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Who are the people in your neighborhood, and what have they got to lend?

I don't actually have a question to respond to this week, so ... pretend like somebody asked something. Remember back when people actually used to stop by their neighbor's house and ask for a cup of sugar? OK, neither do I. Actually, the other day my boyfriend's neighbor came over and asked to borrow some aluminum foil, and he was sort of shocked. I think it was the first time he'd ever even seen the neighbor, which is impressively depressing, since they live in tiny, side-by-side apartments. Even if you're only vaguely aware that other people live around you, think …

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Britain’s gonna build some

Britain's building five new "eco-towns": The towns, each with a minimum of 5,000 to 10,000 houses, will be built to meet zero carbon standards and will each showcase a specific project promoting energy preservation or green technology, the Communities and Local government office said. Projects to be showcased could include use of communal heat pump systems or car pool schemes, the office said. Also, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper says all new homes built in Britain after 2016 must be carbon neutral. Why not now?

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Walkable town centers are hip

In "Center points: Urban lifestyle gains foothold in growing list of suburbs," a Chicago Tribune journalist describes the beginnings of a new phenomenon that could have a bigger impact than better CAFE standards, carbon taxes, or cap-and-trade of emissions, in my humble opinion: walkable town centers. If people could actually walk from their residence to a store, train station, or even work, perhaps the constant rise in miles driven in automobiles would start to come down: At opposite ends of the generational spectrum, Baby Boomers and buyers in their 20s are getting credit for supporting the emergence of suburban centers …

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GM will offer clean diesel passenger cars in 2010

GM is planning to bring diesel Saturns and Caddies to the U.S. market in 2010. (A Caddie that gets decent mileage? Who'd have guessed?) They join Nissan, Honda, DaimlerChrysler, and of course Volkswagen in planning to market clean diesels that will meet the new 2008 regulations on NOx and particulate emissions from diesel vehicles. Missing from this list of diesel adopters is Toyota, which is saying that clean diesels "... would end up being more expensive than gasoline-electric hybrids," a market segment which it dominates.

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It’s getting closer

Green Car Congress translated a story that appeared in the Japanese press: Toyota Motor Co. will obtain permission from Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport by the end of July for the testing of a prototype plug-in Prius on public roads. Toyota will be the first car maker to obtain permission for a plug-in hybrid test in Japan. After completing the road tests, Toyota will start building a way to market the model by leasing them to public (government and municipal) offices. According to the report, Toyota is testing a lithium-ion battery pack in the plug-in. Earlier this year, …

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Necessary

This op-ed from Rick Cole, city manager of Ventura, Calif., will be music to the ears of all you Gristians: The feel-good stage of California's leadership on global warming is unsustainable. Kudos to the pop stars with their calls to switch lightbulbs and unplug cellphone chargers when not in use. But we can't pretend that we will actually reduce 2020 greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels without tackling our region's embedded patterns of auto dependence and suburban sprawl. ... Halting the slide toward irreversible global climate change starts with envisioning a new and better way of life. That is not …

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Individuals support policies they don’t live by voluntarily

Over at the New Yorker, James Surowiecki draws our attention to this oddity: The curious fact is that many people buying three-ton Suburbans for that arduous two-mile trip to the supermarket also want Congress to pass laws making it harder to buy Suburbans at all. This is, he notes, not an isolated phenomenon: individuals often support policies that will force them to make different choices -- choices they're not willing to make of their own volition. Furthermore, this is not irrational behavior. Oftentimes an individual decision will confer competitive advantage, but the collective result of those individual decisions is deleterious. …

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Announces development plans

Plug-ins are on the way! We've said it many times, but then we aren't the world's leading auto maker. The Christian Science Monitor reports: Toyota's revelation Tuesday that it will develop a new "plug-in hybrid" - which uses a wall socket at night to charge and relies on an electric motor to go many miles before sipping any gasoline - could presage a major shift in automotive technology, some industry analysts say. Detroit's Big Three have each said the technology is being looked at - after years of outright dismissal. But Toyota's announcement was more significant because the company is …

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Go Get ‘Em, Plugger

Plug-in hybrids would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, says new study Plug-in hybrid vehicles, long extolled here at Grist HQ, seem always to elicit one question from doubters: Wouldn't running cars on electricity just mean more emissions from power plants? Answer: No! According to a new study from the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council, widespread use of plug-in hybrids -- which can travel up to 40 miles before using any gas, and can exceed 100 miles per gallon -- would significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, regardless of the energy source. Even if only 20 percent of U.S. …

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Thames Fugit

England walloped by historic floods It's a "summer of suffering" in England, as severe flooding wreaks havoc across the country. This weekend, floods in the central and southern part of the country left more than 350,000 people without drinking water and forced the evacuation of hundreds from their homes. The worst part, observers say, is that the waters are still rising -- and are on track to outpace record flooding from 1947. The crisis follows a June flood in the north that killed seven people and left 7,000 at least temporarily homeless. With the swollen Thames and Severn rivers threatening …

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