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The Demise of the Car
Gregor McDonald, Gregor.us
India’s recent series of power blackouts, in which 600 million people lost electricity for several days, reminds us of the torrid pace at which populations in the developing world have moved onto the powergrid. Unfortunately, this great transition has been so rapid that infrastructure has mostly been unable to meet demand. India itself has failed to meets its own power capacity addition targets every year since 1951. This has left roughly one quarter of the country’s population without any (legal) access to electricity. That’s 300 million people out of a population of 1.2 billion. Indeed, it is the daily attempt of the underserved to access power that may have led to India’s recent grid crash.
But the story of India’s inadequate infrastructure is only one part of the difficult, global transition away from liquid fossil fuels. Over the past decade, the majority of new energy demand has been met not through global oil, but through growth in electrical power.
Frankly, this should be no surprise. After all, global production of oil started to flatten more than seven years ago, in 2005. And the developing world, which garners headlines for its increased demand for oil, is running mainly on coal-fired electrical power. There is no question that the non-OECD countries are leading the way as liquid-based transport – automobiles and airlines – have entered longterm decline.
Why, therefore, do policy makers in both the developing and developed world continue to invest in automobile infrastructure?
Interestingly, instead of investing in the powergrid, India embarked earlier last decade on a massive highway project, known as the Great Quadrilateral. This created a kind of grand, national circular whose “four and six-lane, 3,625 miles run through 13 states and India’s four largest cities: New Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai (formerly Madras), and Mumbai (formerly Bombay),” according to a 2005 New York Times article. The piece continues, describing the ongoing, 15-year effort (to be completed this year) as “the most ambitious infrastructure project since independence in 1947 and the British building of the subcontinent’s railway network the century before.”
Alas, the irony is rich. India conceived of this highway project as oil prices hit deep lows at the end of the past millennium. Now that the highway network is constructed and oil prices have more than quadrupled, it is massive investment in the powergrid that hundreds of millions of Indians so desperately need instead—not road building…
(21 August 2012)
Yep, High Speed Rail Will Slash Emissions
Brian Merchant, Treehugger
The potential benefits of high speed rail are many: reduced congestion, less pollution, slashed greenhouse gas emissions, and we get a nice, comfortable alternative mode of travel to boot. But from time to time, folks grow dubious about those benefits, and claim that rail is a worthless liberal boondoggle. They’re wrong.
To prove it, I present to thee a new study published in Environmental Research Letters, which finds that those benefits to building rail are very real indeed…
(30 August 2012)
Citizen Crosswalks in Paris
STRESS FREE, Copenhagenize
(25 August 2012)
California Cyclists Are About to Get Three Feet of Breathing Room
Zachary Slobig, Good
California cyclists are about to get a bit more breathing room on the roads with the passage of a long awaited safety bill through the state Assembly on Monday. The bill would mandate a three foot buffer between passing vehicles and cyclists—at least 20 other states already have such a law in place. Pennsylvania leads the bike safety race with a four foot buffer passed into law this spring…
(25 August 2012)
With Funding Tight, Cities are Turning to Green Infrastructure
Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
From Seattle to Sweden, an ever-growing number of city and regional governments are using roof gardens, specially designed wetlands, and other forms of “green infrastructure” to rein in pollution from countless diffuse sources — and to save money.
In Puget Sound, one of America’s great estuaries, killer whales, seals, and schools of salmon swim not far from more than 3 million people who live in the Seattle region. The presence of such impressive marine life, however, belies the fact that the sound is seriously polluted.
When it rains, storm water washes into the same system of underground pipes that carries the region’s sewage, and 1 billion gallons a year overflow into the sound when area sewer systems contain more water than can be treated. In addition, motor oil, lawn chemicals, PCBs, heavy metals, pet waste, and many other substances run unabated into the sound, both through the storm water pipes and from roads and other shoreline structures. “The biggest threat to Puget Sound is non-point sources [of pollution],” says Nancy Ahern, Seattle Public Utilities deputy director.
Blowhole samples taken from killer whales have revealed fungi, viruses and bacteria living in their respiratory tracts, some of them antibiotic-resistant and once found only on land. Health officials often have to shut down oyster beds because of fecal contamination. Salmon in streams are killed by Green infrastructure harnesses natural processes to carry out the functions of built systems. torrents of dirty storm water…
(23 August 2012)