Don’t forget to visit your city’s PARK(ing) Day installations TODAY! (I’m dying to stop by Seattle Met‘s SwaPark.) Here are listings for Seattle, but I’m having trouble finding them for Portland, Vancouver, Eugene, Spokane, Olympia, Salem, Burnaby… others? If you have links, share ’em! Better yet, if you visit one today, snap a photo and send it to me!
Three think pieces this week:
Should we aim to open all borders, worldwide? “Allowing free movement of all people across international borders could double world GDP,” argues one academic. It could also eliminate absolute poverty. Provocative. In The Atlantic and Vox.
A proposal for an overhaul of the US tax system that’s bold enough to adequately respond to climate change, economic inequality, and the need to restructure the economy away from financial speculation and toward innovation and production. The proposal includes pollution taxes, a tax on speculation, and overhauls of the main existing taxes, all from a Nobel Prize-winning economist.
A moon-shot style plan for overhauling the US energy economy to get off carbon, by making big public investments in efficiency and clean renewables, with big benefits for jobs and shared prosperity, from the University of Massachusetts and the Center for American Progress.
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The past is a different country, they say. Well, you can visit both countries in this mind-tickling collection of composite photos: historic and present day shots of Seattle—with old-timers walking toward modern sky scrapers and Hooverville under the viaduct. Let’s hope the editions of these from a century hence show a successful transition to a sustainable region!
Reporters rarely get the final say over their headlines…and sometimes I wish that headline editors would read the stories more closely. Take this story from The Stranger this week—with an attention grabbing headline that actually misses the point of the article. I won’t repeat the headline—which (I think unfairly) disses electric vehicles. But the real point of the article is that Puget Sound Energy actually owns a fair amount of coal-fired power. I think that’s right: according to PSE’s 2012 greenhouse gas inventory, the CO2 “emissions intensity” of “PSE-owned Electric Operations” is 1.47 pounds of CO2 equivalents per kWh of electricity generated. (See p. 43 of the article.) That’s very high for the Northwest, and adds to the environmental impact of serving electricity to PSE’s customers. A
nother thing about that article: it quotes me, but as with all things electricity, it’s hard for any reporter looking for a simple quote in a short article to convey all of the nuance and caveats of a complex issue. The truth is that PSE buys a lot of its power from other, cleaner sources—so the average mix of electricity served to PSE’s customers is substantially cleaner than the mix that comes from PSE’s generators. And the mix of electricity that is served to PSE customers at night, when wind-power is abundant, may be even cleaner than the PSE average. But even recognizing that, there are all sorts of complications and uncertainties around the calculations around adding new demand from electric vehicles to the Northwest energy grid. This is all a way of saying: take the numbers quoted in that article with a grain of salt! They were just one data point out of a wide range of figures I provided. And besides, my real answer to the question of whether electric vehicles are “better” than gas powered cars is this: Keep the Tesla, Ditch the Coal.
Meanwhile, for a fuller and more analysis of how coal-fired power can effect electric vehicle efficiency, the Union of Concerned Scientists has you covered. See, e.g., this recent article from the New York Times:
“The Union of Concerned Scientists said on Tuesday that in 60 percent of the United States, electric vehicles are now responsible for fewer heat-trapping global warming emissions per mile than even the most efficient hybrids.”
According to UCS, if you’re interested in electric cars, the Northwest and California about as clean as it gets!