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Articles by Payton Chung

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Gasoline supplies right now are plumbing historic lows, just as May and the "summer driving season" are about to roll around. This fact has the industry types at the WSJ’s Energy Roundup abuzz with predictions of $4/gallon gasoline, should the inevitable disruption (refinery fire, hurricane, Iran war) occur. As in years past, areas with higher cost gasoline, mostly the blue states along the oceans and Great Lakes, will see the highest prices.

Some hope that record margins (known as "crack spread," heh heh) will lead refineries to crank up gas production, but in any case, there’s dangerously little slack in America’s dangerously-tight gasoline supply chain. Blogger Robert Rapier points out that gasoline supplies right now are lower than they’ve ever been (at least since current records began, in 1991), besides a few Labor Day weekends when supplies are drawn down after all that summer driving.

I never quite understood the concept of a "summer driving season," anyways. Why waste a glorious summer day cooped up inside a car stuck in traffic? This summer, let’s all escape gloomy gas prices and have a Summe... Read more

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  • Green building convention is abuzz

    I'm currently attending GreenBuild, the U.S. Green Building Council's big annual convention. This is just the fifth iteration, but already it's a behemoth. Last year it drew over 10,000 attendees, and this year it's expected to best that record.

    The vast trade show floor (over 700 exhibitors) testifies to the big business of green building. The show places leviathan bridge-builders next door to some guy selling composting toilets. An entire aisle is lined with suppliers of modular green roofs.

    What I find interesting, though, is less the breadth of exhibitors than the depth.

  • Slate and TH challenge readers to lose 2.5 tons apiece

    Slate and fellow green blog TreeHugger have just launched an eight-week Green Challenge carbon diet. The goal: to get readers to cut their carbon emissions 20 percent through the usual variety of actions. The kicker: an interactive "my emissions" evaluation tool that friends can use to challenge one another. Nothing like a little competition to spice things up.

    (I'd love to share my results, especially since this week's theme is transportation, but it's not yet working for me. Anyone else?)

  • Green Bean counting

    Chicago, like several other cities, has a Green Permit Program (PDF) that grants faster building permits for green buildings. Erik Olsen, the program's administrator, gets to scrutinize every single green building in the entire city. Luckily for us, Erik recently started GreenBean, a blog profiling the blueprints that cross his desk.

    So far, he's posted eight building profiles, including two single-family houses (both in my neighborhood -- must be my aura), high-rise offices, and the rehab of a YMCA into subsidized housing. For each, he notes the level of green-ness, unusual green techniques used, and perhaps a little back story about quirky geothermal wells or an underappreciated project manager who pushed the green angle.

  • Where does your gas come from?

    Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek spent the last year on "an energy safari," working backwards from the customers and night-shift clerks at a single Marathon gas station in exurban Chicago (and the downstate refinery that supplies it) to the exact fields where the oil first left the ground. Last September, for instance, 71% of its gas came from the U.S., 20% from Africa, and 10% from Saudi Arabia.

    The eight stories and related multimedia (photos from Iraq, Louisiana, Nigeria, and Venezuela, and a 12-part video documentary) neatly tie together the disparate lives on both ends of the petroleum pipe: an angry gang recruit in Itak Abasi, Nigeria, an oilfield manager in Basra living under what amounts to solitary confinement, fiercely Chavista village elders in Venezuela, the gas station manager who spends a third of her pay on gas, and a "concerned" Hummer-driving realtor in St. Charles, Illinois. The Tribune calls our "globe-spanning energy network" "so fragile, so beholden to hostile powers and so clearly unsustainable, that our car-centered lifestyle seems more at risk than ever" -- a bit out of character for a Republican newspaper with a suburban circulation base.