More ways to use our friend the wind's energy

Clever video

A short video -- proof that ingenuity is alive and well:

They're counting on you

To count … heh

WNYC is calling on New Yorkers to go outside and count the SUVs in their ‘hood as part of an experiment in getting citizens involved in the reporting process. Sez their website: This our experiment in “crowdsourcing,” where we employ you, the listener, in an act of journalism. We’re trying to find out just how much gas-guzzling SUV use there is throughout the New York area, with all the talk of environmental sustainability in the city. So you go out and report, then leave a comment with 1) your neighborhood, 2) your block (street and cross street) 3) the number …

Piquing interest

How does the Home Interest Mortgage Deduction affect sprawl?

Now that the housing market is tanking, is it a good time to talk about the absurdity of the Home Interest Mortgage Deduction? I mean, it's truly crummy social policy. The biggest benefits go to the people in the highest tax brackets, own expensive homes, and earn enough income that they can itemize their deductions. So in essence, the HIMD is a ginormous housing subsidy for the well-off -- and one that dwarfs all of the housing subsidies to lower-income folks. This NY Times article lays out the case nicely: apparently, half the benefit of the deduction goes to the 12 percent of taxpayers who make at least $100 grand per year. But the conventional wisdom is that the home interest mortgage deduction isn't just crummy social policy, but crummy environmental policy as well. Allowing homeowners to deduct mortgage interest on their taxes gives people an incentive spend more of their money on housing than they otherwise would. And people with extra money to spend on housing tend to buy larger homes on bigger lots -- which, in theory at least, means that the HIMD primes the pump for low-density sprawl. But is this really true? Does the HIMD really accelerate low-density sprawl?

Aero 101

Airliners are shaped the way they are for a reason

We took our Prius over the mountains a few weeks back. I was looking forward to testing it at the extreme end of its design envelope, with a bulky cargo carrier to boot. This gave me an opportunity to see how much highway mileage would be affected by aerodynamic drag. Yes, yes, I should have stuck to the speed limit, but by not doing so I preemptively squashed a bitching point leveled by hybrid hatas -- Prius drivers sticking to the speed limit are always getting in the way. We nailed 40 mpg on the nose for a 260-mile trip that was 95 percent highway driving. I was pleasantly surprised. Just look at that blob on top of the car. I used the cruise control religiously and pegged the speed 5 mph over the posted limit whenever traffic allowed, which was most of the time.

Congestion pricing saves more than it costs

Bloomberg’s law: Environment equals economic growth

This guest essay comes from Steven Cohen and Jacob Victor. Steven Cohen is executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute and director of its Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs. Jacob Victor is an intern at Columbia's Earth Institute. After overcoming numerous obstacles in Albany, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial congestion-pricing plan finally appears to be slowly moving forward. Thanks to a last-minute deal between Bloomberg and the leaders of the state Assembly, it is almost certain that New York will receive a $500 million federal grant to fund the equipment and upgrade mass transit in order to begin the program. While New York City has not been given permission to charge tolls to enter Manhattan south of 86th street, the first steps in implementing congestion pricing were authorized by New York state's famously dysfunctional state government.

Plug-in hybrids rule; PHEV Hypercars rule even more

Let’s go all the way

When David pointed out that plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) can reduce carbon emissions in all possible futures, two main arguments were raised in opposition -- practicality, and the possibility that they will provide too low a reduction, while blocking the path to something better. The way commercial plug-ins look to be implemented within the next five years is that normal hybrids will be built with large batteries and the ability to plug into a socket in your dedicated parking space. They will travel the first twenty miles or so on electricity and then turn on their gasoline engine around the 21st mile or so. Even with our current grid, they will emit less CO2 per mile than when they switch to their gasoline engine. Like hobbyists, who manually convert existing hybrids, these will have to be more expensive than a normal hybrid, because they have every expense a normal car has plus the extra battery cost. If gasoline prices rise high enough, I suppose they may pay for themselves in fuel savings, but mostly they will sell on the "cool" factor. However, there is another way to implement plug-ins, one we could begin now with a large enough investment, which produces savings comparable to a full electric car -- and which, if run on wind, or sun, or other ultra-low-carbon electricity sources, could actually provide a 98 percent emissions reduction.

Bicycle shame

Alan Durning on whether biking is for children and for losers

You don't have to go farther than Hollywood to see one reason Bicycle Neglect is so rampant in North America. Consider the 2005 film The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The middle-aged protagonist, obsessed with video games and action figures, seems stuck in early adolescence. The film spends two hours lampooning him for being emasculated, immature -- not a real man. His vehicle? A bike. (You can almost hear the schoolyard snickers.) To be a successful adult, apparently, you have to drive. Cycling is for children; cycling is for losers. In this view, it's fitting that the pinnacle of the sport of cycling is the Tour de France. (Implied snicker about France as a symbol -- unfair, of course -- of all that's cowardly, effeminate, and weak.) Call this Bicycle Shame.

Walk score

Calculate how walkable your home is

Some of you may have missed it, as Odograph introduced it down in comments, so I thought I’d bring it up front: Check out Walk Score, where you can plug in your address and find out how walkable your home is, on a scale of one to 100. My old place — a condo near the heart of Ballard in Seattle — scored a 94. My new place, a house north of Seattle, just south of Shoreline, gets a 66. I wonder if it knows whether you have sidewalks? Because that obviously affects walkability. We don’t have any in our …

Ask a Brokeass: Sharing is caring

Who are the people in your neighborhood, and what have they got to lend?

I don’t actually have a question to respond to this week, so … pretend like somebody asked something. Remember back when people actually used to stop by their neighbor’s house and ask for a cup of sugar? OK, neither do I. Actually, the other day my boyfriend’s neighbor came over and asked to borrow some aluminum foil, and he was sort of shocked. I think it was the first time he’d ever even seen the neighbor, which is impressively depressing, since they live in tiny, side-by-side apartments. Even if you’re only vaguely aware that other people live around you, think …

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