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Philip Bump's Posts


New York City’s rooftop farms would have prevented the existence of Green Acres

A rooftop farm in Brooklyn. (Photo by lila dobbs.)

New York City recently revised its zoning rules to encourage green development -- in particular, rooftop agriculture. From the New York Times:

Fed by the interest in locally grown produce, the new farm operations in New York are selling greens and other vegetables by the boxful to organically inclined residents, and by the bushel to supermarket chains like Whole Foods. …

For city officials, the rise of commercial agriculture has ancillary benefits, as well. Rooftop farms have the potential to capture millions of gallons of storm water and divert it from the sewer system, which can overflow when it rains. And harvesting produce in the boroughs means fewer trucks on local roadways and lower greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration. …

[Brooklyn Grange's Ben] Flanner pointed out two benefits to an agricultural aerie — plentiful sun and an absence of pests. “There are a number of parallels with regular agriculture,” he said. “What we don’t have are deer or foxes or rodents.”

One challenge: wind, which can whip between buildings and topple delicate seedlings.


Easiest trivia question ever: What country buys the most soda?

In 2011, Americans bought 170 liters of soda. Per person. Which is realllllllly gross.

What are you doing with all of that soda, America? I certainly hope you aren't drinking it. If it were all cola, we're talking 11 trillion calories. That's 12.78 gigawatt hours of energy, enough to power over 2,700 New York City households for an entire year. Gross.

It's also the most in the world. Slate put together this interactive map of how much soda was purchased per person per country in 2011.

China has four times our population. We purchase almost 19 times as much soda.

Read more: Food


Despite basic economics, your power bill is going up

This transmission tower is obviously mocking you. (Photo by Nayu Kim.)

The cost of producing electricity, led by the increased use of natural gas, is dropping dramatically. And, therefore, as one would expect, the price we pay is going up.

Wait. That's not how it's supposed to work.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A plunge in the price of natural gas has made it cheaper for utilities to produce electricity. But the savings aren't translating to lower rates for customers. Instead, U.S. electricity prices are going up. … A long-term downward trend in power prices could be starting to reverse, analysts say. ...

The average U.S. residential electricity price is expected to be 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour for the June-to-August period, up 2.4 percent from the same time last year. For the full year, electricity prices are expected to rise 2 percent.

Read more: Uncategorized


Best example of bad government investment? Land use.

A sand mine near Chippewa Falls. (Photo by Jim Tittle/The Price of Sand.)

Conservatives are trying to make Solyndra the poster child for bad government investment. They'd have an easier argument -- if many unhappy benefactors -- if they targeted public land use.

We've talked about this before: how the government auctions off mineral resources at low, low prices allowing private sector companies to make massive profits.

That's only part of it. There's also the shortsightedness that goes into turning over pristine land, even protected areas, for extraction and development. This week, the Center for American Progress and the Sierra Club launched a video series profiling three areas -- the Grand Canyon watershed, Bryce Canyon, and Wyoming's Noble Basin -- that might soon be impacted by private sector extraction.

The House is trying to make this alarmingly easy process even easier. Earlier today, the House of Representatives held votes on a bill -- H.R. 4402, introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R–Nev.) -- that would greatly facilitate the permit process for mining.


Of the world’s 12 largest economies, the U.S. is the ninth-most energy efficient

This image has something to do with efficiency. Insulation, maybe.

Yesterday, we wrote about the outrageously ridiculous amounts of energy Americans spend air conditioning things (cars, houses, themselves, cats).

Today, a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) tells us that America has one of the least energy-efficient major economies in the world.

From the ACEEE's press release:

The United Kingdom comes in first in a new energy efficiency ranking of the world’s major economies, followed closely by Germany, Italy, and Japan, according to the first-ever International Energy Efficiency Scorecard published today by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The report finds that in the last decade the U.S. has made “limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level,” putting it in 9th place out of 12 economies around the globe. …

On a scale of 100 possible points in 27 categories, the nations were ranked by ACEEE as follows: (1) the United Kingdom; (2) Germany; (3) Italy; (4) Japan; (5) France; (6) the European Union, Australia, and China (3-way tie); (9) the U.S.; (10) Brazil; (11) Canada; and (12) Russia.

