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New Year's Resolution: Enabling Green Access Via New Rapid Transit Systems in 2009

December 30, 2008

For businesses, institutions, and contact centers looking for truly greener fields to cut down on their environmental footprints there will be several new opportunities to do just that, by locating their offices near the stations of new rapid transit lines scheduled to open in 2009.

--Arriving first is the Phoenix metro area's Valley Metro light rail line. It will begin regular service on a 20 mile line route connecting Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa on Jan.1; it had pre-opened to crush crowds last weekend

--Portland, Oregon's Tri-Met will introduce service on WES, a diesel railcar-operated suburb-to-suburb line from Wilsonville to Beaverton, 15 miles, where it will connect with the MAX light rail for downtown Portland, airport, and other communities.

Oregon, Washington State "E-Cycling" Begins Jan.1

December 29, 2008

Beginning Jan.1, 2009 consumers, small businesses, and other similar-sized government entities in Oregon and Washington State will be able to recycle 'e-cycle' much of their e-waste such as computers, monitors, and TVs though not others such as cellphones, mice, and printers. The TV e-cycling is well-timed with the analog-to-digital TV switch in February, 2009.

There are now 17 states with similar programs; the National Center for Electronics Recycling tracks such laws. It estimates that just under 50 percent of the US population is now covered by such measures.

They should be making a dent in the mountains of electronic garbage created in the U.S; in 2007, Americans generated about 232 million units of computer and TV-related E-waste, of which only 18 percent was recycled. 

Washington State estimates that it will collect and process over 20 million pounds of electronic waste in the first year of operations; the state has about 6.4 million residents.

Goodbye, GM, Chrysler, Hello Green Alternatives

November 17, 2008

I live in a part of North America that is dependent on the auto industry and I am seeing it break down around me. 

Every day it seems the local media has a story on another layoff, if not of the Big 3 but of the many hundreds of firms that supply them. Every day it appears that one more factory has a For Sale or For Lease sign up. Every day one more track in the local railroad yard is taken up by a string of empty auto-rack railcars.

So I am not without sympathy to the families, indeed neighbors who are being hurt by what is happening in that industry.

America voted 'green'

November 11, 2008

Last Tuesday a majority of Americans 'voted green'. They voted for, and the Electoral College is duty-bound to select Senator Barack Obama as President, whose platform contained an extensive list of green energy and employment initiatives, along with funding for Amtrak and mass transit along with highway improvements. 

President-Elect Obama appears to be strong believer in technology, and has promised to place resources in R&D and in rural broadband. There is every reason to believe that of all the policy stances produced that he will deliver on this one, because technology delivered for him. He and his team successfully used advanced communications and marketing technology to create, mobilize, and bring on home one of the most successful grassroots-based election campaigns in modern times.

President-Elect Obama wants action on climate change but he also is seeking energy security, which according to an editorial in The (Toronto) Star may mean accepting Canada's 'dirty oil' from the Alberta tar sands in exchange for Canada adopting his tougher emissions policies.

(One wonders just how 'filthy' Alberta tar sands-derived oil really is: from source to refinery compared to shipping 'cleaner' crude from the Middle East on diesel-burning and pollutant-spewing tankers.

Green Ideas Overheard At ITEXPO West

September 22, 2008

Several ideas/observations overheard at ITEXPO West last week in Los Angeles...

1. Get rid of the ethanol subsidy 

Ethanol production--from grains as opposed to biowaste--is being criticized for generating more pollution than it solves through processing and transportation.

Kind of like LEED buildings being erected in car-oriented office parks, gouged out of what had been environmentally-beneficial fields, wetlands, forests...

2. Go nuclear, like France has done. Get away from coal, heavy oil, natural gas, hydro...

There is some logic here.

