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February 25 2014

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Soup.io will be discontinued :(

Dear soup.io fans and users,
today, we have to share very sad news. Soup.io will stop working in less than 10 days. :(
It's breaking our heart and we honestly tried whatever we could to keep the platform up and running. But the high costs and low revenue streams made it impossible to continue with it. We invested a lot of personal time and money to operate the platform, but when it's over, it's over.
We are really sorry. Soup.io is part of the internet history and online for one and a half decades.
Here are the hard facts:
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- Backup your data in this time
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July, 20th, 2020 is the due date.
Please, share your thoughts and feelings here.
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February 21 2014


January 13 2014


The electric car tax

The NC legislature just doesn't like people who drive electric cars:

The state Division of Motor Vehicles has begun collecting a new $100 annual fee from the owners of all-electric cars ...

The House blocked a similar proposal from the Senate last year to charge a $50 fee for hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt, which run on a combination of electricity and gas or diesel fuel. Only 1,600 electric cars are registered statewide, but their numbers are growing. ...

Fuel tax collections are declining because North Carolinians are driving less, their cars are getting more miles out of every gallon, and some drivers are switching to cars that burn no fuel at all.

DMV began adding the new fee for electric cars to its bills for registration renewal fees that were due this month. Projected collections from the fee – $160,000 this year – won’t do much to fill the widening gap between the state’s transportation needs and the revenue collections to pay for them, which is expected to reach $60 billion over the next 30 years.

via www.newsobserver.com

The $100 fee isn't all that much but there really is not reason to add it on to the tax bill for electric car owners. It doesn't raise much revenue and it goes against the idea that we should encourage fuel efficieincy. If all drivers should pay for road maintence and the payment should increase with miles driven without a penalty for fuel efficiency then maybe the most efficient tax would include a fixed amount for all drivers? In other words, vehicle registration in North Carolina should go up by $50 or $100, or whatever it takes to close the revenue gap, for all car owners. 

January 11 2014


The billion dollar NC 12 proposals keep coming

I'm losing track of all the bridges:

Gale warnings are posted on Hatteras Island, and that means more ocean overwash is likely for N.C. 12 – but probably not enough wind and waves, this week, to close the barrier island highway.

Weather and road conditions are important for repair crews working on an old bridge that takes N.C. 12 over Oregon Inlet; and for engineers preparing to build a new bridge on N.C. 12 south of there on Pea Island; and for Outer Banks folks planning to attend public hearings that will help the state decide where to put a second new bridge a few miles farther down N.C. 12, at the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe. ...

One option is to keep the highway where it is but lift it up on a 2.5-mile bridge, high above the dune line. The other is to put it onto a 3-mile bridge that would curve out into Pamlico Sound and return to the present N.C. 12 path at Rodanthe. ...

via www.newsobserver.com

The problem is that the Outer Banks are barrier islands that want to move. It sometimes makes me wonder if we are throwing good money after bad.

January 08 2014


NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather

Hammered by an unprecedented nine federally declared disasters since he took office three years ago and with much of the state now frozen solid as a result of the southward drifting polar vortex, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled details of a far reaching rebuilding plan that aims to enhance New York state’s resiliency to climate change and its emergency preparedness.

Dubbed “Reimagining New York for a New Reality,” the $17 billion plan will see the state invest a wide range of projects “that will transform New York’s infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system and emergency management system to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather,” the governor’s office explained in a press release.

Credit: New York State Office of the Governor

Extreme weather is “The New Reality”

Along with its own funds, the state government is putting federal disaster funds granted in response to 2012′s Superstorm Sandy and 2011′s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to work to implement the far reaching plan to enhance New York’s climate change resiliency and emergency preparedness. Its key aspects include:

  • Building the most advanced weather detection system in the nation, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions;
  • Launching the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity;
  • Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding;
  • Implementing the largest reconstruction of the state’s transit system in 110 years with $5 billion of federal funds;
  • Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve, and statewide gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state;
  • Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distribution systems);
  • Building new natural infrastructure to protect the New York’s coastline, and provide advanced flood control for inland waterways;
  • Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make New York residents the best prepared in the nation to deal with emergencies and disasters; and
  • Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans.
  • Issuing special license plates for first responders

Avoiding climate change catastrophe

Besides enhancing New York’s emergency preparedness and climate change resiliency, carrying out the $17 billion plan is sure to provide the state economy with a big, much needed, economic boost.

Unveiling the strategic plan at a press conference in Albany, the state capitol, Governor Cuomo highlighted the new reality of more frequent extreme weather events and recounted the unprecedented disruption and devastation that resulted, both downstate, in and around New York City, as well as across the length and breadth of upstate New York.

Of the one-year process that resulted in creation of the plan, the governor stated,

“This was a special challenge for us, because it called for us to literally reimagine the state in light of what we went through with Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, storms Irene and Lee, and taking those lessons, and taking really that trauma, and reshaping our vision of New York through that experience. We call it ‘Reimagining New York’ because we are now facing a new reality after what we went through.”


“Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not. What caused it is a separate discussion for a separate day, but the reality is extreme weather and we have to deal with it.”

The governor also acknowledged that the plan couldn’t have come to fruition without extraordinary support and assistance from the Obama Administration and federal government, as well as local leaders throughout New York State.

Joining Governor Cuomo at the press conference, Vice President Joe Biden praised the plan and Governor Cuomo. “Governor, I am delighted to be able to be here with you today,” the vice president began.

“I think you rebuilding New York, reimagining a future is exactly what we have to do in this country. And once again, in the tradition of this state and the tradition of Andrew Cuomo, you’re leading. You’re not just leading in New York, you’re leading the country. And I think a lot of governors and a lot of folks can learn an awful lot from what they see and what you do here.”

For more on this, check out the Office of the Governor’s press release or watch the press conference below:

Image credit: New York State Office of the Governor

The post NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 12 2013


General Motors’ Sustainability Journey

On Monday December 9, the US government sold its remaining stake in General Motors Co. (GM). While the automaker is doing well financially, it is also making progress in terms of sustainability.

By most accounts the government bailout of the U.S. auto industry was a success. This view is convincingly communicated in a new study by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) called ”The Effect on the U.S. Economy of the Successful Restructuring of General Motors.”

