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Clark Williams-Derry's Posts

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Burnt CAFE

CAFE standards reduce fuel use, but increase the total amount of miles driven

A point of clarification about CAFE standards, apropos of Dave's post below. According to this report (careful, it's a pdf) from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, increasing CAFE standards would, in fact, save fuel (contrary to the claims of this this moronic article). The problem is that more fuel-efficient cars are also cheaper to drive. And that would mean that CAFE standards, even as they save fuel, would also slightly increase the number of miles people drive. Now, driving obviously has all sorts of "externalities" -- costs that are borne by someone other than the driver. Some of the externalities …

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Last West-Coast clean car domino falls

Oregon joins Washington and California with emissions limits

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski just tipped over the last clean car domino on the West Coast: He's directed his Department of Ecology to draft regulations for adopting California's clean-car standards. This is a major step. Washington State had opted for California's standards, provided that Oregon adopted them too. Because Canada has adopted similar standards, Oregon's move has created a clean-car corridor stretching from San Diego through northern British Columbia. Together, between California, Canada, and the northwest and northeastern states that have followed their lead, about 40 percent of the North American new-car market will soon be cleaner and, if all …

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Flame on!

PBDEs may pass PCBs as biggest chemical threat

Dumb headline (unless you're a Fantastic Four fan), but a serious subject. A new chemical analysis, being released today by California EPA scientists at an international scientific conference in Toronto, shows that 30 percent of Northwest moms tested had higher levels of the toxic flame retardants PBDEs in their bodies than of well-known chemical threats PCBs. This study is a follow-up to the PBDE study of Northwest women Northwest Environment Watch did last year. The study provides pretty unambiguous evidence that PBDEs have emerged as a major toxic menace. And it suggests that, if recent trends continue, PBDEs could soon …

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Security and the city

City cores are, if anything, safer than the ‘burbs.

This article in Sunday's Washington Post, penned by New America Foundation fellow Joel Kotkin, is definitely thought provoking. In the wake of terrorist attacks in London and New York, Kotkin argues that the single most important challenge facing modern cities is providing basic security to their citizens. To wit ... While modern cities are a long way from extinction, it's only by acknowledging the primacy of security -- and addressing it in the most aggressive manner -- that they will be able to survive and thrive in this new century, in which they already face the challenge of a telecommunications …

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A bridge just far enough

Vancouver city politicians take risky moves to fight climate change.

If you want an example of what sets greater Vancouver, B.C., apart from cities south of the U.S.-Canadian border, look no farther than this Vancouver Sun headline: Council votes to turn two of six lanes on Burrard Bridge into dedicated bike lanes. Just for context -- the Burrard Bridge is one of just a few main access points into downtown Vancouver, and carries a significant amount of car traffic into downtown from some of the western neighborhoods. Vancouver tried a similar experiment in the mid-1990s, but it ended after just a week or so because of a public outcry over …

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Seafood, see food travel

‘Domestic’ seafood sent abroad for processing.

Globalization in action: Some locally-caught seafood is now being shipped to China for processing and then back to the Northwest for sale. This saves on labor costs -- labor is a fifth to a tenth as costly in China as it is here -- but massively increases the amount of energy consumed. For the most part, I prefer to buy food that's grown or caught locally. But sending locally-caught seafood on an 8,000 mile journey in search of cheap labor definitely strains the definition of "local". But as long as international markets remain open, transportation remains cheap, and disparities in …

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Sunny share

Car-sharing starts to take off.

Here's a bit of interesting news on car sharing companies, which, according to The New York Times, are catching on a bit in Europe. The most salient bit: Studies suggest that one shared car replaces 4 to 10 private cars, as people sell their old vehicles...The result is a 30 to 45 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled for each new customer. Now, 30 to 45 percent is a pretty sizeable decline in driving. But this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise; as any economist would predict, converting a fixed cost (e.g., the cost of buying the car) …

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Cost plus

The healthcare costs of chemical pollution far outweigh any economic benefits.

Health care has become such an expensive endeavor -- consuming roughly an eighth of all the money our economy generates -- that even small improvements in health can save a lot of money. A recent study, mentioned here in the Seattle P-I, looks just at the health costs -- care for asthma, cancer, lead pollution, and the like -- resulting from exposure to manufactured chemicals. And according to Dr. Kate Davies, the study's author, the costs are pretty sizeable: Davies said the environmental health costs associated with children's conditions is roughly .7 percent of the state gross national product, while …

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Jammin’ on traffic

From Gordon Price's most recent Price Tags newsletter -- a computer simulation of traffic congestion that will run on any java-enabled web browser. It's mesmerizing to watch "phantom" traffic jams form -- temporary slowdowns in traffic caused just by congestion, without any obstacle in the road. And the especially nifty thing (or big time-waster) for me is that you can tweak the settings -- traffic volume, driver politeness, road setup -- to see what kinds of things lead to more congestion. For example, traffic that flows along smoothly when the speed limit is set at 80 km per hour (about …

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Density Star

From the New Urban News comes this nugget: Researchers presented findings at the Congress for the New Urbanism annual conference that show substantial energy savings from higher-density urbanism -- greater savings than can be achieved from the US government Energy Star program. As the chart on the left shows (if you can read it -- sorry it's so small), even small increases in density can yield substantial energy savings; increasing residential density from 3 housing units per acre to 6 units per acre actually saves more energy than the average efficiency boost provided by Energy Star appliances. Now, this shouldn't …

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