers like snowflakes across the road’s surface — when temperatures fall to a certain point, these images will become visible, indicating that the surface will likely be slippery. Roosegaarde says this technology has been around for years, on things like baby food — the studio has just upscaled it.

    The images are cool.

  • "The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You’re Broke" is not particularly insightful but it is enthusiastic.

    One thing Gerty and I have discovered is that "going big" is often more affordable than "going small" -- if your travel budget replaces your regular budget, travel is much more affordable than if the travel budget is added to your regular budget. For example, if you have a house it becomes a source of income rather than a cost.

  • Dean Baker does a back of the envelope calculation and compares the economic impact of Sandy to a gas tax in the range of 25-40 cents a gallon. He notes that the cost will mostly be paid in the form of higher insurance premiums.

    If people realized that climate change is directly costing them money (or if climate change kills Julia Roberts), there would be more support for doing something about it.

    Until then, news about the loss of the small natural areas that are left, like this report on dwindling mountain meadows in the Pacific Northwest, torture me. Ever visited a mountain meadow? In the spring?

Full story »

The Truth Just Fell On Your House

November 4th, 2012

The New Jersey relative who last summer called me "really stupid" for suggesting we should do something about global warming is still trying to get the tree out of his roof. And still no power.

Make Transit Free In Denver?

October 29th, 2012

Link: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/10/what-really-happens-when-city-makes-its-transit-system-free/3708/

Bright red Free busMagnify the imageImage iambents by some rights reserved.

What happens to transit use when a city eliminates fares? Not a big surprise: Ridership increases dramatically.

This Atlantic article about several fare-less systems in Europe made me wonder what it would take to do it in Denver?

According to the transit agency, passenger fares raise about $106 million and pay about 30% of the Denver region's transit operating expenses. Tax revenue accounts for nearly all the remainder. (In Châteauroux, one of the cities profiled in the Atlantic article, fares accounted for only about 14% of the system's expenses. That would make "going free" much easier.)

An increase in the sales and use tax rate from the existing rate, 1%, to 1.3% would raise enough to dispense with fares. (.04% is currently, and would continue to be, dedicated to Fastracks - the light rail expansion.)

Increasing the tax on gas in the service area by about ten cents would do it, too. There are about 2.7 million people in the transit service area. Colorado's per capita gasoline consumption is about 450 gallons per person. That means the metro area consumes a bit more than 1.2 billion gallons in a year. That means a tax of 11.5 cents per gallon would raise enough to dispense with fares.

"Who's to blame when gas costs $1 more than last year?"

June 2nd, 2011

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2011-05-30-gas-costs-blame_n.htm

That's an actual USA Today headline.

USA Today's apparent answer: "Not you! It's evil speculators trying to make money."

My answer: "A gas-dependent country and a market economy, you pitiful car-addled moron."

We live in a really dumb country.

I once heard things that made me think "No one could really believe that. That must just be political posturing." Now I know, that quite often, people really are that dumb.

It isn't all political pandering. Some of it is genuine, rank stupidity.

The delightful whine of summer days

May 29th, 2011

I'm willing to bet that whatever my neighbor has been vacuuming or blowing for the last 30 minutes could be handled with a broom.

I'm also willing to bet that a guy with a Cheney bumper sticker who spends his days shooting squirrels off his bird feeder doesn't give a shit what I think.

Nuclear Love

May 16th, 2011

Link: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4282

Magnify the image

California's Diablo Nuclear Plant. Image by dirtsailor. Some rights reserved.

Magnify the image

Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

From a good report by Miranda Spencer at FAIR on the one-sided media coverage of nuclear power v renewables:

One might imagine that the Fukushima disaster would prompt a more critical look at domestic nuclear power ambitions; instead, U.S. corporate media seemed largely to sympathize with the industry. Insensitive headlines blared: “Nuclear Push May Be in Peril” (New York Times, 3/14/11), “Japan Crisis May Derail Nuclear Renaissance: Damage to Reactors May Already Have Doomed Push for New Atomic Power Plants” (L.A. Times, 3/14/11); “Shaken Industry: Tremors from Japan Disaster Rattle Future of U.S. Nuclear Power” (Houston Chronicle, 3/18/11). CNN’s Gloria Borger (3/17/11) commented that nuclear power “just suffered a really bad blow by this, given what happened in Japan.”