The U.S. government was repaid the $39.5 billion it lent to GM as part of the 2008-2009 auto bailout, which forced GM and its Chevrolet division into a government-backed bankruptcy. According to the CAR study, in addition to saving 2.6 million jobs in 2009, the bailout preserved $284.4 billion in personal income between 2009 and 2010. In less than five years GM and other American automakers have become profitable and they have added more than 372,000 new jobs. However, the bailout was not only an economic success, it bought GM time to improve its environmentally destructive trajectory.

Back from bankruptcy, General Motors is now a leader in innovation and sustainable development for transportationOne of these improvements involves a new labeling system that Chevrolet is now posting on its vehicles. The label summarize fuel-efficiency technologies and environmental progress. This first-of-its-kind EcologicTM Label lets consumers see some of the environmental features of the vehicle relating to manufacturing, driving and recycling. The claims on these labels are independently audited by Two Tomorrows, a third-party sustainability agency.

GM is now moving forward with the production of vehicles that have better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. GM has also adopted manufacturing processes that have a smaller footprint.

Fuel efficiency of US auto fleet

GM is at the forefront of the dawn of a more responsible American auto industry.  According to the EPA, from 2007 to 2012, U.S. fuel economy values have increased by 16 percent. Between 2011 and 2012 there was a 1.4 mile per gallon (mpg) increase in fuel efficiency for the 2012 lineup of American cars and trucks. In 2012 the average fuel economy among American automakers increased to 23.8 mpg. This is among the largest annual improvements since EPA began reporting on fuel economy. The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in August 2013 reached an all-time high of 24.9 miles per gallon. That’s up almost five miles per gallon since researchers began tracking the number in October, 2007.

Both projected and actual US fuel economy figures from the EPA show that there has been a reversal of the long-term trend towards worsening fuel efficiency. There was a rapid increase in average fuel consumption from 1975 through 1981 and a slower increase with an efficiency peak in 1987. This was followed by a gradual decrease in fuel efficiency until 2004 when the average fuel economy numbers for American cars was just 19.3 mpg. Since then there has been a steady increase in fuel economy ratings.

GM is leading domestic automakers in making large gains in fuel efficiency. GM now has 20 models that get 30 mpg hwy or better, including the car with the best highway mileage of any gas engine in America, the 42 mpg-hwy Chevrolet Cruze Eco.

GM has improved its fuel economy ratings between 2009 and 2012. According to EPA figures, in 2009 GM vehicles averaged only 19.9 mpg as of 2012 the average mpg for GM vehicles rose to 21.4 mpg. Part of the reason GM is generating better efficiency numbers is due to the fact that they are manufacturing less big vehicles and more smaller fuel efficient cars including hybrids and fully electric vehicles.

The overarching context for these improvements is the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards which will require that automakers double their economy ratings by 2025. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE standards will raise industry-wide fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025, (it should be noted that CAFE standards are not the same as mpg ratings). As of 2012, GM got a CAFE fuel economy rating of 32.9 MPG for domestic passenger cars and 23.5 for light trucks.

Vehicular carbon emissions

According to the EPA, 2012 cars and trucks continued to decrease their carbon pollution. The research shows that vehicle emissions as measured by what is known as the Eco Driving Index has also improved.

EPA data indicates that in 2009 the average CO2 vehicle emissions were 8 percent lower than in 2004 which had a rating of 461 grams per mile (g/mi). In 2012, EPA figures show that American auto makers reduced their CO2 emissions to 374 (g/mi). From 2007 to 2012, EPA estimates that CO2 emissions have decreased by 13 percent.

In 2009 GM had an average carbon emissions rating of 447 (g/mi). In 2012 GM saw its CO2 emissions decline to 418 (g/mi). GM is also a global biofuel leader including ethanol which in comparison to gas, emits 21 percent less CO2.

Waste and recycling at GM

GM is also decreasing its waste through its landfill-free program. As reported by GM, the company boasts an industry-leading total of 105 facilities that recycle, reuse or convert to energy all waste from daily operations. GM is recycling and reusing 90 percent of its manufacturing waste worldwide and in the process the company generates about $1 billion in revenue annually. GM has reduced its total waste 25 kilograms, or 55 pounds, per vehicle since 2010.

Hybrid and electric vehicles

chevy-volt-dashboardGM sees electrically driven vehicles as the best long-term solution for energy-efficient transportation. GM is the leader in domestically produced hybrid and electric vehicle components. GM produces their own batteries in the largest and most technologically advanced battery development facility in the U.S. They are the first major U.S. automaker to design and manufacture electric motors for their hybrid and electric vehicles.

GM is also a leader in extended range electric with vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera. The Chevrolet Volt has an estimated 94 MPGe electric, and when using the gas engine it generates ratings of 35 mpg city, and 40 mpg hwy. The range for the Volt is 35 miles of electric driving. Once the electric charge is depleted, a gas-powered engine generator provides an additional 340 miles of range.

GM’s hybrid Silverado pickup has an EPA estimated 20 mpg city and 23 mpg hwy. The Buick LaCrosse and Regal have what is known as eAssist technology which get an EPA estimated 25 mpg 25 city and 36 hwy. The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco also uses eAssist and gets an EPA estimated 25 mpg 25 city and 37 hwy.

The new eAssist technology is an electrification solution that enhances fuel efficiency up to 25 percent when paired with existing engines. The electric motor recaptures energy and shuts off fuel during braking. To further increase efficiency, it stops and restarts the engine in stop-and-go city driving. An onboard lithium-ion battery provides an electric boost in certain conditions to improve efficiency.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

GM engineers are at the forefront of hydrogen fuel cell technology which have no CO2 emissions. They have been working on FCVs for more than 16 years and they are the country’s leading innovators in this technology of the future. Fuel cells have 2.3 times the efficiency of conventional powertrains and take around three minutes to refuel.

To date GM fuel cell vehicles (FCV) have driven more than 3 million miles as part of their test fleet of 100 Chevrolet Equinox SUVs undergoing real-world testing by families and commercial users.

GM is expanding a research project with the U.S. Army to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel cells. GM is working on hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles with the military’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

In 2013, GM teamed up with Honda to bring affordable hydrogen-powered vehicles onto the market by the end of the decade. GM hopes to have as many as one million affordable FCVs by 2020.

Technological innovation

In 2012, GM invested more than $7.3 billion in the research and development of “next-generation” technologies. During 2011 and 2012 GM received more clean energy patents than any other organization, according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index of US patents.

The company continues to improve fuel economy and decrease mobile emissions through advanced engine and transmission technology, next-generation batteries and electric motors, and power electronics.

