Among the keener pleasures of being a researcher at a think tank is that I get paid to read interesting stuff. It’s pretty sweet. So in the interest of sharing the love, here’s a sort of potpourri batch of the better stuff that I’ve come across in the last week or so.

Bikes. In “Rage Against Your Machine” at Outside Magazine, Tom Vanderbilt explores the social and cultural dimensions of the “war” between cyclists and drivers. It’s a solidly researched and thought-provoking piece about why we think about others the way we do. Predictably (and rightly) it includes a short treatment of what Portland has done right.

Energy efficiency. Seattle city councilmember Mike O’Brien and aide Sahar Fathi recently published a smart law review article that explores the Washington state constitutional barriers to energy efficiency retrofits. In “Seattle’s Green Building Initiative and Housing Retrofits,” they analyze sections 5, 7, and 10 of Article VIII of the constitution, concluding that “the best solution… is to amend Washington’s Constitution to explicitly allow for state credit to be used for financing renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

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  • Endangered species. Living With Wolves, an advocacy organization, has compiled a nicely comprehensive piece called “Wolves At A Crossroads: 2011” aimed at dispelling the falsehoods that surround recent congressional calls to remove endangered species protection from Rocky Mountain wolves. It’s a good central summary with what appears to be very strong research backing (but it would be twice as powerful if it included careful citations).

    New species. Over at Crosscut, Knute Berger had a lovely article on a new species of spider recently discovered in Seattle of all places. I’ll second what Berger writes, “It’s extraordinary to me that we still don’t know all the basics about where we live.” (It’s also worth reading a companion article by Berger on the Burke Museum.)

    Coal exports. Today at Crosscut, Floyd McKay has a thorough piece of reporting on plans for a huge coal export facility at Cherry Point near Bellingham. Meanwhile, the Longview Daily Newscontinues its first-rate coverage of coal export plans for southwest Washington. LDN’s coal reporting is a good demonstration that small market newspapers can produce a very high level of journalism. (What would be nice, however, is if the newspaper’s homepage had a dedicated portal for coal-related stories.)

    Coal imports. If you’re tired of reading, try watching something instead. The good folks at Washington Bus have produced a terrific wry video, “A Shot of Coaly,” starring Alex, that explains why it’s important for energy companies in Washington to move away from burning out-of-state coal. (Alex’s other “Shot of Oly” videos are hilarious too, in an I-shot-this-in-my-parent’s-attic kind of way, especially the one about tax loopholes.)

    Always interested in getting other people’s perspectives on stuff I’m reading, so have at it in comments.