C'mon ride the train, the Coachella train

Festival-goers hop free ride — and stay car-free, too

As we’ve reported in the past, music festivals across the country are making moves to be more sustainable — mostly involving recycling efforts, compostable utensils, and biodiesel generators. But this year’s Coachella music festival, held in Indio, Calif., April 25-27, took an interesting track, chartering an Amtrak train to transport festival folk to and from L.A. The Coachella Express was set up by the creative minds behind Global Inheritance, a group focusing its attentions on a young, hip, festival-going audience, and involved creating a new train platform in Indio to accommodate the arriving campers. For the 300+ riders who took …

Change now or change never

The longer we wait to move away from gasoline, the more high gas prices will hurt

Like Americans, Europeans are generally not fond of rising fuel costs. Unlike Americans, they’re much better at handling them. It isn’t difficult to understand why; they simply planned ahead. Geoffrey Styles writes: A big part of our problem is that most Americans are still driving cars that were purchased when gasoline was under $1.50/gal., to commute between work and home locations that were chosen when fuel was even cheaper … As of this week, nominal U.S. retail gasoline prices have gone up by 25 percent in the last year and by 130 percent in the last five years. How does …

The ghost of link dumps past

So I was thinking to myself, self, you should do a link dump post so you can close out some of this cluttery crap in your browser. I go to start one, and what do I find? An old link dump post that I’d never published! So here’s an old link dump. Watch for a new one in mere days! —– Thanks to the UK Times Online for deeming Gristmill "the green blog from the other side of the pond." It’s a shame this op-ed is relegated to the Billings Gazette. I’d like to see one like it in every …

Oil hysteria, part 2

Are low gas prices an inalienable right?

I'm listening to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talk to Thom Hartmann on Air America. Sanders is arguably the best senator in decades, and understands, as he just explained, that we need to transform our energy system toward renewables. But he also said something to the effect that "we have to get gas prices back down." I can't blame him -- particularly in his state of Vermont, rural people are getting slammed by high gas prices, because they have to drive long distances. His main explanation of high prices (with which Thom Hartmann, an important progressive radio talk show host, seems to agree) is based on 1) oil companies ripping us off, 2) speculators pushing up the price of oil, and 3) OPEC keeping a lid on production. While all of those are certainly a problem, and a windfall profits tax that Sanders advocates is certainly in order, if the Senate's most progressive voice is not discussing the problem that the supply of oil is beginning to decline, then I don't see how carbon pricing is going to fare well. In the long run, people will get hysterical as their oil expenditures increase, as I argued in what I will now call Part 1 of what may become a series on oil hysteria. We need to push a mandate on turning the American car fleet into an all-electric fleet, and we need to construct a national high-speed rail and light rail network.

Obama on rail transit

A candidate finally discusses public transit … at a random lunch

So I’m looking at this pool report from a run-of-the-mill day in the Obama campaign. Barack and Michelle dropped by to have lunch with an Indiana couple, Mike and Cheryl Fischer. Mike works in Amtrak’s Beech Grove shop, as his family has for generations. Notes the report dryly: "No news." But I scan down a bit to the middle, where Barack’s talking to Mike about his impending layoff at Amtrak, and suddenly my mouth is hanging open. Says Obama: The irony is with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service. One of the things I …

Pittsburgh beats out L.A. for sootiest U.S. city

Pittsburgh, Pa., has received the dubious honor of being the U.S. city most well-sooted for short-term particle pollution, topping an annual list put out by the American Lung Association. Los Angeles came in at a surprise second as Pittsburgh became the first non-California city to top an ALA list. “It’s not that Pittsburgh has gotten worse,” says the association’s Janice Nolen. “It’s that Los Angeles has gotten better.” A little better, anyway: L.A. was still deemed the worst city for ground-level ozone and for year-round particle pollution (Pittsburgh was the runner-up on that list). Overall, some 42 percent of the …

The unbearable tightness of oil markets

America is ill equipped to handle expensive oil

The Times‘ Jad Mouawad has written a piece describing the state of the world’s oil market. It is, in a word, tight. Production volumes have been flat at best, and consumption growth has continued. Kevin Drum comments: I imagine that a global economic slowdown will flatten oil consumption a bit over the next year or two, and eventually higher prices will rein in demand more permanently. On the other hand, we’ve seen oil prices double three times in the past eight years without producing so much as a blip in rising demand. So if we’re in a genuine, long-term supply …

Ousted L.A. gardeners continue to farm

In June 2006, a land dispute led to the shutdown of the South Central Community Garden in Los Angeles. Weeks of protest and tree-sitting by celebrities and regular folk proved unfruitful, and the 14-acre garden, tended by 350 low-income families in the middle of one of L.A.’s poorest neighborhoods, was bulldozed. Nearly two years later, with legal wrangling over the land’s ownership ongoing, the gardeners are plotting again in Buttonwillow, Calif., a tiny town west of Bakersfield. With the help of a nonprofit foundation, some farmers have bought 85 acres of land that they hope convert into a working farm …

Architect R.K. Stewart on building the future of sustainable design

If you build it, they will come. But if you build it green, you just may be able to save the planet. R.K. Stewart. Or so says a recent report, which suggests that green building could help cut North America’s greenhouse-gas emissions more quickly and less expensively than any other measure. And word is getting out about the promise of this fast-growing field — some have even called 2008 the official “Year of Green Building.” It’s no wonder the field is building momentum — sustainable design is one of the top priorities for the American Institute of Architects, the leading …

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