They are also working on vehicles with better aerodynamics as well as reduced weight and mass which makes them up to 15 percent lighter than comparable vehicles on the road today. In 2012 General Motors was among several recipients that received $54 million in Energy Department grants aimed at improving the energy efficiency of advanced manufacturing technologies. GM received $2.7 million to develop an integrated die-casting process for a thin-walled magnesium application used to manufacture car doors. The manufacturing process is expected to cut energy use by 50 percent. The reduced weight in the doors also will improve fuel economy and reduce carbon emissions.

GM’s lineup of gasoline-powered vehicles are increasingly efficient due technological innovations including direct fuel injection, active fuel management, variable valve timing and turbocharging. They are also focusing on tire construction to make their vehicles more efficient.

In 2013 GM began using a new refrigerant that has a global warming potential (GWP) that is a tiny fraction of previous refrigerants. Developed in 2010 GM was the first company to introduce a climate-friendly refrigerant to replace the super greenhouse gas used in auto air conditioning. The new refrigerant, called an HFO, has a global warming potential of just 4 compared to over 1,400 for HFC-134a. The new refrigerant remains in the atmosphere for just 11 days, according to Honeywell, its producer. Honeywell calculates that the low GWP and the short lifetime of its HFO represents a 99.7 percent improvement over HFC-134a.

GM is also a biofuel leader and according to their own reports, they are developing technologies that turn agricultural and municipal solid waste into ethanol.

Renewable energy

In 2012 General Motors installed an 8.15 MW solar array on the rooftop of one of its Opel plants in Germany. The array at Rüsselsheim is one of the largest solar installations in Europe with an area equivalent to 32 soccer fields. It generates about 7.3 million kWh per year of energy. This represents a CO2 reduction of about 3,150 tons a year, equal to the amount of carbon isolated annually. The latest installation, together with GM’s other solar arrays in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and Zaragoza, Spain, will allow the company to produce 19.1 million kWh of electricity a year which reduces CO2 emissions by 8,200 tons annually.

According to their 2013 Sustainability Report, by 2015 GM will have a solar output of 60 MW by 2015 and the company plans to have a renewable energy output of 125 MW by 2020.

GM also has a few LEED-certified buildings including an engine plant in southern Brazil, equipped with numerous sustainability features including solar energy and water recycling systems. Another innovative program harvests energy from test benches its Powertrain Engineering Center in Turin, Italy. The amount of energy harvested is equal to 300,000 kWh of energy.

Manufacturing facilities: energy and carbon

GM’s manufacturing technologies decrease the use of energy, resources and materials. As reviewed in their 2013 Sustainability Report, GM is committed to reducing energy and carbon intensity in their global manufacturing operations. The EPA has recognized GM with its Energy Star partner of the year for Sustained Excellence award and the company has a total of 54 facilities that meet the Energy Star Challenge for industry.

According to Green Car Congress, in 2012, the company realized energy-efficiency improvements of 2 percent over 2011, and similar decrements in carbon emissions intensity. GM also reduced the amount of energy required to build each vehicle by 7 percent since 2010. In 2012, GM’s energy intensity per vehicle manufactured was 2.30 MWh per vehicle, down from 2.47 MWh/vehicle in 2010. The 2020 target is 1.97 MWh/vehicle.

GM’s carbon intensity per vehicle in 2012 was 0.88 metric tons CO2e, which is down from 0.92 in 2010. The latest data shows that average total energy usage for GM’s international operations is 1.14 MWh per vehicle, less than half the industry average of 2.37 MWh per vehicle.

GM’s energy management and renewable energy programs have helped reduce carbon intensity of manufacturing by 5.3 percent since 2010 and they are targeting a 20 percent reduction by 2020. The 2020 target is 0.75 tonnes/vehicle.

The future

According to GM’s 2012 Sustainability Report, by 2017 the company expects to double models with a rating of 40 mpg (highway) or better, further reduce the energy used in production as well as diminish the environmental impacts from its buildings and vehicle operations.

By 2017, GM has pledged to have 500,000 vehicles on the road in the US with some form of electrification and to reduce the average CO2 tailpipe emissions of its US fleet by 15 percent. GM subsidiary Opel estimates will reduce the average carbon tailpipe emissions by 27 percent by 2020.

GM will also continue to reduce vehicle mass and aggressively invest in advanced materials, such as high-strength steel, carbon fiber and aluminum as well as an industry-first lightweight aluminum welding technology. Other ongoing efficiency oriented innovation includes downsizing, turbocharging, direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation.

According to GM’s 2012 Sustainability Report, “The rollout of these technologies in new GM US models between 2011 and 2016 is expected to improve the fuel economy of our fleet by more than 18 percent.”

Five years ago GM was on the brink of closing its doors forever, now they are making more fuel efficient cars with less emissions. They have also reduced the impacts of their manufacturing processes, minimized waste and decreased their use of energy and other materials. As suggested by GM’s commitments for the future, this is only the beginning of a sustainability journey that will help lead America into the new automotive reality.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Main image credit: Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, courtesy flickr

The post General Motors’ Sustainability Journey appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 06 2013


Drinking lattes, chilling with my AC and reading the WSJ

From the WSJ's Micro Weekly Review:

On U.S. Highways, More Fast Lanes Aren't Free
by: Cameron McWhirter
Nov 29, 2013
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com

TOPICS: Congestion Pricing, Externalities

SUMMARY: Rush-hour drivers in congested U.S. cities are increasingly facing a stark choice: stay stuck in traffic or pay to get in the fast lane.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Driving on congested highways creates a negative externality; and pricing highway travel according to the amount of congestion improves economic efficiency. Instructors can create a simple scenario of a two-lane highway in which one lane has a fee and the other does not. Using this simple scenario, instructors can make students begin to consider the following issues about fast-lane pricing: the decision about which lane to travel depends in part on opportunity cost of time; sorting by travel time according to opportunity cost of time improves economic efficiency; and the price that maximizes state revenues from fast-lane pricing may not be the efficient price.

1. (Introductory) Does driving on a congested highway create a negative externality?

2. (Advanced) Suppose that adding a new driver to a fast lane reduces the wellbeing of drivers currently in the lane by $8, while deleting a driver from a substantially congested lane increases the wellbeing of drivers currently in this lane by $10. The greatest utility increase of any of the drivers currently in the congested lane from moving to the fast lane is $3. What is the greatest price a highway administration could charge for fast-lane driving that motivate any driver to shift from the slow lane to the fast lane? If those currently in the fast lane could veto any lane shift, what is the smallest payment they would accept for a shift into their lane? For an efficient lane shift, would those currently in the slow lane need to subsidize a lane shift?

