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Articles by Andy Brett

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  • China’s hybrid economy leads to inefficiency

    This morning's Washington Post proclaims "Electrical Inefficiency A Dark Spot for China." It seems that lighting up the beautiful Bund comes at the expense of blackouts and brownouts in the less glitzy, more industrial parts of the country. But there's a simple solution:

    "A lot of China's energy security problem could be solved if you improved our domestic efficiency," said Yan Maosong, an industrial engineering expert at Shanghai University who advises the central government. "From generation to transmission to power usage, in every link of the chain, our energy industry is not very efficient. Top government leaders have not paid enough attention."
    Sound familiar?

    Also notable was the article's attribution of China's wastefulness to it's hybrid economy -- a hybrid between "communist roots and a free-market future," that is.

  • Tiny glimmers of goodness in the energy bill

    While it's probably not what J.S. had in mind when he asked if he missed anything in his list of good things about the energy bill, I might have one -- scratch that, two.

    The first is that the bill contains some tax breaks for those savvy consumers who buy energy-efficient home appliances -- some advice on how to snag the breaks, which can be worth up to $500 a year.

    The second is that the bill is drawing attention to the biodiesel debate, thanks to its subsidies requirements for ethanol production -- which leads to cartoons like this one.

    On a side note, and making the awkward segue from biodiesel to regular diesel, Michael D. Tusiani notes in the Washington Post this morning that the tax credit for diesel engines matches the one for hybrids at $3,400.

  • Intermodal transportation and airports

    Ralph Nader once said that GAO reports are the most underread critical reading in this country. There's a particularly interesting one [PDF] just released regarding intermodal transportation between the nation's airports and the national rail system (namely that there's very little).

    While I will admit I haven't read every word yet, and that the report might serve more than one purpose as bedside reading, one section comparing US air-rail connections to those in Europe caught my attention. The GAO concludes that there are "three basic differences between the United States and Europe that affect the ability to use the European model in the United States":

    • population density
    • geographic differences
    • lower vehicle use costs
    The full report goes into more detail and discusses roles for federal and local government as well as the private sector in developing further connections. There's also some interesting schematics of the nation's airports.

  • Phosphorous, easements, and ecosystem services

    An article in the current issue of National Wildlife Magazine highlights the troubles of a lake that might not immediately come to mind as "A Lake in Distress" -- Lake Champlain. But a number of issues have led citizens and groups in the lake basin to take action. Just one example is the phosphorus runoff that lead to algal blooms in the lake.

    The article brings together a number of recently discussed topics, including:

    • land trusts and easements, which are being used not only to preserve the land but restore it,
    • which of course helps to restore ecosystem services, in the form of retaining the phosphorous that would otherwise run off, and
    • the effects of changing land use, namely, the rise in non-point source pollution and runoff.