These and other pieces in the aftermath of Fukushima relied heavily on establishment pro-nuke figures such as Energy Secretary Steven Chu, his deputy Dan Poneman and Nuclear Regultory Commission chair Greg-ory Jaczko (whose job descriptions include promoting as well as regulating nuclear power), along with the Nuclear Energy Institute trade organization and nuclear plant owners such as GE and Exelon.

Meanwhile, the voices of environmentalists or nuclear opponents were seldom heard. (One exception, Rep. Ed Markey, who supports a moratorium on new plant construction, did appear multiple times.) When they were, the discussion tended to be in the “he said/she said” format, pitting opinion against opinion without much context or additional facts.

One place where I disagree with Miranda. She says "But as documented by Journal editor Jason Mark (Fall/07), 'There is a striking amount of unanimity among the leading environmental organizations that nuclear power is not a smart way to address climate change.' Rather, as anyone following the 'green' press knows, they advocate renewables, energy efficiency and conservation."

I have little doubt that enviro groups "advocate renewables, energy efficiency and conservation." Unfortunately it would be quite hard to characterize the mainstream groups as genuinely anti-nuke. I think this is largely because they are thoroughly captured by the Democratic Party, or at least by the mainstream liberal goal of appearing "reasonable."

Obama Adopts "Drill Baby Drill!" Energy Policy

May 14th, 2011

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/us/politics/15address.html

One of the reasons I was impressed by Obama was his reaction, during the campaign, when Clinton signed on to McCain's moronic proposal for a federal gas tax "holiday," as a reaction to higher gas prices. Obama took the politically more challenging course. He showed some leadership and pointed out that holiday would have little or no effect on pump prices, cost the government money which would lead to cutting construction jobs, and opposed it.

Obama was right. At the time, Krugman, a Clinton supporter, analyzed it this way:

Why doesn't cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It's Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

What happened to that guy?

Now Obama's doing the pandering. And, in doing so, he is reinforcing Republican talking points that are divorced from reality. From the NYTimes:

President Obama, facing voter anger over high gasoline prices and complaints from Republicans and business leaders that his policies are restricting the development of domestic energy resources, announced on Saturday that he was taking several steps to speed oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.

It was at least a partial concession to his critics, who say he has shackled domestic energy development at a time when consumers are paying near-record prices at the gas pump.

We can "Drill baby, Drill!" as much as we want and dispense with, ignore, or weaken environmental protections for our public lands and it won't make a difference to gas prices. The basic reason is related to what Krugman said about the gas tax holiday: gas prices are set by supply and demand. An increase in domestic production will have negligible effect on supply -- nearly the same as an increase in production in Outer Nowhere, and therefore make virtually no difference to the price anyone pays at the pump.

It is environmental and public policy idiocy. The best policy for energy independence is higher prices not lower. The best policy to lower gas prices is energy conservation.

These policy changes do nothing positive and reinforce that the Republican view of the world is right and that environmentalists are crazies. And they make constructive policies more difficult to implement.

Ah well.

Not so Fast

April 12th, 2011

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/11/obamas-high-speed-rail-budget-deal_n_847587.html

About that high speed rail vision? Not so fast.

From the HuffPost:

The current level of funding was $2.5 billion-a-year. The cuts secured under the budget deal reached on Friday night brings the annual rail dollars down to $1 billion

Only 40%. No problem.

But at least we kept funding for Planned Parenthood.

Well, sort of. From the NYTimes:

President Obama successfully resisted Republican efforts to take all federal money from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. But the spending bill cuts money for the program that finances many family-planning services provided by Planned Parenthood and other organizations, Title X of the Public Health Service Act. The appropriation would be reduced to $300 million, from $317 million, Congressional aides said.

And the EPA. Mostly:

The Environmental Protection Agency, which has been in the cross hairs of the newly empowered House Republicans, took one of the largest hits, according the House appropriations documents.

The agency’s budget under the agreement is reduced by $1.6 billion, or 16 percent from last year’s level. Specifically, funding levels for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs were reduced 33 percent.

Well, at least climate change:

Across all agencies, the bill would cut programs relating to climate change by $49 million, or 13 percent.

Nope to that, too.