Cities

Me, in the New York Times

Taking distributed energy seriously

This week, in The New York Times’ Room for Debate, I was involved in a discussion on the brewing war among environmentalists over building large power plants on sensitive land — specifically, in this case, a solar thermal power plant in the Mojave desert. “Green Civil War: Projects vs. Preservation” saw contributions from: Randy Udall, energy analyst Vaclav Smil, professor, University of Manitoba Daniel M. Kammen, professor of energy, U.C. Berkeley Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth Fund And me! Turns out it’s very difficult to make a point in 300 words, at least for …

Energizing smart energy behavior

Never mind what people believe — how can we change what they do? A chat with Robert Cialdini

When it comes to energy, policymakers are often confronted with human behavior that seems irrational, unpredictable, or unmanageable. Advocates for energy efficiency in particular are plagued by the gap between what it would make sense for people to do and what they actually do. Efforts to change people’s behavior have a record that can charitably be described as mixed. (See my post, Making buildings more efficient: It helps to understand human behavior.) Many of the experiments that have cast the most light on what does (and doesn’t) drive behavioral shifts around energy have been run by Dr. Robert Cialdini, until …

Mad libs

India, Italy, Brazil can fill America’s blanks

Americans pride themselves on being ________ (fill in the blank with something like “biggest,” “best,” or “first”). Especially in California, we think we lead the world on carbon-reducing advances like ________ (fill in blank with “solar power,” “energy efficiency,” or “suntanned, body-builder, movie star, Austrian-born governors”). Given Obama’s U.N.-busting initiative in Copenhagen last month, our country may soon have more to brag about in the low carbon economy of the future, but for now, we might be smart to follow a few examples from India, Italy, and Brazil. A company in India that once made plastic bags now recycles them …

Renewable energy is in big demand as states try to cut carbon emissions

Everyone Poops – – and a few spin gold

Thanks to the global effort to cut carbon, we could soon be spinning waste of all kinds -- including poop -- into big bucks.

It takes a (wired) village

How cities can foster demand for electric cars

When Tesla Motors opened its new showroom in Boulder, it did so in style. Hosting an invitation-only party, the automaker brought out a lively group of local politicians, environmentalists and entrepreneurs for a night of martinis, music and test-drives of the Tesla Roadster. A Tesla Roadster on display at the electric vehicle maker’s new store in Boulder, Colorado.Eric Magnuson via FlickrThe much talked about, all-electric, luxury sports car has received as much attention for its price tag as anything else. At more than $100,000, few people are likely to buy a Roadster. But with a temporary Colorado tax-break reducing the …

2nd Annual JP Green House List

Top 10 worst Christmas gifts

The Jamaica Plain Green House today released its second annual list of “Top 10 Worst Christmas Gifts.” The list ranges from $2 stocking stuffers to baubles of the super-rich. JP Green House co-founder Ken Ward said, “These ten items achieved high scores on each of three criteria — profligate, unnecessary, and tasteless energy use — in our rigorous testing protocol.” Ward described the gift ranking methodology as “half an hour of random Googling around.” 1. Greenland Glacier Cruise, $5,247 for ocean view cabin“Greenland’s west coast has dozens of long, deep fjords, many with glaciers fed by the ice cap that …

The personal is political; the political, personal

Dark winter days at the JP Green House

Family and crew show their climate commitment at the JP Green House.As I write this, the Northeast is methodically being blanketed with a thick blessing of snow, shutting everything down, as if the earth knows we need comfort and beauty after this horrible week. The crisis of our planet manifested at Copenhagen. We held a vigil for 350, singing Dylan into the howling winds of downtown Boston, outside of John Kerry’s empty office. We fasted at the request of 350.org. We followed the grim updates with little expectation, and we rejoiced at the protests of the people and the righteous …

Chicken or Egg – – Health Care or Climate Change?

President Obama, who will personally participate in the Copenhagen climate talks this week, said last Sunday that he expects to get a health care bill on his desk before Christmas. The barriers to meeting that deadline may revolve around the answer to an age-old question: which comes first – – the health care chicken or the climate change egg? Senators who were previously close to signing onto his health care package are hesitating for several reasons, but most of them revolve around cost. That’s not just  worry about the overall price tag, but also a question of how much Congress …

Spin Class

5 fab bike solutions seen on the streets of Copenhagen

The ‘hybrid’ electric bike Copenhagen wheel concept (retrofit to your own bike’s back wheel hub) shown at Hopenhagen’s Future Cities exhibit.By April Streeter for Treehugger.com: I went to Copenhagen because I could take a train, and I was really interested in what the mood would feel like on the streets (as opposed to what the mainstream press might say). Fairly good-humored, is my summary of the mood, both of the hosting Copenhagen citizens, and the multi-culti visitors. Those trapped in egregious police sting operations might not think so right now, yet the prevailing vibe I sensed was one of cooperation. …

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