3. (Advanced) Does fast-lane pricing improve economic efficiency? As the slow lane becomes more congested, should the price of the traveling in the fast lane increase?

4. (Introductory) Why are some drivers objecting to fast-lane pricing? Does the introduction of fast-lane pricing harm those who continue to drive in the slow lanes?

Reviewed By: James Dearden, Lehigh University

And this one is to get a puerile giggle out of Tim:

"Our revenue streams are flat or declining," said Anthony Tata, transportation secretary of North Carolina, which is proposing HOT lanes for a section of highway near Charlotte. "We have to consider flexible options."

In response to that, I paraphrase:

“These government elitists design their user fees from their air-conditioned offices in Raleigh, and they do so with their lattes and their contempt, and chuckle while the good people of Charlotte are fighting hard to scratch out a living there based on cheap commutes and based on access.”

October 24 2013


What does the debt ceiling have to do with environmental and resource economics?

And you thought the debt ceiling fight was about government spending ... ha! it's about water resources:

For the second week in a row, the House will consider legislation aimed at boosting federal funding for a water project along the Kentucky and Illinois border.

Last week, the House and Senate approved a debt-ceiling bill that authorizes up to $2.9 billion for the Olmsted Locks and Dam Project on the lower Ohio River. That's a $1.2 billion increase above the project's current authorization level, a bump that prompted some to criticize it as a "Kentucky kickback" for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

This week, the House will take up legislation that would increase the extent to which taxpayers pick up the cost of the project.

Under current law, water projects around the country are paid for through a 50-50 split between taxpayers and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. That fund is similar to the gasoline tax for automobiles — a fuel tax is assessed on inland waterways users, and the money is used to maintain and repair those waterways.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, H.R. 3080, includes language in Section 216 that would require taxpayers to shoulder 75 percent of the costs for the Olmsted Project, instead of 50 percent. Under the bill, the trust fund would pay for the other 25 percent.

That bill could get a final House vote as early as Wednesday. If Section 216 remains intact, taxpayers will pay for $900 million of the

via thehill.com

Here is the beginning of Section 216:


(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding section 102(a) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (33 U.S.C. 2212(a)), for each fiscal year beginning after the date of enactment of this Act, 25 percent of the cost of construction for the Olmsted Project shall be paid from amounts appropriated from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. ...

H.R. 3080 passed with 97% yea votes. Only an idiot wouldn't vote to "preserve the trust fund"!


October 07 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • With the IPCC publishing it latest findings on climate change the denial campaign has been stepped up. American and British organizations are partnering to create confusion over science that is very clear. The denial propagandists have spent a lot of time creating strategies that only a sharp and studied person can see through. Think about this, how many climate change skeptics are scientists from a relevant field of study doing current research? Very few if any. The denial side is filled with pundits, otherwise known as regular people paid money to provide non-expert (but touted as expert) opinions.
  • A Tesla electric car caught fire when a metal object pierced the 3-inch protective case to the battery. It is important to remember that cars are inherently unsafe (if less so than decades ago with improvements in safety features and designn), especially the ones driving around with gallons of highly flammable gasloline. Tesla is responding to the incident.
  • The decline of coal continues! Two plants in Pennsylvania are closing  because they are no longer profitable. This is the power of economics, you don’t need to argue with anyone because if something doesn’t make money then it stops. So, good-bye coal, and hello cheaper renewable energy.
  • The government shutdown, while ultimately ridiculous, is impacting renewable energy. Larger projects with permitting timelines and completion deadlines for government incentives are at risk of not meeting their development targets.
  • Renewable energy has become cheaper, but natural gas is still the cheapest energy source in 2013. Natural gas extraction and use is skyrocketing, but what happens when the price spikes and we are stuck on yet another dirty and expensive energy source.
  • There is a single word that sums up the argument against nuclear power: Fukushima. If an energy source carries an unacceptable risk to the environment and human health then it should not be used. The joke goes, an oil spill is a disaster, a solar spill is called a nice day.
  • Methane gas is a byproduct of materials breaking down; our landfills produce a lot of methane and now it is being sold as car fuel in California. Recapturing our waste to use it again is a very good idea.
  • Roads are pollution corridors and lots of people live right next to big roads. Ever see a home on the side of the freeway with black smudge on the outside walls, well that is the same stuff that people are breathing.

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 05 2013


Super-Fast Electric Vehicles

Trains, cars, motorcycles and boats - high speed electric transportation is hereWho says that electric transportation needs to be slow? With high speed trains, cars and other vehicles, electric transportation can be very fast. All around the globe we are seeing evidence of super fast electric transportation that can go hundreds of miles per hour (MPH).  These fast and efficient electric vehicles are an ideal way to both make an economy more competitive and reduce carbon emissions associated with combustion engines and conventional air travel.

High speed rail

Two of the fastest trains in the world are located in Japan and France. Central Japan’s mag-lev train known as the JR Maglev MLX01 travels at speeds of up to 361 MPH and France’s electric trains are called Train a Grande Vitesse and they travel at speeds of up to 307 MPH.

All around the world countries are investing in high speed trains. In 2011, China committed to investing $360 billion to vastly expand its network of high-speed trains. China’s trains carry passengers at more than 200 MPH between some of the country’s largest cities. Spain is investing $170 billion to extend its super fast rail system and other countries throughout Europe, India, Brazil, Argentina, and Morocco, are all investing heavily in high speed rail.

In the U.S., high speed rail has been slow to catch on. Nonetheless, the Obama administration and some states are working on building the foundation for a national high-speed rail network. In his first term, the Obama administration pledged $8 billion in federal stimulus funds to construct the first links in a high-speed rail network that is envisioned to stretch 17,000 miles by 2030.

The proposed U.S. bullet trains travel at speeds of 220 MPH. While some consider the costs prohibitive at $600 billion, advocates counter that in addition to reducing carbon emissions, such a system would eventually yield benefits that far exceed the original investment.

At the end of July, California announced plans to break ground on the first high speed rail line in the U.S. The new electric powered high speed train line will go from San Francisco to Los Angeles and is slated for completion in 2029.


