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Trading, taxing, and public reconstruction

Some signs of another mitigation alternative emerging

There has certainly been a great deal of discussion of carbon taxes and various cap-and-trade and cap-and-auction frameworks among environmentalists. Recently, Nordhaus and Shellenberger used the term "public investment" as another mitigation strategy, a term which seems to refer mostly to research and development. However, another alternative is direct governmental construction of the various means of transforming economies toward sustainability -- what might be called public reconstruction. I thought I'd share three quotes from well-known writers that seem to be moving in this direction. First, Richard Heinberg recently wrote about the problems of trying to solve both global warming and …

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Cool things happening at the local level

California ‘cool cities’ are taking the lead on climate change

Now in her seventh term, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) represents California's 36th Congressional District. Jane Harman. Even sunny skies and pleasant ocean breezes over much of our state can't mask the fact that Californians breathe some of the most polluted air in the nation. California is the world's 12th largest source of carbon dioxide, the chief heat-trapping gas that causes global warming. As dirty as our air is, we are taking the lead nationally in trying to make the air cleaner and our actions greener. Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law ambitious legislation establishing the goal of reducing …

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Clinton, Daley to green Sears Tower, other Chicago landmarks

The tallest building in North America is officially going green, along with a few of its Windy City counterparts. At a green building expo in Chicago yesterday, former President Bill Clinton and eterna-Mayor Richard Daley announced a partnership to retrofit landmarks including the Sears Tower and the Merchandise Mart, the nation's largest commercial center. Using features like wind turbines and green roofs, the endeavor will seek to save energy, fight climate change, and -- perhaps most important -- show other communities and countries around the world that environment and economy do mix. Green building and other climate fixes represent "a …

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Transportation and climate get hitched

Seattle-area voters tied the knot

In the Seattle metro region, voters just sank an $18 billion transportation megaproposal that would have built more than 180 lanes miles of highway and 50 miles of light rail. But so far, the mainstream press has missed one of the most important stories of the year. The real story isn't tax fatigue, it's this: perhaps for the first time ever in the U.S., a critical bloc of voters linked transportation choices to climate protection. In the run-up to the vote, a surprising amount of the debate centered on the package's climate implications. (The state has committed to reduce greenhouse-gas …

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Oregon voters roll back destructive property-rights legislation

Sheepish Oregon voters have approved Measure 49, which significantly scales back development rights under the state's Measure 37. When voters passed Measure 37 three years ago, it was the farthest-reaching legislation in the U.S. in terms of protecting individual property rights, requiring Oregon to compensate landowners for property-value changes brought on by state land-use decisions. Under the law, property owners filed 7,500 claims to develop some 750,000 acres of farms and forests, wishing to build everything from single homes to shopping malls to gravel mines. "People stood back and watched it for three years and said this isn't what we …

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Bike culture

Biking communities thrive in San Francisco and Santa Cruz

We moved offices earlier this year, and are now a little off the beaten track. To deal with the increased distance, and because I broke my colleague Gwen's foldable bike, I brought in a couple of bikes for the office: a pink Stumpjumper of '80s vintage at a garage sale in Lee Vining, and a more recently minted Hardrock bequeathed by good friend and noted environmental economist Michael Greenstone. This is all to say that I've been biking around San Francisco quite a bit recently, and I am struck by how much better things are. The lane striping, for one, …

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Green career tips for locavores

How to find a job in your local area

I've been on the road. I started the first week in October at the University of Michigan and ended it at a "career visioning" retreat in the Connecticut woods with students from Yale. My impressions? At both universities, I found aspiring environmental professionals who are committed to building a sustainable society. (I also found great vegetarian food.) As we talked about "sustainable solutions" careers, more than one student let me know that their most important career concern was location and that national statistics about job prospects were pretty much meaningless. Having already decided to make a life in, say, Missoula, …

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Hawaii legislature allows Superferry to resume voyages

The Hawaii legislature has approved a bill allowing resumption of voyages by the Hawaii Superferry, halted by court order in August because a state-required environmental-impact assessment had not been completed. The new legislation, backed by Gov. Linda Lingle (R), will allow the ferry to make its Oahu-to-Maui and Oahu-to-Kauai treks while the assessment is being made. The ferry is strongly supported on Oahu, but county councils on Kauai and Maui raised concerns about heavy traffic, invasive species, and depleted fish stocks.

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Major car-sharing companies will merge

Major car-sharing companies Flexcar and Zipcar announced yesterday that they plan to merge. Zipcar, the larger of the two, has had strong growth mainly in large cities on the East Coast; Flexcar is more widely available on the West Coast. In both schemes, members can reserve a car over the phone or the interwebs, generally at a cheap hourly rate, then return it to its same location. Gas, repairs, parking, and insurance are all covered; a survey of Zipcar members indicates that they save some $5,000 a year by car-sharing instead of owning a vehicle. The new car-sharing company -- …