Speaking of new urbanism

From AP: "Fastest-growing counties suburban, rural""I think low density is the attraction," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "People would rather make a long commute and have a big yard and a big house."Sigh.

Houston kids living near a Superfund site tell their stories in pictures

Click image to view a slide show of children’s photos and collages. Collage: Wassim Elmetni (age 11). “Many Diversified Interests” sounds like a line from a college application, or advice from a responsible money manager. …

Bike Against! collective

I met Raphael, the head of this Bicycle Coop in Fort Collins. They have a number of volunteers who fix bicycles and make them available for needy people. They recently shipped an entire truckload of cycles to a poor New Mexico community, and set up a repair shop with donated tools. They also conducted some training sessions on maintenance. They give bicycles away to any needy people. If you can afford a bicycle, they ask for a donation.

Poll finds melange of random public opinions on energy; nation reels

This poll will no doubt be used by a variety of groups for a variety of political purposes -- mostly good, since it might actually prompt some political action on the coming energy crisis. Whatever works. But one fact hovers over polls like this, unmentionable in polite company. Not being polite, I'll mention it: The American people are pretty ignorant about the global energy situation -- like, let's face it, most of the world's people are, about most things. In light of that fact, what on earth is the poll supposed to prove? Does the fact that most people think there's no energy crisis, but Bush isn't doing enough to address it, make that a coherent position? Does the fact that 3 out of 10 people think oil's going to run out within 25 years give that number any special weight? Some 89% think oil companies are to blame for our energy problems. Does that make it so? Polls like this are thin, because on broad, complex, and not-very-often-discussed issues like this, the public just doesn't know. They rely on their leaders to know stuff like this, and to lead. There's a chicken-and-egg quality to polling, where public officials cite polls to justify positions and policies, despite the fact that public opinion was basically shaped by those positions and policies. Facts are facts. Leadership is leadership. We'll know it when we see it.

Sometimes extinction is forever

Ivory-billed woodpecker may be gone after all

Remember that thing about the ivory-billed woodpecker -- alive in the swamps of Arkansas -- not extinct after all? Well, maybe not so much. In a new article in the journal Science, renowned bird expert David Allen Sibley says the evidence is insufficient and the famous video of the bird is actually the rather common pileated woodpecker. Sibley joins Kenn Kaufman and a number of other bird experts in his assessment. In the surprisingly fractious world of birders, I'm sure the debate is far from over, but I'm ready to conclude that the ivory-billed has gone the way of the dodo.

Oil producing countries need us, and not just as consumers

There are many folks more qualified to comment on geopolitics than yours truly -- swing a dead cat and you'll hit one -- but let me venture a thought. It is sometimes said that coming shortages will render oil less fungible; the idea is that rather than simply dumping oil into the world market, oil-producing countries will use their leverage for geopolitically nefarious purposes. The leverage they can gain from the oil will come to be worth more than the price of the oil on the market. Two things weigh against this. One, the more nefarious of the oil-producing countries tend to depend almost entirely on oil revenue. They might could hurt oil consuming countries by shutting off exports, but they'd hurt themselves as much or more. The other just occurred to me after reading this Christian Science Monitor piece about Kuwait. Here's the nut: Kuwait's energy sector has survived the past 30 odd years on fields explored and developed in the 1970s and 1980s. With most of these fields aging and declining, the government is eager to open new fields. To do this, however, it needs the advanced and complex technology that only international oil companies can bring in. Fields are aging and declining all over, and the need for technological means to squeeze out the last drops is sure to devil any country that depends on oil revenue. They can't just shut the world out -- the world contains not only geopolitical rivals and consumers, but experts. I'm still inclined to think that oil will be fungible as fungible can be (I sure do like the word "fungible") right up until a) it runs out, or b) nobody needs it any more. Of course I'm probably muddling all sorts of issues together here and making basic mistakes of ignorance, but hey -- they gave me a blog, so I put words on it.

Kempthorne nominated for Interior Secretary

It's official: Bush has nominated Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to succeed Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior. More on Kempthorne here and here. That was remarkably fast. I wonder what the back story is. Update [2006-3-16 15:0:19 by David Roberts]: Via Ezra Klein, this amusingly concise statement from LCV:WASHINGTON, DC – League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Senior Vice President for Political Affairs and Public Education Tony Massaro today issued the following statement after President Bush nominated Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne to be his Secretary of Interior."During his career in Congress, Governor Kempthorne earned a paltry 1% lifetime LCV score. Enough said."Indeed.

The Wheel Deal: A little bit of everything

Car news: fast and furious

So much car news, so little time! Yes, this post is long, but it's highly informational and a kick in the pants (if I do say so myself). And at the end you get to read the Worst Ethanol Metaphor Ever! Trust me, it's worth it. Let us begin. From Uganda comes this highly punctuated bit of car news: A local school has rewarded its best performing students with vehicles. St. Lawrence London College lavished their top three students in last year's A-Level exams with a car each, and cash awards. Incredible! The principal said the annual award would encourage other students to work hard. Preposterous! Meanwhile, Lexus is unveiling the priciest hybrid on the market: the $54,900 GS 450h. Ridiculous! And in more hybrid news: Volvo plans to launch a hybrid truck engine. The new engine would cut fuel consumption by 35 percent, say the Volvans. Says prototypically-Swedishly-named Volvo bigwig Leif Johansson: We are talking about half of the overall heavy truck market and perhaps as much as 75 percent of the bus market and 100 percent of construction equipment. In a separate article, he added that the prospect of this hybrid engine "makes us weep with pleasure." Hilarious!

Move Thyself: My other bike is a pipe bomb

Careful about what stickers you put on your bike, people

Recent bike-related news offers an answer to the oft-posed question, "I'm a police officer -- when the hell am I going to need to know about pop culture?" The answer, of course, is when a sticker on a bicycle bearing an indie band name you're oblivious to prompts the destruction of said bicycle with the jaws of life in order to extract a nonexistent explosive device. To be fair, the band's name -- "This Bike is a Pipe Bomb" -- isn't quite like affixing a "NIN" or "The String Cheese Incident" sticker to your seat post, but still.

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