Another futuristic mode of transport is the Hyperloop which is almost four times as fast as the proposed U.S. bullet trains. This solar powered ultra high speed transportation system involves wheel-less capsule shaped cars in a low-pressure tube that travel at speeds up to 800 MPH.

The travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles is estimated to be around 30 minutes for the Hyperloop compared to about 2.7 hours via California’s planned high-speed rail. Once started, it is expected to take 7 to 10 years to complete.

In addition to unparrelled speed, the Hyperloop boasts comparitively low costs. Building the Hyperloop is expected to cost around $6 billion which is far less than the state’s high-speed rail project which is now estimated at $68 billion.

One of the most attractive components of the project are the solar panels mounted on the roof. These panels eliminate the need for outside sources of power. Building the Hyperloop on top of pylons that run parallel to an existing interstate would minimize environmental impacts and make it more earthquake resistant.


In 2008, Tesla Motors launched the world’s first completely electric production sports car. The Tesla Roadster Sport boasts a 0 – 60 time of 3.7 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 125 MPH. Its speed combined with its range of 245 miles per charge, makes this vehicle a leading performer in the electric car production vehicle market.

Since the launch of the Tesla Roadster five years ago, electric and hybrid cars have been breaking records with a fair degree of regularity. As reported by the BBC, a new electric land speed record was recently achieved, beating the 175 mph record set in 1974. The electric Lola endurance prototype achieved the speed of 204.2 mph at the Elvington airfield in Yorkshire, UK. The car has four electric motors that offer a combined output of 850-horsepower.

Two university concept cars stand out as among the fastest in the world. One comes from Ohio State Univeristy, it is called the Venturi Buckeye Bullet, which is a custom built car that can travel at speeds up to 250 MPH. Another is a car from Keio University, Japan. Their Eliica converted car can travel at speeds of 202 MPH and it accelerates faster than a Porche 911 Turbo.  Another example of a very fast non-production car is Nic Case’s Schumacher MI3. This race car can travel at speeds of 160 MPH.

The major automakers are also involved in the race to build super fast electric and hybrid cars. Audi’s R18 e-tron, a diesel-electric hybrid race car, recently won the 2013 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race held at Circuit de la Sarthe in France. Also at Le Mans, Nissan unveiled its 2014 competitor for the race, the ZEOD RC electric prototype.

Nissan is an electric vehicle leader that is also looking to dominate race tracks starting with the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour race in 2014. Nissan will use the newly unveiled ZEOD RC which is reported to be one of the world’s fastest electric racing cars capable of speeds over 300km/h (186 MPH). The ZEOD alternates using gas and electric power.

In 2013, Toyota wanted to break its own electric car record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The Toyota EV P002 race car took part in the two-day session in Colorado, but fell victim to heavy rains. A couple of other electric vehicles did manage to best Toyota’s record time set in 2012. The winning vehicle was the Peugeot 208 T16 followed by Hyundai RMR PM580-T.

In August, Toyota revealed its Hybrid-R concept. Using technology similar to Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid race car, the Hybrid-R pairs a 1.6-liter “Global Race Engine” power plant with two electric motors, turning the Yaris into an all-wheel drive super-fast hatchback. Power is generated under braking and stored in a super capacitor to deliver maximum power in a short space of time. The Hybrid-R is expected to debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show on September 10.

Some of these fast electric cars are also going into production. Early in 2013, Mercedes green lighted the SLS AMG Coup Electric Drive for production. Mercedes worked with its F1 division to build the car and the company claims that it is both the fastest and most powerful production EV in the world. Total output from the four electric motors is 740 hp (552 kW) and 738 lb-ft of torque. This car has a top speed of 155 MPH and a 0-62 time of just 3.9 seconds. Mercedes claims a zero-emissions range of 155 miles.

Mercedes says the car is, “aimed at technology-minded super sports car fans who are open to new ideas and fascinated by ambitious high-tech solutions for the future of motoring.”

The Lightning Car Company has created a GT supercar that runs on a lithium-titanate battery which is an even stronger and more stable energy pack than traditional lithium-ion batteries. The quick charging Lightning GT Supercar has a range of over 150 miles and a 0-60 time under 5 seconds. The battery allows for the same amount of power whether at full charge or almost depleted.

Motorcycles, planes and boats

When it comes to electric vehicles, high speed rail and super cars get most of the attention, but there are some increasingly quick electric motorcycles, planes and boats. In 2013, the Electric Lightening was the fastest motorcycle to complete the Pikes Peak course. This is the first electric motorcycle ever to beat a combustion engine vehicle on the course.

Team McBride has created a racing motorcycle called the Lawless OCC Rocket Bike that can travel at speeds of 161 MPH. As far as production motorcycles are concerned, Mission Motors has developed the Mission R which boasts a 0-60 time of 3 seconds and can travel at speeds up to 125 MPH.

Flight of the Century’s Long-ESA plane can travel at speeds of over 200 MPH and Eagle Tree Systems power boat known as the Bontoft & Miller Hydro Boat can travel at speeds of 98 MPH. The world’s fastest electric boat can travel at speeds in excess of 85 knots or just under 100 MPH.

This is just the beginning of electric powered speed, electric engines will eventually eclipse fossil fuel powered transportation altogether.  In the not too distant future, combustion engines will be museum pieces that will be widely regarded as both slow and inefficient, in addition to being environmentally destructive carbon emitters.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Jon Curnow, courtesy flickr

The post Super-Fast Electric Vehicles appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 22 2013


Efficient Vehicles and Sustainability Initiatives in the U.S. Auto Industry

Consumer demand grows for more efficient vehiclesU.S. automakers are producing an ever increasing line-up of more efficient vehicles. However, efficiency measures in the auto industry extend beyond the vehicles they produce. American car companies must compete with more than 36 new hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) that have been or will be launched in 2013. Growing demand for highly efficient vehicles has compelled almost every brand to get into the EV market, which gives consumers an ever expanding list of vehicles to choose from.

In addition to expanded product lines, innovative sustainability measures are being adopted by automakers.  As explained by Green Car Reports, the major automakers are doing more on the sustainability front when it comes to their EV production lines. They are reducing their waste, increasing their use of solar power while reducing their energy usage.

Automotive brands are increasingly seeing value in greening their operations and products as evidenced by Interbrand’s 2013 Best Global Green Brands ranking, which counted four automotive brands in the top five spots. The ranking evaluates companies based on their environmental performance and the public’s perception of their green credentials.

