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A brief history of the creation and growth of the Army Corps

Today, it's almost impossible to say "Army Corps of Engineers" without also saying "Hurricane Katrina" and "levee failure," or "Yazoo Pump" and "boondoggle." But the corps' original mandate made no mention of hurricane and flood protection, or even of the Mississippi River. An Army Corps survey crew in 1916. Photo: history.nasa.gov In 1802, Congress established the Army Corps of Engineers as the nation's design and construction crew. The country was barely a quarter-century past the Revolutionary War -- where the first iteration of the corps had been assembled on the battlefield -- and it needed a steady supply of engineers …

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A special series on the Army Corps and the Mississippi River

It's spring, and for most of us that means tackling a few home improvement projects: cleaning the gutters, say, or replacing storm windows with screens. Remaking the Mississippi An interactive look at a few current Army Corps river projects The Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the Mississippi as a useful and navigable waterway. But some of the Corps' projects have critics crying "pork." Click the map below to find out more. Compiled by Patrick DiJusto Illustration by Keri Rosebraugh But what if you took that to-do list and magnified it by …

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If you build it ...

Green building may be quickest path to decreased emissions

Reuters has the skinny on a new report on green building. The report concluded that building green would reduce greenhouse emissions more quickly than any other approach. According to the article: North America's buildings release more than 2,200 megatonnes, or about 35 percent of the continent's total, of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If the construction market quickly adopted current and emerging energy-saving technologies, that number could be cut by 1,700 megatonnes by 2030, the report said. Alas, there are "obstacles" preventing the rapid adoption of green building techniques: One is the so-called split incentive policy, where those who construct …

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Juice of the future

Everything you could possibly want to know about batteries

The Economist has published a very readable history and explanation of batteries, especially ones suitable for all electric cars, called "In search of the perfect battery." In particular, it has a very extensive discussion of lithium-ion batteries, which will almost certainly be the core battery for most electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. I highly recommend the piece, since electricity is the transportation fuel of the near- and far-future. (h/t to my brother Dave for sending this to me.)

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This guy has it figured out

The SOZEV/train combo commute

Pete has the coolest-looking SOZEV (Single-Occupant Zero-Carbon Emission Vehicle) in Seattle. (Click the photo to the right for a larger view.) It has turned a sweat-inducing, 45-minute slog up a killer hill into a comfortable 10-minute cruise. He rides to the Sounder commuter train station from his house and then from downtown to his office east of Seattle. Surfing the net while commuting by train is a concept that appeals to me. I wonder how well the free wi-fi concept is actually working out ... Pete said he would let me test-ride it, so I jumped at the chance and …

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Denver hopes to reduce car emissions by encouraging better driving

The city of Denver has unveiled a "Driving Change" pilot program designed to reduce vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions by encouraging drivers to ease off the lead foot. Starting in May, 400 public and private Denver vehicles, including that of Mayor John Hickenlooper, will have a device installed to monitor time spent braking, idling, accelerating, and speeding. Analyzed results and personalized recommendations for reducing fuel consumption will then be posted on the internet. Vehicles account for approximately 30 percent of Denver's greenhouse-gas emissions, and the program hopes to cut fuel consumption 20 percent among Driving Change participants.

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All close together now

A post-petroleum American dream

"This craziness is not sustainable," concludes The New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert, and he's talking about the economy, not the environment. He continues: Without an educated and empowered work force, without sustained investment in the infrastructure and technologies that foster long-term employment, and without a system of taxation that can actually pay for the services provided by government, the American dream as we know it will expire. And without petroleum. Oil is shooting over $100 per barrel, caused ultimately by a looming decline in global supply, and exacerbated by rising demand in China and India, foolish policies such …

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Fun with numbers

If we want to create jobs, why aren’t we spending on mass transit?

The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities (PDF): Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on defense: 8,555 Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on health care: 10,779 Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on education: 17,687 Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on mass transit: 19,795 (via Yes! magazine)

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Mining claims encroaching on Western population centers

Mining claims on federal land in the West are coming increasingly close to urban areas, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group. Thanks to a spike in the value of many minerals -- and antiquated U.S. mining law, which is highly prospector-friendly -- there are now 51,600 hardrock claims within five miles of Western population centers, nearly double the count in 2003. Las Vegas and the Phoenix area both have more than 5,000 claims within a five-mile radius. While fewer than 5 percent of claims are likely to actually be developed into mining operations, greens are still …

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Climate change has it out for transportation infrastructure, says report

Climate change is likely to wreak havoc on U.S. transportation infrastructure, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Research Council. Think bridge joints weakened by too-high temperatures, flooded tunnels, shipping disrupted by heavy storms, roads threatened by erosion, and much, much more! Coastal regions are likely to be especially hard hit, as more and more folks move in and demand infrastructure in vulnerable areas. Says report contributor Henry Schwartz, Jr., "The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning …

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