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Christopher Mims' Posts

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Why going green during a recession actually creates jobs

Economists have long known something that politicians apparently do not: If you need to impose expensive environmental regulations, there’s no better time than during a recession. Or so says macroeconomist Josh Bivens, writing in New Scientist.

In fact, says Bivens, when the economy is sucking wind, environmental regulations actually create jobs, for three reasons:

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80 percent of humans are delusionally optimistic, says science

Maybe the reason we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change -- or, indeed, any of the other existential crises we're facing at present -- is that 80 percent of humanity has what's known as an "optimism bias." (If you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're among the "lucky" 20 percent whose perceptions of reality are demonstrably realistic.)

People who have an optimism bias do irrational things in the laboratory, like systematically ignoring concrete information about risk, reports Scientific American Mind.

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Detroit residents are turning the city into suburbs

Detroit is undergoing a remarkable process of un-building, its residents literally transforming its denser neighborhoods into sparse suburbs. It's the inevitable consequence of the shrinking of a once-great city.

By estimates of the city and various experts, about 40 square miles of the city's 139 square miles are vacant today -- empty fields from which all structures have been removed.

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How the new NYC taxi is bike-friendly

New York City's new taxis have sliding doors, so that there's no danger that a tourist from the flyover zone will thoughtlessly door a passing cyclist when he or she hops out.

Read more: Uncategorized

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If everyone used as much energy as Americans, we’d run out of oil in 9 years

Unlike gluttonous American industry, Europe's most profitable companies plan to make even more money by getting ahead of this whole peak oil trend, reports Der Spiegel. And it’s a damn good thing, because if everybody guzzled oil like Americans, we’d be even more screwed than we are now.

Case in point:

If every person on Earth used as much energy as the average person in the United States, today's known oil reserves would be exhausted within nine years.

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Google saves energy by cooling its buildings with ice

Google's new $700 million data centers in Taiwan will make ice at night, when electricity is significantly cheaper, and use it to cool the buildings during the day, reports Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge. It's called thermal storage, and it's basically a battery, but for air conditioning.

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Terrified by peak oil, FedEx turns to biofuels, efficiency

FedEx owns 700 planes and tens of thousands of trucks, which is why CEO Fred Smith is crazy for energy efficiency, reports NPR.

Shortly after Smith founded Federal Express, the 1973 Arab oil embargo almost killed it. The experience imprinted Smith with a keen interest in the price and availability of oil.

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Flame retardants can turn a burning room into a gas chamber

The Station nightclub fire at 40 seconds. (Photo by Daniel R. Davidson.)

You know brominated and chlorinated flame retardants are bad when when even Walmart bans them from its products. Unfortunately, some fire codes require them. But we’ll see how long that lasts, says Environmental Health News, given that new research indicates burning flame-retardant items makes them emit the same poisons used in Nazi gas chambers.

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Half-bike, half-car Velomobile goes 80 miles on 6 cents of electricity

Photo by Watson House.

Velomobiles are reclining bicycles with fiberglass shells on top, to make you super aerodynamic, weatherproof, and sort of whimsical.