A Mintel study indicated that sales of hybrids and EVs were up 73 percent in 2012. They forecasted that the number of hybrid and EVs will reach 535,000 units by the end of 2013, which represents a 14 percent increase in sales over 2012. By 2017, Mintel predicts that sales of hybrids and EVs will reach 850,000 units, representing five percent of the total US car market.

According to forecasts from Pike research, more than 210,000 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will be sold globally in 2013. By the end of 2013, about 400,000 PEVs will be on the road globally. They further predicted improved battery performance including greater reliability and charge acceptance from regenerative braking.

Edmunds.com projected that at least 43 new hybrids, PEVs, EVs, diesels and fuel cell electric vehicles are planned for introduction in the U.S. by the 2015 model year.

Aggressive national fuel economy standards for model years 2012 to 2025 have helped push automakers to provide more efficient vehicles. Declining price points from companies like GM and Nissan are also a factor driving the rapid adoption of EVs. The growth of charging station infrastructure is another factor supporting growth.

A late 2012 report released by Lux Research forecasts that  the market for electric vehicle charging stations will rise from $140 million in 2012 to $1.15 billion by 2020. The market for charging equipment is expected to grow from about 120,000 units in 2012 to 1.3 million in 2020.

Here is a review of some fuel efficient vehicles along with the sustainability efforts of U.S. automakers General Motors, Ford and Tesla. These car companies are producing more efficient vehicles as well as exploring some innovative sustainability initiatives.

General Motors

Just a couple of years after being on the brink of oblivion, GM was awarded the Top Automotive Innovator as ranked by The Patent Board. All together, GM was granted 1,123 U.S. patents in 2011. In July, Environmental Leader reported that General Motors has partnered with Honda to develop fuel-cell vehicles and infrastructure. This partnership makes sense given that the companies are first and second on the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index. When added together, GM and Honda have filed more than 1,200 fuel cell patents between 2002 and 2012.

GM has also garnered a lot of experience with Project Driveway, a program which was launched in 2007. Through the project, GM has amassed more than 3 million miles of real-world driving experience with a fleet of 119 hydrogen-powered vehicles, which is more than any other automaker.

As reported by Environmental Leader, General Motors plans to invest more than $331 million to produce more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions. This includes the Ecotec engine which offers improved fuel economy, better performance and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. It also includes an eight-speed automatic transmission which will assist in improved fuel economy and performance.

GM’s investments came a month after GM CEO and chairman Dan Akerson announced the company will save 12 billion gallons of fuel over the life of the vehicles it builds between 2011 and 2017. The company has also committed to achieving a 20 percent reduction per vehicle in global CO2 footprint by 2020.

In 2012, Solar Energy Industries Association said that GM uses more solar power than any other automaker in the U.S. The company also ranks No. 13 of the top 20 solar-powered companies in the U.S. In 2011, GM committed to doubling its global solar output to 60 megawatts by 2014, and to increase renewable energy use to 125MW by 2020.

In 2012, GM announced its plan to turn more than half of its manufacturing plants into landfill-free facilities. With the aim of helping other companies do the same, GM shared its waste reduction blueprint called “The Business Case for Zero Waste”.

The automaker recycles 90 percent of its worldwide manufacturing waste and has 102 landfill-free facilities. On its way to achieving a zero-waste status, the company has managed to generate billions of dollars of revenue.

The Volt is GM’s green flagship. This vehicle can operate up to 40 miles on its electrical charge before switching to a gasoline powered engine. According to the EPA, the Chevy Volt has a rating of 93 MPGe (MPGe, or miles per gallon Equivalent is a measure of how far the car can travel electrically on battery energy equivalent to that contained in 1 gallon of gasoline) while running purely on electricity, and 37 MPG in so-called “charge-sustaining” mode.  The Volt is the most widely sold car in its class in the U.S.


In 2013, Ford Motor Co. announced that “eco-consciousness is no longer a niche value; it’s a way of life.” In 2012, Ford announced plans to cut water use at its European plants by 30 per cent by 2017, and to send 70 percent less waste to landfills. In all, it is estimated that Ford will prevent 5.5 billion tons of waste from being dumped in landfill sites and save 1.3 billion liters of water.

“This plan represents our pledge to minimize Ford’s impact on the environment both before and after our customers get behind the wheel,” said Stephen Odell, the chairman and chief executive of Ford in Europe. “This goes hand in hand with our commitment to develop the most fuel-efficient vehicles. Sustainability makes just as much sense for Ford as a business as it does for the environment.”

According to Interbrand’s 2013 Best Global Green Brands ranking, Ford Motor Co. came in second. Their Taurus has a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that gets 32 mpg, it’s the vehicle which was EPA  certified as the best-in-class large sedan for city and highway fuel economy.

In 2012, the company launched five electrified vehicles: Focus Electric (MPGe 105), which went into production in 2011, C-MAX Hybrid (43 MPG), C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid (MPGe 100), the Fusion Hybrid (MPG 47) and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid (MPGe 100).

In 2012, Ford announced some ambitious plans to increase their EV production capacity. They said they want to double their battery-testing capabilities by the end of this year. The company is investing $135 million aimed at speeding up the development of its next generation of electrified vehicles by at least 25 percent. Ford says it will reduce the costs of its hybrid system by 30 percent over previous generations. Their goal is to triple electrified vehicle production capacity by 2013 and offer more choices to consumers.

Ford is also getting involved with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. At the beginning of 2013, the Detroit Free Press reported that Ford had joined Nissan and Daimler to develop affordable fuel cell electric vehicles with the goal of a 2017 launch.

Ford has also adopted some innovative technological approaches to being more environmentally friendly. Ford launched a $50,000 challenge for software developers to create mobile or web-based apps to help consumers better understand and improve their personal fuel-economy performance data.

Ford is also exploring the ways in which cloud-based technology called the EVOS concept car can improve upon and personalize vehicle performance. Ford is researching the ways in which the Nokia Location Platform can optimize hybrid powertrain efficiency by automatically regulating a car’s powertrain as it travels.

Ford is also behind an innovative program that addresses enegy use. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford announced the launch of MyEnergi Lifestyle. This product helps people to use energy more efficiently, it also connects plug-in vehicles and energy-smart appliances to the same database, to produce a measure of overall household energy efficiency.