Going Green To L-A...To ITEXPO West

September 10, 2008

The headline above sounds like an oxymoron, given that Los Angeles has for 60 years come to represent everything brown and ugly as opposed green and bright in the environment. For "L-A" was the first city--and far from the last--to buy into the 1930s urbanist vision of dispersed sprawling communities linked by car-occupied freeways, popularized at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.   The car and the wide, fast roads to accommodate it represented individual freedom, the escape from dirty, fetid cities into fresh countryside and wide open spaces, once the province of farmers and the elite. Unfortunately like most visions it overlooked the consequences, like smog, which began to be inflicted by cars on Los Angeles as early as the late 1940s, and traffic congestion that has proven to be impossible to build out of.   There is a plaque in the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, (also known as Union Station used by Amtrak and the Metrolink commuter rail that discusses the deliberate freewayization of Los Angeles that destroyed what was the world's greatest mass transit network, the  Pacific Electric interurbans or 'Red Cars'. This figured as a subplot in the hit animated/real action comedy film 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'  The city also had an extensive narrow gauge urban streetcar system, which shared tracks with the Red Cars with inside rails for the trolleys.   Since the early 1990s "L-A" has been pouring money if by fits and starts into returning the 'Red Cars' now known as light rail transit or LRT, plus in subways, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit that have proven popular especially with high gas prices.

Getting rid of the EW! (E-Waste)

July 11, 2008

Today is garbage and recycling day in my neighborhood. As I sort out the plastics, paper, and metals from the blue bin under our kitchen sink I am reminded why producer/seller-pay e-waste recycling programs like that just announced by the Province of Ontario can and will work: by assigning costs to waste. 

My community charges for trash pickup. You have to buy garbage tickets. The way to minimize the number of tickets you need to purchase is by recycling.

If you pollute, you should pay

July 9, 2008

The carbon tax brought in by the Canadian province of British Columbia that came into effect on Canada Day, July 1, and which is being advocated at the federal level by the Liberal Party of Canada led by former environment minister Stephane Dion, recognizes if you want people, and organizations, to curb their pollution then they should pay for polluting. If they, and we, want to pay less then they, and we can pollute less. It's that simple. 

The hard fact is that pollution costs all of us. The environment is not a "free lunch".

For example, a study by the Ontario Medical Association, The Illness Cost of Air Pollution, estimates that in the province of Ontario in 2005 "overall economic losses associated with air pollution exposure are expected to be in the order of $7.8 billion. This total is expected to increase to over $12.9 billion by 2026."

Such losses are borne by all taxpayers.

Green Technology the Answer to Pollution in Japan?

February 21, 2008

Coal-fired power stations definitely don’t help in the fight against global warming, unless maybe they use “clean-coal technology,” as does a power station in Nakaso, Japan. That station, Financial Times in Japan reports, is run by a consortium of nine power companies and is being championed by the country’s trade ministry as a way to prove that the technology can reduce pollution.   Specifically, the ministry thinks that using “clean-coal” technology can results in CO2 emissions comparable to an oil-fired plant.   "For combating climate change, what is needed is substantive technology that leads to real reductions,” the Financial Times report quoted Takashi Mogi, an assistant director at the ministry’s environmental affairs office as saying. Mogi admitted, though, that such technology may not yet available: “It is not very easy to believe we will achieve that without the help of innovative technology that does not already exist.”   In its report, Financial Times indicated that, as wonderful as clean-coal technology is, Japan may be using this as a way of removing pressure to make more long-lasting changes.

WSJ: US Seeks to Lower Green Trade Barriers

January 30, 2008

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that diplomats representing several of the world's biggest economies will gather in Hawaii for discussions regarding a new international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.   According to the story, “The meeting isn't expected to produce any major breakthrough.”   However, the meeting is set against a backdrop where the U.S. and other industrialized nations are trying to convince up and comers, such as China and India to lower trade barriers and eliminate tarrifs.   According to the Journal:   Deploying existing clean-energy technologies more broadly throughout the developing world is widely seen as important to slowing the growth in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But getting developing countries to drop the tariffs won't be easy. China and India have their own fast-growing companies selling clean technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels around the world.
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