Cities

Gas up

The next generation of infrastructure should help more Americans go carless

It appears that oil has reached a new all-time high in real terms. Given that gas prices normally peak during the summer season, the stage could be set for some ugly pump prices this year, although expensive oil may not be the most painful part of the current commodity price boom for consumers (an honor which may go to the exploding cost of grain). With oil so expensive, commuters may wish they had better transportation options. Some of them may even begin to wonder whether we might want to improve our investments in mass transit. This is important, as momentum …

Americans using less gasoline

Well, it’s finally happened: Americans are starting to use less gasoline. It took a weakened economy and record oil prices — crude hit an all-time high of $103.95 a barrel Monday — but in the past six weeks, U.S. gasoline consumption has fallen by an average 1.1 percent from 2007 levels, the most sustained drop in at least 16 years (excepting the dropoff that followed Hurricane Katrina). As Americans move to mitigate their gas-pump pain by seeking out more fuel-efficient cars, migrating into walkable neighborhoods, and riding public transit, analysts are suggesting that reduced gasoline use could be a long-term …

‘Eco-terrorism’ suspected in Seattle-area arson

Four unoccupied multimillion-dollar homes burned in a Seattle suburb Monday in what officials have reason to believe was eco-related arson. Explosives were found in the homes, and a spray-painted sign out front — “Built green? Nope black! McMansions in RCDs r not green” — bore the initials of radical environmental group the Earth Liberation Front. The Woodinville, Wash., homes were built with water-pervious sidewalks, efficient insulation, and recycled materials, but critics had raised concerns that the development could have a negative impact on a nearby creek and wetlands. Said the president of the targeted “Street of Dreams” development, “My understanding …

Go veg ... Hollywood

PETA wants Hollywood hills ad space

Remember when I said the land just west of the iconic "Hollywood" sign was for sale? And then joked about interesting advertising opportunities? Yeah, I wasn’t too far off … PETA officials said they want to erect a large sign of their own to the west of the famed landmark that would spell out "Go Veg" in 45-foot-high letters. Heh. They said "erect."

Zipcar merges with Flexcar, effs it all up

Has the east coast car-sharing company screwed up the west coast car-sharing company?

Late last year, the country’s two major car-sharing companies, west-coast Flexcar and its larger east-coast cousin Zipcar, merged and became, um, Zipcar. Flexcar fans were concerned about the effects of the merger. Sadly, Flexcar fangirl Erica Barnett reports that they were decidedly negative: more expensive, fewer cars, less friendly service, etc. Zipcar, what hath thou wrought? Any Gristians have car-sharing experiences to share?

Greenpeace and others protest Heathrow Airport expansion

Greenpeace and other eco-activists have been protesting mightily against a planned third runway for London’s Heathrow Airport, which would demolish the nearby town of Sipson and, say activists, be completely counter to Britain’s ambitious carbon-cutting goals. The airport-expansion plan has brought significant opposition from both politicians and residents; the British government has yet to make a final decision, but opponents fear it’s a foregone conclusion.

Progressive energy policy in Bayou City?

Carl Pope talks market failures with energy execs at Houston energy conference

Today's second panel -- Carl's, on "conservation and the environment" -- opened with remarks from Houston Mayor Bill White. Despite my earlier comments about the road-crazy Bayou City, Mayor White laid out some items from what appears to be a truly progressive energy agenda for Houston, including making it an international leader in green buildings. Some of his more interesting comments came when White told the story of being one of the staffers that helped write the Energy Policy & Conservation Act of 1975, the original fuel economy law. He spoke of the doubling in fuel economy occasioned by the law, but then -- in a story I'd never heard -- spoke of trying to incorporate pickups and the forebears of today's gas-guzzling SUVs into the law. Unfortunately, this provision was "hijacked," as he put it, and became an exemption for so-called "work trucks," even when they did nothing more than ferry suburban hausfraus around. Thankfully last year's energy bill finally closed this disastrous SUV loophole. White noted that he himself drives a car that gets 49 miles per gallon and while he's happy about the big boost in CAFE, we "can do, shoulda done, and will do better." He agreed that doubling our current fuel economy is "not a stretch" and could be done with technology that exists today. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he's switched over the vast majority of the city's fleet of passenger vehicles and public buses to hybrids and is now looking to the other vehicles like garbage trucks.

The greenest neighborhood?

Sustainable, carbon-neutral community built in Oregon

Last week the Center for American Progress began a series called "It's Easy Being Green," meant to recognize the steps communities, individuals, and organizations are taking to transform our country's energy use. Last week's column featured a new kind of neighborhood:

Governors drink the Kool-Aid

State govs embrace the range of ‘alternative fuels,’ from nukes to clean coal to biofuels

The National Governors Association has linked up with “a team of Wal-Mart energy experts” to “green the capitols.” That’s fantastic — and I’m sure it will draw well-deserved huzzahs in certain green circles. (It’s touching to see Wal-Mart giving back some of what it has been siphoning off in state taxes!) But read a little deeper into the press release, and you see what the National Governors Association means by “green.” Turns out that when it comes to energy, the govs love some pretty dubious stuff. I’ll let Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell take it from here: [I]t’s clear that charting …