Another intiative from Ford involves the expansion of its low solvent low VOC, 3-Wet paint process which the company claims is reducing CO2 emissions between 15 and 25 percent at eight of their plants. By the end of 2013, Ford will have implemented the technology in 12 plants. The automaker says it will expand to additional facilities worldwide over the next four years. The process saves electricity from the blowers that circulate massive volumes of air through paint booths, and reduces Ford’s use of natural gas needed to heat the air and ovens.

Ford also reduced the average amount of water used to make each vehicle by 8.5 percent between 2011 and 2012, putting the company more than halfway toward its goal of using an average of 4 cubic meters per vehicle globally by 2015.


Tesla Motors is the pioneering California-based electric car company which is pursuing the goal of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable transport with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. Tesla designs and manufactures EVs, as well as EV powertrain components for partners such as Toyota and Mercedes.

In addition to producing very efficient electric vehicles, a company press release indicated that the Tesla Model S has achieved unparalleled safety ratings.  Independent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating on every subcategory without exception. This is a rare distinction as only one percent of all cars get an across the board 5 star rating.  The Model S earned an unprecedented new combined record safety rating of 5.4 stars.

Tesla Motors is an early adopter which has schooled the EV industry in the U.S. and around the world. In 2006, Tesla was named a recipient of the Global Green USA Product/Industrial Design Award for its work in developing the Tesla Roadster.

Tesla not only produces great electric vehicles they are also leading the way in charging infrastructure. According to EV New Report, “The Tesla station may become the de facto national energy plan for automobile transportation.”

Tesla has even incorporated a novel approach to sustainability into their production facilities. Rather than build new facilities, Tesla Motors motors have refurbished older factories. Overall, Tesla is widely recognized for its excellent industry leading sustainability strategy.

The future of transportation is electric

According to Elon Musk,  the CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, as well as the Chairman of SolarCity, all forms of transportation are going to be electric.

“The way I see it is that all transportation will go electric except for rockets, ironically. All that is needed is someone to provide compelling electric vehicles. That is something we’re doing at Tesla and that’s something I think we’ll see the rest of the auto industry doing over time. I don’t think there is such a thing as the electric vehicle market and the internal combustion market — it’ll all go electric. It’s just a question of producing a compelling product.”

Efficiency is driving the market for this new generation of vehicles which are far more efficient than gasoline and diesel power.  Advances in electric and hydrogen vehicles are ushering in a new era that will bring an end to the environmentally destructive internal combustion engine.

More sustainable practices, collaboration, technology and a new generation of vehicles are reducing the footprint of the automotive industry.

Highly efficient electric and hydrogen vehicles are combining with sustainable automotive initiatives to forge a clean and green future in the U.S. and around the world.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Dave Pinter, courtesy flickr

The post Efficient Vehicles and Sustainability Initiatives in the U.S. Auto Industry appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 22 2013


Infographic: How Green is Your State?

This interactive infographic shows compares each U.S. state on overall “greenness” and on individual categories of mass transit, renewables, recycling, water quality, air quality, and CO2

Produced by MPHOnline.org

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July 16 2013


Study Shows Growth in Climate-Themed Bonds

“Bonds and Climate Change: The State of the Market in 2013,” HSBC Climate Change Centre of Excellence, Climate Bond Initiative

Climate change adaptation is a core aspect of President Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan. Developing the institutional framework and cost-effective private-sector financial mechanisms to stimulate and leverage public policies and programs remains a key hurdle that needs to be surmounted if the aims of the President’s national strategy are to be realized, however.

Continuing a pioneering effort to monitor and assess “green” infrastructure financing and investments, the HSBC Climate Change Centre of Excellence commissioned and the Climate Bond Initiative produced, “Bonds and Climate Change: The State of the Market in 2013.” The number of climate-themed bonds outstanding nearly doubled in 2013, researchers found, reaching some $346 billion.

Bonds for climate change adaptation

Focusing on seven climate themes – Transport, Energy, Climate Finance, Agriculture & Forestry, Waste & Pollution Control, and Water – the study corresponds “to our view of the emerging low-carbon, climate-resilient economy,” the study partners state. “It is designed to ring-fence goods and services that enable the transition to low-carbon growth that is also resilient to the impacts of a changing climate.”

Climate Bond Initiative used the seven climate change themes to screen the use of proceeds of bonds issued in markets worldwide and “arrive at a universe that is 100% aligned with the low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”

Researchers found climate change bonds were issued by corporations, financial institutions, municipalities, state-backed entities and project special purpose vehicles (SPVs). A second level of filters entailed verifying their selection using Bloomberg descriptions and revenue breakdowns “cross-checked with company disclosures and other market sources to confirm alignment with climate themes,” the report authors explain.

According to the report’s authors,

“Our updated 2013 estimate has reiterated the perception that the climate-themed bond market is not niche, lacking scale or liquidity.”

Ultimately screening over 10,000 bonds from 2,300 issuers, 1,200 from 260 issuers with a total outstanding principal of $346 billion qualified across all seven climate themes. That’s just shy of double – 99 percent higher – than the $174 billion estimate of the amount outstanding in 2012.

“Bonds and Climate Change: The State of the Market in 2013,” HSBC Climate Change Centre of Excellence, Climate Bond Initiative

“Bonds and Climate Change: The State of the Market in 2013,” HSBC Climate Change Centre of Excellence, Climate Bond Initiative

With a total $263 billion in climate bonds outstanding, the Transport sector accounted for the large majority, just over 70 percent. Climate bonds outstanding for the Energy ($41 billion) and Finance sectors ($32 billion) ranked second and third, respectively.

The Climate Bonds Initiative expects institutional investors – pension funds, insurers, etc. – will expand the range of criteria used to expand the range of climate-theme bonds they invest in. Two factors will add momentum and fuel growing investment in climate-theme bonds, they say: 1) growing focus on implementation of environmental, social and governance goals of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) to fixed income portfolios, and 2) the need for institutional investors to adjust their portfolios in light of the expected advent of a 2015 international climate accord.

More than 1,000 companies representing some $32 trillion in assets under management have signed the PRI. Meanwhile, some “$22 trillion of assets under management fall undr the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change that issues regular policy statements outlining investor requirements on international and national climate policy,” the report authors point out.

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July 15 2013


I heart Ironman

Once again, I'm reminded to be very careful about what I post here:

Suppose, for a moment, that the people who run your local government really cared enough about you and your fellow citizens to do something that might actually benefit you, by funding a fancy transportation project that could shave 13 minutes off your time while commuting once it's done.