Click to embiggen.

Ha ha Canada.

Read more: Energy Efficiency


The U.S. may be gripped by terrible drought, but we’re still America, dammit

Yesterday, widespread drought led the Department of Agriculture to declare 1,016 counties in 26 states disaster areas. Or, in map form:

So, basically half the country? Super.

A county is subject to disaster area designation if the U.S. Drought Monitor determines that the county has suffered from severe drought for eight consecutive weeks. In other words, the entire region in the map above has suffered from severe drought for two months. The Drought Monitor even has a helpful little six-week animation of how the United States has completely dried up and crumbled into parched dust.

Click for animation.
Read more: Uncategorized


Fuel tanker explosion in Nigeria kills more than 90

Over 90 people were killed earlier today when a fuel tanker truck overturned in Nigeria's Niger Delta. From the BBC:

The authorities say the vehicle did not immediately burst into flames so nearby villagers rushed to collect the fuel.

But the tanker then exploded, burning many of them to death.

Journalist Emeka Idika told the BBC a mass burial for those burnt beyond recognition would take place in Rivers state and about 35 people had been taken to hospital.

He said the death toll might be higher as some people from the nearby village of Okogbe were on fire as they ran into the bush -- and their bodies had not yet been located.

Read more: Oil


Researchers find link between drug-resistant bladder infections and poultry antibiotics

From the Food and Environment Reporting Network:

Bladder infections affect 60 percent of all American women, with a rising number resistant to antibiotic treatment. Now researchers looking into the cause of the mysterious drug resistance have found evidence that it’s coming from poultry treated with antibiotics, according to a joint investigation by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and ABC News.

Emphasis added. Jaw dropped.

The investigation, which aired on ABC’s Good Morning America, highlights how the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture has made it more difficult to treat these painful, long lasting, and recurring infections because one course of antibiotics no longer works. The cost of treating the disease is estimated at $1 billion annually.

Read more: Food Safety


How easy is it to take public transit to work? Depends on where you live

Last month, we looked at a business owner in Pittsburgh who was forced to cancel plans to hire more staff when the city cut bus service near his office. The problem is not unique to Pittsburgh: The relationship between jobs and transit is an intricate one -- albeit one that hasn't received much study.

The Brookings Institution released a report today that provides some insight. "Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit" assesses the public transit access to jobs in urban and suburban areas. The findings:

  • More than three-quarters of all jobs in the 100 largest metropolitan areas are in neighborhoods with transit service ... Regardless of region, city jobs across every metro area and industry category have better access to transit than their suburban counterparts.
  • The typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less.

The first point -- jobs accessible by transit in the 100 largest cities -- is illustrated below, by city.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Cities, Transportation


U.S. Navy on its green initiatives: Damn the torpedoes!

Logo on a Navy FA-18. (Photo courtesy of the USDA.)

Rep. Mike Conaway (R–Texas) hates the Navy's biofuel program. "It's not about proving the technology," he told Reuters. "It's [Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus wanting to waste money ... on a publicity stunt for his green fleet." Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) hates it too. "I don't believe it's the job of the Navy to be involved in building ... new technologies. I don't believe we can afford it."

How does the Navy respond? Cool story, bro.

The Navy has been at the forefront of energy innovation for over a hundred years, Mabus says, transitioning from sail, to coal, to oil and then to nuclear from the 1850s to the 1950s.

"Every single time there were naysayers," he said recently. "And every single time, every single time, those naysayers have been wrong, and they're going to be wrong again this time."

Earlier this month, the Navy announced a $62 million investment in biofuel technology. David Roberts has been covering this issue for a long time, noting that such investments in biofuels make an enormous amount of sense over the long term. As Mabus points out, the Navy uses 2 percent of all of the fossil fuels consumed in the United States. In 2011, the Daily Energy Report posted the breakdown of military energy consumption from 2009, below. That year, the military used 731 trillion British thermal units of oil.