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Jonathan Hiskes' Posts

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The Senate livability bill has no teeth. That’s okay

Atlanta was awarded $47 million last week for a new streetcar line.Image:GaloungerThe Obama administration is shifting federal transportation and housing funding away from its historical focus on sprawl-inducing highways and toward walkable, transit-friendly, mixed-use development. The work got started with the creation of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, created in January, and is bearing fruit through a recent series of grants for local projects. For the work to continue, it needs secure funding from Congress, and that's the point of Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-Conn.) Livable Communities Act. The bill would provide $4 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban …

Read more: Cities, Politics

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States have clean-energy momentum, but it’s under threat

For all the dysfunction, moral cowardice, and hamfisted leadership in the fight for a federal climate bill, there's a good deal of ambitious work being done at the state level. Cleantech entrepreneurs are finding ways to build profitable businesses nearly everywhere, but particularly in states that deliberately encourage it. Shaded states have some form of renewable energy standard.Image: The fantastic map collection at the Pew Center on Global Climate ChangeThirty-two states do this by participating in the Northeastern, Midwestern, or Western cap-and-trade programs. Thirty states guarantee a market for clean energy through renewable-energy standards (which require electricity providers to get …

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Postcards from the future

"Parliament Square rice paddies"All images: Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones. U.K. artists Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones kept hearing discussion and conjecture about how violent climatic changes would disrupt their world. But they couldn't envision what it would look like. So they started researching and created a set of "Postcards from the Future" portraying a future London transformed by floods, harsher winters (because of a Gulf Stream slow-down), and fiercer storms. The illustrations also show human responses -- climate refugees encamped in Trafalgar Square and outside Buckingham Palace, wind turbines in Piccadilly Circus, and tidal turbines in the Thames River. …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Minnesota governor's race: Dayton vs. Horner vs. Emmer

When Sarah Palin and the "drill, baby, drill" chant rose to prominence at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, two leading Minnesota Republicans reacted in very different ways. And their responses represent two distinct directions that state voters could choose in the governor's race next month. The convention inspired Tom Horner, a public relations executive and former Senate staffer, to quit the Republican Party and run for governor on the Independence ticket (which put pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura in the governor's office in 1998). "What really tipped me over, frankly, was the nomination of Sarah Palin," Horner said this …

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We’re tearing this highway down, Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood says

It's one thing to talk about designing cities and towns for people instead of cars, as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has done. It's another thing to make good on that pledge by tearing down elevated highways that prevent foot traffic and isolate neighborhoods from each other. LaHood's Transportation Department announced support for three such projects in a major funding announcement Wednesday. The department made $600 million in TIGER II grants, funding 42 construction projects and 33 planning projects around the country. Perhaps the most eye-catching winner is the New Haven, Conn., Downtown Crossing, which gets $16 million to remove the …

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'The car is a kind of shield that deflects empathy'

Texas, 2006, from the series "America by Car," 1995-2009. Photo: Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. Our mode of transportation shapes our experience of the world. When you move on foot, you interact with people -- Sarah showed as much in her tribute to Brooklyn street life the other day. And when you drive, a glass-and-steel barrier separates you from the landscape. "Lee Friedlander: America by Car," a new series by the accomplished photographer at New York's Whitney Museum, portrays that phenomenon with striking effect: Mr. Friedlander took his black-and-white, square-format photographs entirely from the interior of standard rental …

Read more: Cities, Living

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IBM’s OneCity urban fix-it game

IBM is hyping its new flash video game, OneCity, which is sort of a hybrid between SimCity and a well-produced product pitch. Rather than building a metropolis from scratch, as in SimCity, players inherit a picturesque mountain city and try to fix problem scenarios that arise in four areas -- energy, water, banking and retail. Never mind that urban leaders don't actually control banking and retail -- these four are the categories in which IBM has products to sell. From Next American City: Once players complete 10 rounds, the game provides an assessment of your performance, and classifies you as …

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Angry county could cut California out of $33 million in efficiency cash

How lovely: California may lose $33 million in energy-efficiency funds because officials in Riverside County are upset they didn't get more than half of the sum for their region. Earlier this year the Western Riverside Council of Governments, which represents part of a county of 2 million, asked for $20 million of the state's pot of Property Assessed Home Energy (PACE) funds. Los Angeles, by contrast, requested $4.7 million for its population of 3.8 million. Riverside also ignored energy requirements in the guidelines and insisted that the money should be spent only on installing solar panels (which is stupid; homeowners …

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Nick Bilton reports from the future: Don’t be afraid, Earthlings

We’ll all have stylish eyeglasses in the future, Nick Bilton promisesPhoto: Joi ItoNick Bilton reports on technology for The New York Times' Bits blog and has a new book, I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. The title has something of a reassuring “Don’t be scared, Earthlings” tone, and that’s deliberate: Bilton has confidence in the ability of individuals to multitask safely, to use Google without becoming stupid better, and otherwise adapt technology to good uses. The book takes a trip through the history of technophobia -- …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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American companies don’t want tar-sands oil on their logos, creating an opening

Trucks carry loads of bitumen-laced sand through an open-pit mine.Photo: Jonathan HiskesOver the past few days I flew over the devastated landscape of the Alberta tar sands, toured the nearby boomtown struggling to deal with the influx of mining workers, scoffed at greenwashing by the energy companies, and snuck a nugget of hardened bitumen home as a souvenir. What I didn't find in the Canadian subarctic were any solutions for "fixing" the tar sands. The solutions are down the pipelines in the U.S., where most tar-sands oil ends up (the U.S. imports more oil from Canada than from any other …