Denver hopes to reduce car emissions by encouraging better driving

The city of Denver has unveiled a “Driving Change” pilot program designed to reduce vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions by encouraging drivers to ease off the lead foot. Starting in May, 400 public and private Denver vehicles, including that of Mayor John Hickenlooper, will have a device installed to monitor time spent braking, idling, accelerating, and speeding. Analyzed results and personalized recommendations for reducing fuel consumption will then be posted on the internet. Vehicles account for approximately 30 percent of Denver’s greenhouse-gas emissions, and the program hopes to cut fuel consumption 20 percent among Driving Change participants.

All close together now

A post-petroleum American dream

"This craziness is not sustainable," concludes The New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert, and he's talking about the economy, not the environment. He continues: Without an educated and empowered work force, without sustained investment in the infrastructure and technologies that foster long-term employment, and without a system of taxation that can actually pay for the services provided by government, the American dream as we know it will expire. And without petroleum. Oil is shooting over $100 per barrel, caused ultimately by a looming decline in global supply, and exacerbated by rising demand in China and India, foolish policies such as the occupation of Iraq, and repressive regimes such as in Nigeria. And if we are serious about reducing carbon emissions to near zero in order to avert climate catastrophe, we must scale back our use of petroleum to near zero. While we're learning to live without petroleum, we need to rebuild the workforce, infrastructure, technologies, and tax system, as Herbert suggests. I will argue in this post that we can accomplish all of these goals by replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors, using other energy sources for other petroleum uses, and perhaps most importantly, by changing the arrangement of the buildings, production, and people in our society in order to eliminate the need for so much petroleum. In order to understand how to accomplish all of this, we need to know how petroleum is used, so let's look at some numbers!

Fun with numbers

If we want to create jobs, why aren’t we spending on mass transit?

The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities (PDF): Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on defense: 8,555 Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on health care: 10,779 Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on education: 17,687 Number of jobs created by spending $1 billion on mass transit: 19,795 (via Yes! magazine)

Mining claims encroaching on Western population centers

Mining claims on federal land in the West are coming increasingly close to urban areas, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group. Thanks to a spike in the value of many minerals — and antiquated U.S. mining law, which is highly prospector-friendly — there are now 51,600 hardrock claims within five miles of Western population centers, nearly double the count in 2003. Las Vegas and the Phoenix area both have more than 5,000 claims within a five-mile radius. While fewer than 5 percent of claims are likely to actually be developed into mining operations, greens are still …

Climate change has it out for transportation infrastructure, says report

Climate change is likely to wreak havoc on U.S. transportation infrastructure, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Research Council. Think bridge joints weakened by too-high temperatures, flooded tunnels, shipping disrupted by heavy storms, roads threatened by erosion, and much, much more! Coastal regions are likely to be especially hard hit, as more and more folks move in and demand infrastructure in vulnerable areas. Says report contributor Henry Schwartz, Jr., “The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning …

San Francisco gets even greener

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom got jiggy with eco-measures this week. He signed into a law a requirement that the city’s taxi fleet be converted to low-emission vehicles by 2011; ordered all city departments to purchase 100 percent recycled paper and reduce overall paper use by 20 percent by 2010; and announced his support for a tidal-energy project in the San Francisco Bay, despite a recent study’s conclusions that the project would be more expensive than it’s worth. Newsom has proposed strict green-building standards for his city and will submit a carbon tax to voters; folks in don’t-call-it-Frisco also live …

Small-scale bike-share program to come to Capitol Hill

Thirty bicycles will be made available to government employees on Capitol Hill under a pilot bike-share program announced by U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) at a National Bike Summit Thursday. “You have such a huge concentration of people” on the Hill, he said, “and so much of the errand running doesn’t need to fire up an engine.” Blumenauer, founder of the 160-member Congressional Bike Caucus, hopes bike sharing will take off nationwide. Currently, only 1 percent of all journeys in the U.S. are done on a bicycle. And, as Blumenauer pointed out, “How many people are stuck in traffic on …

Green building certified! Again!

New certification planned by safety group

Maybe this all makes more sense to green builders than it does to me, but I see news today of plans to develop another new green-building certification, this one sponsored by the International Code Council. It seems like only yesterday three weeks ago that the National Association of Home Builders launched its own “education, verification, and certification” program, and of course our pal LEED keeps chugging along. Oh wait, look what happens when you read the whole article: The [ICC] certification will test an official’s knowledge about the dominant green building rating systems, such as LEED, Green Globes and National …

Grey's anatomy

Victim of Seattle arsons reaffirms commitment to green building

As Grist readers know — and are furiously debating — there were some arsons in Seattle on Monday which have been attributed to shadowy (perhaps mythical) activist group Earth Liberation Front. The following is a letter to Grist from the owner of one of the houses that was destroyed, Grey Lundberg of CMI Homes, Inc: I am writing you today in reference to your recent article "Know Thy ELF: ‘Eco-Terrorism’ Suspected in Seattle-area Arson." I am the builder of the home which suffered the most damage from the fire in the Woodinville area — it was completely destroyed. I would …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.