Cities

Thames Fugit

England walloped by historic floods It’s a “summer of suffering” in England, as severe flooding wreaks havoc across the country. This weekend, floods in the central and southern part of the country left more than 350,000 people without drinking water and forced the evacuation of hundreds from their homes. The worst part, observers say, is that the waters are still rising — and are on track to outpace record flooding from 1947. The crisis follows a June flood in the north that killed seven people and left 7,000 at least temporarily homeless. With the swollen Thames and Severn rivers threatening …

Sticker shocker

Cars are more expensive than you think

Everyone knows that cars are expensive, right? Still, it may come as a surprise to find out just how much money we spend getting from place to place. The cost of the car itself -- typically the second biggest purchase many families make in their lives -- is just the start. When you start adding in the cost of gasoline, and car insurance, and maintenance and repairs, and parking, and taxes to build new roads and maintain old ones, and license fees, and the medical costs of traffic accidents ... boy, I could go on all day ... suffice it to say, the zeros start adding up.

Speaking of rural communities

Renewable energy is good for them

Renewable energy is good for rural communities — at least in the UK: A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, of community renewable energy projects in Britain has found that so far, projects are largely based in the countryside, some quite remote. From wind turbines to shared heating systems, small-scale renewable energy doesn’t just help in the fight against climate change. It can also bring people together, revitalise local economies and help alleviate poverty. Community energy projects generate energy renewably, at a local level. They involve anything from a community-owned wind turbine to a solar panel on …

New study finds that plug-in hybrids rule in all possible futures

Really

If you haven’t already heard, yesterday saw the release of an important new report: In the most comprehensive environmental assessment of electric transportation to date, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are examining the greenhouse gas emissions and air quality impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). The purpose of the program is to evaluate the nationwide environmental impacts of potentially large numbers of PHEVs over a time period of 2000 to 2050. The year 2000 is assumed to be the first year PHEVs would become available in the U.S. market, while 2050 …

Loan star

Making energy efficiency possible for cheapskate homeowners

Apropos of my recent realization that if I had bought a new furnace on credit rather than waiting to save up the cash I'd have saved a bundle of money over the last 5 years, here's something I've been meaning to write about for months: a Vancouver developer that came up with a smart -- I mean, diabolically smart -- financing scheme to build a super-efficient condo complex. (Proving, I suppose, biodiversivist's point that spreadsheets are, in fact, wonderful things.)

15 Green Cities

These metropolises aren’t literally the greenest places on earth — they’re not necessarily dense with foliage, for one, and some still have a long way to go down the path to sustainability. But all of the cities on this list deserve recognition for making impressive strides toward eco-friendliness, helping their many millions of residents live better, greener lives. If your favorite green city didn’t make the list, tell us why it deserves recognition in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Photo: iStockphoto Reykjavik, Iceland Remember the grade-school memory device “Greenland is icy and Iceland is green”? It’s …

Your mileage may vary

Why bicycling is 25 percent better than you thought

Your car's greenhouse-gas emissions are about 25 percent worse than you think. How so? Well, for each gallon of gas you burn in your engine, there's the climate equivalent of another quarter-gallon or so embedded in your consumption. What that means is this: the gasoline you use didn't just magically appear in your tank -- it was extracted, refined, and transported to your local station. And all that activity released emissions. It's a curiosity of our energy system (and other systems too, such as our food system), but it's a curiosity that bears closely on our thinking about how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Stay with me for a moment. It's usually assumed that each gallon of gas releases about 19.5 pounds of CO2 into the sky. (Some quibble, and argue that it's 19.4 or 19.6. But whatever.) Basic physics dictates that a gallon of gasoline combusted will release a more-or-less fixed amount of CO2. But from a public policy perspective, physics isn't the whole story.

Does the rest of the dinosaur know about this?

A car company takes a step in the right direction — and it’s GM!

It's a pretty short step from here to letting OnStar drivers pay for auto insurance by the mile; that's a plus everywhere, but especially in states like Michigan, where it would help turn what had been very high fixed costs into proconservation variable ones. Now if only the state would stop charging all drivers the same flat fee (about $125/yr) for the catastrophic claims fund -- put it into the price of gas or something. GM's inspiration was to realize that OnStar's global positioning satellite technology gave GMAC a reliable, low-cost way to measure the actual mileage of GMAC policyholders, allowing those who drive less to share in GMAC's reduced underwriting costs. If this cooperative undertaking leads more people to subscribe to OnStar and purchase GMAC auto policies, well, that's just a chance GM will have to take.

On the Ball: Get trashed fast

Or should that be get fast trashed?

In college I wrote my honors thesis on the connection between running and spirituality. And I like the idea of eco-running as a combining-of-passions sort of idea. Except I’m not really into combining my passions a la eco-runner Samuel, by picking up trash while I run. Because I’m training for a marathon, and I live in the city, and if I picked up every bit of trash on my long runs, I’d probably never finish. Also, I’ve never been a fan of running while carrying things. Also, I’m way too time- and goal-oriented to take all those breaks. But good …

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