Manhattan congestion-pricing plan kicks the bucket

Hopes had run high that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious congestion-pricing plan for the Big Apple would move forward, but the measure has died a quiet death. Democratic members of the State Assembly, determining that the measure was overwhelmingly opposed, neglected to even bring it to the Assembly floor, instead shooting it down with a secret vote. The now-dead plan would have charged drivers $8 to enter midtown Manhattan during peak hours. Supporters called it an effective way to address congestion and pollution, while opponents called it elitist and unfair to lower-income commuters.

‘State Farm can get you back behind the wheel’

Witness the humiliation as this distinguished professional is forced to … my God, I can barely say it … ride a bike to work. Do something, State Farm! Anything! "You know that place where you’re swapping four wheels for two? Oh, man, I’m there." Says Streetsblog: "Yeah, I know that place. It’s called a city." UPDATE: State Farm has pulled the ad.

The sweet smell of victory

Seattle gets five more blocks of bike lanes

In this post, I talked about Seattle's efforts to improve bicycle safety. I mentioned that the busiest part of a key road was not striped, thanks to pressure from a local real estate baron who didn't want business disrupted. This created a dangerous gauntlet to run as bikers left the bike lane to start their long, hard slog uphill. I'm happy to report that the city has since reconsidered, and it has made a world of difference for safety. Which gives me the opportunity to tell the story of how I got hit by a car.

Building green, one city at a time

Eager municipalities hopping on board

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s officially the Year of Green Building. And while some areas have had eco-standards in place for a while now (helloooooo, D.C.!), the fevah is spreading in cities across the U.S. Take a gander at a few places considering formal green-building guidelines this spring: In a move described as a “watershed time, a wonderful thing,” Chula Vista, Calif. voted yesterday to approve mandatory green-building standards for homes and businesses. San Diego and Los Angeles are working on standards as well. Annapolis passed a green-building law in March with various higgledy-piggledy guidelines about square feet — …

California’s ‘hydrogen highway’ runs into roadblocks

Despite California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s executive order four years ago that “hundreds of hydrogen fueling stations” be built in the state, nary a station has been built under the program. Depending on whom you ask, the blame for the sputtering “hydrogen highway” lies with: energy companies and utilities, for not stepping forward to take state matching money to build stations; automakers, for not making enough hydrogen fuel cell cars; Democratic lawmakers, for mandating that the hydrogen be produced in a way that reduces greenhouse gases overall; Schwarzenegger, for under-researching and over-promising; and plain old complex bureaucracy. Mary Nichols, chair of …

The forgotten solution

Transit investment should and will be a part of the peak oil solution

Joseph Romm has made a number of very good points in his new Salon piece (and accompanying Gristmill post) on the problem of peak oil. He is, in my view, quite correct that oil prices will continue to increase based on supply and demand fundamentals. He is right that alternative oil source development would be a monumental mistake, and that biofuels are unlikely to be much help either. And I’d like to strongly associate myself with his statement that a solution to the climate problem is also a solution to the peak oil problem. But I strongly disagree with him …

EPA announces new lead standards for renovation of older buildings

Contractors will have to train workers to follow “lead-safe work practice standards” when renovating or repairing older dwellings that house children or pregnant women, according to new standards introduced Monday by the U.S. EPA. The new requirements are an attempt to keep lead out of the bloodstreams of babes, as structures built before 1978 are likely to contain lead-based paint. The standards will go into effect in 2010. By the by, the EPA was supposed to adopt lead-safe regulations for renovations in October of 1996. My, how the time flies.

Peak Oil? Bring it on!

Solving the climate problem will solve the peak oil problem, too

I have a new article in Salon on perhaps the most misunderstood subject in energy: peak oil. Here is the short version: We are at or near the peak of cheap conventional oil production. There is no realistic prospect that the conventional oil supply can keep up with current projected demand for much longer, if the industrialized countries don't take strong action to sharply reduce consumption, and if China and India don't take strong action to sharply reduce consumption growth. Many people are expecting unconventional oil -- such as the tar sands and liquid coal -- to make up the supply shortage. That would be a climate catastrophe, and I (optimistically) believe humanity is wise enough not to let that happen. More supply is not the answer to either our oil or climate problem. Nonetheless, contrary to popular belief, the peak oil problem will not "destroy suburbia" or the American way of life. Only unrestrained emissions of greenhouse gases can do that. We have the two primary solutions to peak oil at hand: fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on zero-carbon electricity. The only question is whether conservatives will let progressives accelerate those solutions into the marketplace before it is too late to prevent a devastating oil shock or, for that matter, devastating climate change.

Washington Nationals will play in first U.S. green-built stadium

The Washington Nationals will play their baseball season opener Sunday in the first green-built professional stadium in the U.S. The LEED Silver certified ballpark was built on a restored brownfield, and many building materials were produced locally. The stadium boasts efficient lighting and plumbing, drought-resistant plants, a concession area with a green roof, filters to keep stormwater runoff out of the nearby Anacostia River, and proximity to public transit (as well as a shortage of parking). Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch as the Nats take on the Atlanta Braves: President George W. Bush. He’s sure to be hit. Er, …

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