Is it worth it?

The answer, at this point, is "it depends". And honestly, what it depends upon is what your and your fellow commuters' time is really worth.

That's why we've created the tool below, so you can see how much you're saying your time in traffic is worth if the project goes forward! Just enter the indicated data in the tool below, and we'll do the math....

All the default numbers in the tool above are taken from a federally-funded transportation project in North Carolina, which promised to spend $461 million to reduce the travel time of some 100,000 train commuters between Charlotte and Raleigh by 13 minutes a trip, which would bring their one-way transit time down to just under three hours. We then adapted the math developed by John Whitehead for determining the benefit-cost ratio for the project to estimate what value per hour saved per individual that the state's politicians were assigning to the primary declared benefit of the project.

via politicalcalculations.blogspot.com

The tool says that the NC project implicitly values commuter time at $638/per hour. 

June 21 2013


When is a life too costly to save?*

Here are the benefits and costs from the "VSL in the WSJ" post:

The FRA puts the cost of upgrades at up to $13 billion for passenger and freight railroads. ...

It is tough to draw direct comparisons of train passenger safety to other types of travel, according to the Department of Transportation. For instance, the definition of a travel fatality varies. With automobiles, it is a death from injuries up to 30 days after a crash; for trains it is up to a year.

The American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, says that, for cars, about 1.4 people died for every 100 million passenger-miles traveled from 2003 through 2008, federal data show. For commuter rail, the figure was 0.06 deaths and for Amtrak, 0.03.

Overall in the past decade, FRA statistics show, 56 passengers and employees have died in incidents on mainline track, not including people or cars struck at grade crossings. ...

Executive orders signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama require federal agencies to perform cost-benefit analyses when imposing some new rules and mandates. For regulations designed to prevent fatalities, that means calculating the economic benefit of preserving a life. ...

The switch to VSL raised the dollar value on preserving a human life. Among other things, that made costlier safety regulations easier to justify on economic grounds. ...

To calculate the value of life for a given government regulation, agencies use wage, consumer-purchase and job-safety data to calculate the premium already built into economic data to account for relative riskiness. So economists deduce from people's willingness to pay for safety features—say, air bags—how much they value lowering the risk of death.

From there, economists extrapolate the VSL, the economic value of saving a single life. Back in 2009, the Department of Transportation put that number at $6 million; today it is calculated at $9.1 million.

via online.wsj.com

Suppose the $13 billion cost of safety upgrades saves 168 (56 x 3) lives over the next 30 years. The undiscounted benefit is $1.5 billion (168 x $9.1m), an order of magnitude lower than the costs. It is hard to imagine how any other safety co-benefits could push the benefits much higher. What is worse is that the money could be spent on what is described as more pressing safety concerns (click on the slideshow tab).

*I stole that title from my friend George. 

June 19 2013


EarthTalk: Progress in Biofuels Development

Biofuel development continues at the algae pond at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory  EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How far along are we at developing algae-based and other higher yield sources of biofuels?    – Jason McCabe, Tullahoma, TN

A few years ago biofuels were all the rage. Environmental advocates to national security hawks alike were extolling the virtues of ethanol and biodiesel as a carbon-neutral bridge to our energy future. But the bubble burst when it became apparent that there wasn’t enough agricultural land in the U.S. or elsewhere to grow sufficient amounts of corn, palm and other crops to feed both people and their engines. To boot, the process of extracting and distributing biofuels has proven anything but carbon neutral. And with ever cheaper natural gas widely available now, paying a premium for ethanol or biodiesel seemed frivolous.

But a new generation of biofuels based on algae might just change all that. One of the major problems with biofuels that algae could solve is space, since algae can yield as much as 100 times more fuel per unit area than other so-called “second generation” biofuel crops (e.g. non-food crops or non-food waste parts of food crops). Federal researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy report that it would take only 15,000 square miles—less than 1/7 the area now used to harvest all the corn across the country—to produce enough algae fuel to replace all of our petroleum fuel.

While burning algae-derived fuel in an engine or factory generates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions just like fossil fuels do, the algae itself requires CO2 to photosynthesize—so overall no new CO2 is added to the atmosphere. Furthermore, any CO2 created through processing or refinement can be captured and re-directed to the growing algae beds. And unlike other biofuel feedstocks, algae production has minimal impact on freshwater supplies—especially when it can be undertaken in ocean waters or even wastewater.

At least three well-funded ventures are poised to ramp up production of commercially viable quantities of algae-derived crude oil over the next couple of years. California’s Solazyme is building an algae fuel factory in Brazil in partnership with food processing giant Bunge and expects to manufacture 100,000 metric tons of fuel there each year. Solazyme is also retooling an Archer Daniels Midland factory in Clinton, Iowa to produce another 100,000 metric tons of algae fuel per year domestically.

Another company ready to make the leap into commercial scale production of algae fuel is Sapphire Energy, which operates a 2,200 acre algae farm in New Mexico where oil is harvested across 70 open ponds and refined on site. Sapphire—Bill Gates is a big investor—expects the facility, which goes online next year, to generate some 10,000 barrels of crude oil a day by 2018.

Yet a third player in the emerging algae fuel market is Synthetic Genomics, the brainchild of genomics guru Craig Venter, who beat the U.S. government in sequencing the human genome and at a fraction of the cost. The company, which last year purchased an 81-acre site in California’s Imperial Valley to scale up and test its synthetic algae strains across 42 open ponds, plans to genetically modify algae to optimize its oil output. ExxonMobil signed a $600 million development deal with the company to further the cutting edge research.


EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

Image credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, courtesy flickr 

The post EarthTalk: Progress in Biofuels Development appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 14 2013


Please tell me there is a co-author named Ferb

I don't want to take all of the credit but were started this blog in the middle of last decade:

For six decades, Americans have tended to drive more every year. But in the middle of the last decade, the number of miles driven — both over all and per capita — began to drop, notes a report to be published on Tuesday by U.S. Pirg, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

People tend to drive less during recessions, since fewer people are working (and commuting), and most are looking for ways to save money. But Phineas Baxandall, an author of the report and senior analyst for U.S. Pirg, said the changes preceded the recent recession and appeared to be part of a structural shift that is largely rooted in changing demographics

via www.nytimes.com

And Tim's "drive less" mantra hit NPR in 2006.

March 01 2013


August 06 2012

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