Up and down the Mississippi, communities are reinventing their riverfronts

Gone are the days when the Mississippi River was just a shipping route and flood risk that happened to run through a city’s back yard. Increasingly, the legendary waterway is becoming recognized as a prized attraction, worthy of front-yard status. Here’s how a few communities are drawing attention to a natural feature they once shunned. St. Paul, Minn. The “mighty city on the Mississippi” is working toward a connected, thriving National Great River Park along its 17-mile riverfront, with residential areas, businesses, parkland, a public plaza, biking and walking trails, a light-rail line, and an interpretive center. La Crosse, Wisc. …

Hybrid Technologies converts gas-powered cars to electric

Obsessed with MINI Coopers but also like the idea of zero-emission electric vehicles? Have your car and drive it too: a company called Hybrid Technologies guts cars such as the MINI, smart fortwo, and PT Cruiser, and replaces their gas tanks with an electric motor and a stack of lithium batteries. Convinced? Starting in 2008, you’ll be able to buy your electric MINI at Wal-Mart — for a mere $65,000.

The next blight

Via Atrios, a preview of things to come: empty retail space in the ‘burbs. How long can something stay empty and still retain that clean, sterile look the ‘burbs are known for? How long until blight sets in?

Levittown, N.Y., aims to be first green suburb

Think the phrase “green suburb” is an oxymoron? Levittown, N.Y., begs to differ.

Financing green building and retrofits

A public policy silver bullet that’s available to fight global warming today

Steve Heckeroth’s piece "Solar is the solution" has been recommended all over the green blogosphere, first by Robert Rapier, I think. It’s great reading, but I wanted to hone in on one thing he mentions — a piece of public policy that has been woefully under-hyped. To wit: with today’s technology, we know how to make new buildings net energy generators, and we know how to retrofit existing buildings to reduce their energy consumption by well over 50%, in some cases 90-95%. We just need someone to pay for it. That, however, turns out to be the rub. An investment …

The Great Carnac I ain't

Assessing my predictions from last year

At the end of last year, I made 20 predictions for 2007. As a pundit in good standing I am, of course, unaccountable for my predictions. (How do you think we all stay employed?) Nonetheless, it’s worth looking back and seeing how the predictions panned out, drawing sweeping conclusions from the things I got right while minimizing and excusing the things I got wrong. Let’s see how I did! Al Gore will a) win an Oscar, b) announce that he is not running for president, c) continue his efforts at grassroots movement building, and d) announce plans for a sequel …

Al Gore’s home meets LEED Gold standard

Al Gore has finished efficiency renovations on his much-maligned Tennessee home. Solar panels, rainwater collection, geothermal heating, and non-incandescent light bulbs have helped the abode earn a LEED Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

San Francisco mayor proposes strict green-building standards

San Francisco would have the most stringent green-building standards in the U.S. if the city Board of Supervisors adopts a new measure proposed yesterday by Mayor Gavin Newsom. By 2012, Newsom wants all new residential buildings over 75 feet tall, commercial buildings of more than 5,000 square feet, and renovations on buildings of more than 25,000 square feet to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. City government buildings are already required to meet the council’s internationally recognized LEED standards. Newsom proposed a carbon tax last week, and he’s not done yet; he promises, “We’re going to be making …

A desire named streetcar

Transportation planning with people in mind

Say what you will about streetcars, they have an unmatched appeal. I mean, there must be a reason why it's hard to imagine a smoldering love affair between Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh with a bus theme. Or, as the inimitable Dan Savage says: Why is this so hard to understand? ... People like trains. People hate buses. To wit, the Seattle P-I recently interviewed folks about the new Seattle streetcar and elicited what I imagine are fairly typical sentiments: Bryan Lenning ... could take the bus downtown ... But for some reason, he'd rather take the streetcar. "But I'd never take the bus." He'd rather walk or drive downtown. Mari Stobbe ... "I'd never take a bus. I've never been on a bus. I've never had any desire to be on a bus," she said. "(But) the streetcar seems like it would have a different feel."

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