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The Gothman Prophecies

New York City mayor unveils ambitious sustainability plans New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used Earth Day to announce plans to make his burg bloom. The comprehensive "PlaNYC" outlines 127 green dreams, including a congestion charge for lower Manhattan that would -- like programs in London and Singapore -- see drivers cough up a fee for entering the city at peak traffic hours. Bloomie also wants to improve public transportation, plant more than 1 million trees, and clean up 7,600 acres of polluted brownfields. The plan would make the Big Apple "the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city," he said. British …

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Meeting notes

The lost art of conversation

I passed a big rabble of bikers on my way to downtown Seattle yesterday evening. Several complimented my bike as I passed. There were a couple of talls in the mix. I assumed it was another Critical Mass ride, but maybe not. Sure looked like fun. I need to participate in one of those someday. I periodically attend a monthly gathering of Seattle atheists. There are always new faces, and they pick a different restaurant every month for variety's sake. We chatted about things like global warming, the recent shootings in Virginia, diesel verses hybrid cars and, of course, the …

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Super-adobe

Using earth to save the earth

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) In my last post on material intensity, I mentioned green building as an example of how to indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, before building one wind turbine or making one factory more efficient. Because green building is more familiar than most types of material intensity reduction, I'll use it for my first examples. After all, building construction worldwide uses about 40% of mineral and metal products, and 25% of forest products*. And we have experts in green building on this blog who can comment on the examples that follow. Let's start with "super-block" …

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Bullets flying in Brazil?

A bullet train, that is

According to this article, Brazil's transport ministry is considering whether to tender bids for a high-speed train linking São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Once (OK, if) the bullet train goes into operation, travel time would be just under an hour and a half, compared with the five hours it currently takes to drive between the two cities. Initial studies for the project estimate a total investment of US$6 billion would be required. That's about how much the U.S. federal and state governments spend in a year on subsidizing the ethanol industry and the corn that goes into making it. …

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Tunnels everywhere!

First a train tunnel between Africa and Europe, now the Russians want to build the long-dreamt-of tunnel between Russia and Alaska. The tunnel would theoretically carry natural gas, oil, electricity, and fiber-optic wires. The more and better tunnels we have for rail, the more competitive rail will be with less efficient transport systems like air travel. This is better for energy efficiency and therefore the environment. This project still has a lot of problems -- it's not like there's a lot of spare rail up above the Arctic Circle, necessitating lots of construction -- but I'm sure Ted Stevens is …

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Material intensity

Indirect greenhouse-gas savings

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) Previously I pointed out that efficiency, doing more with less, is a key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (A lot of people on Gristmill are fans of conservation, doing less with less. I have nothing against this, so long as it is a voluntary choice, but I won't be spending a lot of time on it.) Normally, when people think of efficiency they think of direct savings -- insulating homes, electric cars, and so on. That is: make the same sort of goods we make now, but more cleverly, so they require fewer …

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We Just Ran This Story So We Could Say “Chunnel”

Eurostar will reduce emissions, offset the rest Of trains, planes, and automobiles, locomotives already have the best rep for carbon emissions -- but one operator is on track to boost the bar higher. Eurostar, which shuttles commuters under the English Channel, plans to reduce CO2 emissions 25 percent per traveler by 2012. Without raising prices, the company will choo-choose lower-emission electrical generators, electronic tickets, recycled uniforms, local food, and efficient lighting, heating, and air conditioning. It also hopes to fill more empty seats, which probably won't require blow-up dolls; passenger numbers are up 5.4 percent from a year ago. Starting …

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Lists

A couple

Here are two lists, for those of you into that kind of thing: First, Sustainlane -- which seems to produce a list every few weeks, no? -- has a list of the Top Ten Cities for Renewable Energy. That's the cities that provide citizens with the most green power. They are: 1. Oakland, CA 2. Sacramento/SF/San Jose, CA (tie) 3. Portland, OR 4. Boston, MA 5. San Diego, CA 6. Austin, TX 7. Los Angeles, CA 8. Minneapolis, MN 9. Seattle, WA 10. Chicago, IL Oakland, huh? Maybe Van's doing something right. Read the whole thing for details. Second, from …

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Smart grid baby steps: smart meters (metres?) in the U.K.

Helping homeowners monitor electricity use

One piece of the smart-grid puzzle is home electricity monitoring -- allowing homeowners (and eventually business and factory owners) to track their electricity use in real time. As the old saw goes, what gets measured gets done. Simply making people aware of energy flows is the first step to helping them modulate those flows efficiently. On that note, it's fantastic to see this: soon, every household in the U.K. will be able to request a smart meter and have it installed for free. The next step, of course, is giving homeowners more automated control. One part of that is smart, …

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On efficiency

There’s more room than you think

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) As almost everyone who studies the subject concludes, one key to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is efficiency. Renewable sources generally provide energy at a slightly higher market price than fossil fuels. Oh, there are exceptions: passive solar heating, wind electricity, biofuel from waste. But overall, if we get all our energy from low-emitting sources, we will spend more overall per BTU. If we can use those BTUs efficiently, our overall energy bill can be the same or lower. Suppose a well-insulated home uses only 40 percent as much climate-control energy as a poorly insulated …