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Obsoleting Bertha: Viaduct traffic plummets

Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry has a terrific post on the astounding decline in traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct since Seattle's Big Dig II began.  Trip volumes are down 40% in just 3 years!  Clark analyzes the remarkable trend and concludes: At this point, nobody knows if [tunnel-boring machine] Bertha will ever get moving again, let alone complete her job. But given these figures, maybe it doesn’t matter. Seattle has seamlessly adapted to losing the first 48,000 trips on the Viaduct. No one even noticed. No one even noticed that 40 percent of the Viaduct’s traffic just disappeared! Could accommodating the loss of another …

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Get old. Get free. Get over oil.

I’m going to burn my driver’s license when I turn 75.  Maybe sooner.  I’d like to do it at the offices of Koch Enterprises, if I can get a ride home. You may think this is a choice to sacrifice some freedom.  But it’s the opposite:  a declaration of independence from the tyranny of oil. So I have twenty years – plenty of time – to build the family and community ties and the physical infrastructure for a car-free life.  Having made this pledge, I’m much more committed to mixed-use development, transit investment, and babysitting my prospective grandkids so someone …

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The War on Truth: Which side is Harvard on?

originally posted at Grip College students across the country are calling on their schools’ endowments to divest from fossil fuels.  The campaign is taking off. But Harvard University President Drew Faust has rejected the idea, without responding to student requests for a public forum on the issue.  In doing so, she turned her back on the institution’s mission:  truth. The fossil fuel industry, supported in some part by the Harvard endowment, has stooped to a particular form of political manipulation that poses a direct, existential threat to the purposes of academia.  They fund and disseminate climate disinformation and corrupt our …

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King Coal’s tragic puppet show, Part 2 – Coal export is wrong

...originally published at GRIP.... When last we left our intrepid heroes, the great Northwest had woken up to find itself cast in the wrong movie, sort of like Owen Wilson playing Richard Nixon (see Part 1). If we’re disoriented, it’s no wonder – what, with all the crap flying around trying to convince us that turning Cascadia into a conveyor belt for coal is the best idea since Boeing. So let’s cut some of it. Coal export from the Northwest would increase coal consumption and carbon emissions, not just displace other coal. The coal trains won’t “come anyway” and continue …

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The Keystone Principle: Stop making it worse

The big President's Day rally on the National Mall is more than a Keystone pipeline protest. It's a statement of principle for climate action.

After a year of unprecedented destruction due to weather extremes, the climate fight is no longer just about impacts in the future. It’s about physical and moral consequences, now. And Keystone isn't simply a pipeline in the sand for the swelling national climate movement. It’s a moral referendum on our willingness to do the simplest thing we must do to avert catastrophic climate disruption: Stop making it worse.

Specifically and categorically, we must cease making large, long-term capital investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure that “locks in” dangerous emission levels for many decades. Keystone is a both a conspicuous example of that kind of investment and a powerful symbol for the whole damned category.

It’s true that stopping a single pipeline -- even one as huge and odious as Keystone -- will not literally “solve” climate disruption. No single action will do that, any more than refusing to sit on the back of a single bus literally ended segregation. The question -- for Keystone protestors as it was for Rosa Parks -- is whether the action captures and communicates a principle powerful enough to inspire and sustain an irresistible movement for sweeping social change.

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Senate to Europe: Get your laws off our carbon

originally published in GRIP In a memorable TV ad saluting the hard work of Olympic athletes, swimmer Ryan Lochte reveals how he made it to the Games in London:  “I swam here.” That would be one way to avoid the modest cost of carbon pollution permits required for aviation under the EU’s Emission Trading System. Senator John Thune has a less strenuous approach:  ban U.S. airlines from participating in the system. His European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act (S. 1956), passed by the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday, would authorize the Secretary of Transportation to do just that. Now, it’s …

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MORE sex is better with energy efficiency

My first foray into this topic, “Sex is better with energy efficiency,” was warmly - aye, steamingly - received.  (We are a simple people, no?)  So let's dive deeper... First, for the record:  Jimmy Carter is a great man, a courageous humanitarian, and a vastly underappreciated former President.  It’s not his fault.  But one of the founding myths of the modern energy efficiency “movement”, if we can call it that, is that his “moral equivalent of war” speech and his fireside chats on energy were a huge cultural setback for conservation. By framing energy conservation as a moral proposition (goes …

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Why our biggest moral challenge doesn’t act like one

Al Gore tried to invoke the moral imperative for climate action.  “It’s not about right and left;” he said, “it’s about right and wrong.”  Climate deniers cynically pounced on Gore’s leadership as an opportunity to assert the exact opposite. (Really, it’s about both, but we'll get to that later.  See footnote if you can't wait.) Why don’t Americans accept the climate challenge as a moral imperative?  University of Oregon researchers Ezra Markowitz and Azim Shariff tackle the question in Nature Climate Change.  Markowitz blogs their conclusions here. Their analysis draws insights from broader research on “the moral judgement system – …

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All oil is foreign

...originally posted at GRIP... When the political class focuses on the perils of fossil fuel dependence, they almost always use the word “foreign” before “oil”.  This is redundant.  Oil is inherently foreign.  All of it. Oil is foreign to democracy.  In an election cycle flooded by unrestricted political money, oil money stands out as the biggest gusher.  The Supreme Court struck down Montana's law limiting corporate spending on campaigns yesterday, so the blowout of oil's influence will remain uncapped for the foreseeable future.   In America and around the world, oil and freedom do not mix.  Because it concentrates wealth, facilitates …

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Got $60 worth of coal-in-the-ground? BLM will give you a buck and change for it

Dave Roberts and others have been talking about leaving coal in the ground.  That got me thinking:  What’s it worth there? The question looms large in light of recent and imminent federal leases to extract a bazillion tons of coal from public land in the Powder River Basin (PRB).  Critics of the practice note that Americans are being compensated for this public resource at well below its market value. But if you don't happen to be in the coal business, the market value of coal-to-burn pales in comparison to the vital functions of coal-in-the-ground (hereafter, "coal ITG"). Undisturbed coal delivers …

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