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An annual conference for perennial inspiration

Westerners are known for their pluck and willingness to solve problems with grit and imagination. Combating climate change, developing renewable energy, promoting rural economies and local agriculture, strengthening communities, and ensuring equitable access to transit ... these are all pieces of a Western manifesto put forward by the Sopris Foundation's great annual conference, this year in Missoula from July 13-15. Elected officials, planners, ranchers and farmers, grantmakers, citizens, activists, and entrepreneurs are there for this indispensable conversation every year. How about you?

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A valedictory to Colin Fletcher

For most of us who care about ecology and the environment, there was some personal experience that brought us there. For me, it was wilderness hiking, beginning 30-plus years ago in the Grand Canyon and continuing across the American West. Two books helped instigate my journeys and those of thousands of fellow adventure-seekers and nature-lovers. The Welshman who wrote them, the intrepid and blessedly individualistic Colin Fletcher, died earlier this month, at 85. I can't recall which I read first -- The Man Who Walked Through Time, in which Fletcher chronicled his 400-mile hike through the Grand Canyon, or his …

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Google.org funds V2G demonstration projects

Sweet mama! Google.org is going to give vehicle-to-grid technology a much-needed boost, to the tune of $10 million. The company is going to modify six cars, a mix of Toyota Priuses and Ford Escape hybrids, with batteries that can draw juice from the grid and feed juice back in. The promise of this technology is that if it spreads, it will enable distributed electricity storage that can smooth spikes in electricity demand without expensive new generation plants. That means less new dirty coal. Every energy wonk I know has high hopes around V2G. And Google's innovative philanthropy has just the …

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Dumb and not so dumb questions answered

Well, here's some more footage of my new bike. I couldn't think of a better way to convey its ability to accelerate uphill than to just do it with normal bikes in the background for comparison. Note the dearth of spandex. Is this fad about to go the way of the powdered wig? The following are some answers to frequently asked questions: Q: How fast can it go? A: I don't know. In theory, my car can do 110 mph, but I will never drive it that fast. It is acceleration that matters, not top speed. Q: Can you recharge …

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Conservatives wage war against smart growth

Who doesn't love placemaking? Well, a growing band of conservatives who are getting all bent out of shape about the smart-growth movement. They're getting so worked up about it that the Heritage Foundation even pulled together an event on the subject featuring public policy consultant Wendell Cox (best known for fighting public transit and promoting America's highway system) and Ron Utt (the guy who lead Reagan's privatization efforts). The title of the summit: "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." Ben Adler has a good piece over at The American Prospect on the conservative battle …

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Honda ditches Accord hybrid

Honda is ditching the Accord Hybrid because it discovered that ... are you sitting down? ... people who buy hybrids like good gas mileage.

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Public transit

For over two weeks I've been meaning to link to this post on public transit from Michael O'Hare and say something interesting about it. So as not to delay it indefinitely, I'm dropping the "say something interesting about it" requirement. Just go read it.

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California takes the lead

California is once again taking the lead: California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, the largest in area in the contiguous USA and one of the fastest growing, for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth. "It's groundbreaking. California is just leading the way for other states and jurisdictions that will ultimately follow," says Richard Frank of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. ... If the suit is successful, California cities and counties could be forced to take steps to limit sprawl, promote compact …

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Trying to let go of the weekend

It's been sunny, clear, and hot in Seattle. My shoulders are sunburnt! My weekend was capped by two great experiences yesterday. First, I got to test drive BioD's new rig. Wow. You really can't imagine all the new horizons an electric bike opens up until you're on one -- especially an electric bike with enough power to pin your ears back. Then I saw Knocked Up, which I can't recommend highly enough. It manages to be funny without being crass or mean, and touching without being treacly. The most satisfying movie I've seen in ages. Guess it's back to work …

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A new idea for how to transport the stuff in cars

I have never been a fan of hydrogen technology as a solution to the climate change problem. It would be great if we could power automobiles with hydrogen (generated, of course, with renewable energy), but how do you carry the hydrogen around in your car? Do you really want to be driving around on top of a tank full of compressed hydrogen? Can you say Hindenburg? I just listened to a great segment on this week's Science Friday. The guest, Jerry Woodall, a professor at Purdue, has an interesting idea for how to carry hydrogen in a way that seems …

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