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The problem with walk score, the possibilities of carbon goggles

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
So, last week the good folks at Walk Score released their rankings of the walkability of U.S. cities. Though it may be difficult for some of our European readers to believe, walking is still a somewhat radical concept in many parts of the U.S., and for that reason alone, these guys are making a real contribution simply by giving us a way to talk about how easy it is to hoof it from one place to another.

But like so many ratings systems, this one is very far from perfect. Walk Score’s site admits as much when it says…

A different sort of tool-building approach can be seen in the Carbon Goggles project. The premise here is simple: we increasingly know the carbon footprint of objects. We have virtual reality systems which can model the real world. What if you combined the two?

… We also live in a time when, for the first time, it can be ecologically cheaper to think than to burn energy.

… If we get the systems right — and that must mean, whenever it’s useful and possible, that these systems are open — we can use our newfound ability to understand the flows in our lives to transform the impacts of our lives, while making our lives more interesting and beautiful.

But only if we get it right.
(31 July 2008)

Automakers race time as their cash runs low

Bill Vlasic, New York Times
The downturn in the American auto industry is rapidly becoming a full-blown fight for survival among Detroit’s big automakers.

With the combination of high gas prices and a weak economy crippling vehicle sales, the resources of General Motors and the Ford Motor Company are being stretched to the limit.

Both companies have undergone major revampings in recent years, yet they continue to post huge losses. And even as they burn through their cash reserves and slash more costs to stay afloat, the future looks tenuous.

In the latest sign of the deepening troubles, G.M. reported a stunning second-quarter loss of $15.5 billion on Friday because of a continuing fall in United States sales and charges for job cuts, plant closings and the falling value of trucks and sport utility vehicles.
(2 August 2008)

Addiction: A million little miles per gallon

Steve Dahl, Chicago Tribune
… My first vehicle was a 1959 Chevrolet Apache 31 Fleetside with the wrap-around rear window. My car and I were co-dependents and developed quite the fuel addiction. I was in charge of scoring the stuff and Betty (I always think of my cars as females) loved to get all fired up on the stuff. She would, of course, take me along for the ride. We were both having the time of our lives, but Betty paid a heavy price for our fun. I used her. I rode her like there was no tomorrow.

The first thing to go when you’re addicted is your appearance. Betty became tired. Her paint faded, but I was too hopped up on going places to take the time to wax her. She was covered with sludge both inside and out. I should have taken her to rehab and gotten her clean, but I only cared about myself. I sold her to a stranger for half of what I paid for her, and walked away. I took up with a cheap Japanese girl, who had a gasoline addiction, but claimed it was under control. It was, but she was not the solid, indestructible woman that Betty was.

Nowadays I hang out with a woman who would be described as gasoline chic. She is addicted to gasoline, but thanks to modern technology the addiction is much easier to hide
(31 July 2008)

Consumer auto expert Reed: ‘panic in boardrooms’ of GM, Ford as it becomes clear electric cars ‘really coming’

Energy Tech Stocks
“The panic has started in the boardrooms” of General Motors and Ford, consumer automotive expert Phil Reed told last week.

Why? Because GM and Ford executives have realized that, having failed to anticipate the public’s switch to smaller more fuel-efficient cars, if they fail to capitalize on the car market’s next big change, bankruptcy is a definite possibility.

The big change that’s coming, according to Reed, is plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), cars and trucks fueled principally by electricity supplied through an ordinary electrical outlet. “They’re really, really coming,” Reed said, adding that he expects electric vehicles to be at the center of a home energy revolution that will include solar and other green options.
(4 August 2008)