This blog now has a readership of several hundred impressive, smart, and informed people. Together, we know a tremendous amount about a lot of things. I’m hoping we can turn it into a collaborative research tool: a rudimentary "wiki." (Wikis: defined and exemplified.)

Today’s New York Times has a revealing article on the gasoline additive MTBE. This chemical was a much-heralded air pollution preventer: it makes gas burn cleaner. Unfortunately, it also proved a pernicious polluter of water. It finds even tiny holes in fuel storage tanks, leaks out and quickly permeates aquifers. At just 1 part per billion, it gives water an awful taste. It’s also a suspected carcinogen.

The NYT article has information on MTBE in much of the United States, but nothing on the Northwest. The question of the day is, How big an issue is MTBE in Cascadia? How many water supplies are contaminated? How badly? What are the trends? Is it getting better or worse? How many people are affected? How? What about wildlife? What are Cascadians doing about MTBE? What’s the history of MTBE in the Northwest? What, specifically, is going on in each part of Cascadia: southeast Alaska, British Columbia, northwest California, Idaho, western Montana, Oregon, and Washington? What are the appropriate policy responses? What’s the true cost of MTBE, counting all the clean up? Bonus points for supplying not just links to relevant information but concise summaries—and for summarizing others’ comments into a single overview.

In a real wiki, everyone could edit a shared main text, with each iteration saved for future reference. Here, we’ll have to do it within the constraints of typepad’s comment function. Sorry. If this Question of the Day proves successful, maybe we’ll launch a "real" wiki with the right software. (Speaking of which: anyone know an online wiki service where we could set up such a thing?)