Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for all of us at Team Spinach, so apologies for the long hiatus.  For my part, travel to some exotic locations (Costa Rica & Nicaragua – photos to come) and some very not exotic locations (Nebraska & Ohio) interrupted my posting schedule.  But, we always manage to resurface, and I thought I’d kick off with some good news rather than a rant.

As you guys know, I have a serious thing for the Tesla Model S.  I mean – just look at it.


This image is probably copyrighted, so I’ll just write here that clearly I didn’t take this picture. I also don’t own a Tesla, which is sad. SOMEDAY.

Well, chappies, it seems I am not the only one who has a thing for the Model S.  It’s been a banner week for the budding company, and despite some bad press from a highly shady NYTimes review (which the company rebutted), Tesla not only posted an unexpected profit in the first quarter of 2013 but has increased their estimated sales of the Model S from 20,000 to 21,000. Not only that, but Consumer Reports review of the car earned an astonishing score of 99 out of 100 in the latest review – the only point deducted for the fact that the car takes longer than 3 minutes to recharge on long drives.  In the first quarter of 2013, the Tesla Model S outsold similarly-priced gasoline guzzlers from German luxury car manufacturers Mercedes, Audi, and BMW.  

The success of Tesla is a huge PR boost for eco-friendly startups, which have been plagued in the press by highly-profiled failure stories of a few notable electric car manufacturers and alternative energy companies.  It’s been depressing to watch the faltering progress of a few companies be used by closed-minded individuals in the press and political forums to argue that environmentally innovative businesses don’t have a place in the mainstream or can’t compete with established companies (which is both false, and a logical fallacy.)  Tesla is bucking the naysayers and even exceeding the performance predicted by Wall Street.  What’s even better about Tesla is that they’re also changing the image of what an innovative, environmentally friendly product can look like.  It’s an American brand.  It’s a luxury car.  It’s a sweet ride that looks every bit as sexy as other high-end cars.  It doesn’t compromise on performance.

And that, my friends, is what environmental innovation should look like.  We can do it better, and it doesn’t mean giving up on the things we love.  It just means being more thoughtful about how we do them.

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To our Spinach readers and web searchers – Happy Earth Day!  This month is my one-year anniversary with the Spinach blog and I will say it has been a happy one-year relationship.

Here is my Top 10 List of things you should do this Earth Day:

  1. Take your trash out and dump it in the closest park near your home
  2. Go for a very long drive, in a Land Rover
  3. Pour some hazardous chemicals in your street drain
  4. Cut down one tree for every year of your age
  5. Start a bonfire with random materials like Styrofoam, asbestos and tires
  6. Throw some grocery store plastic bags in the ocean or river near your house
  7. Make sure your house is being supplied by oil or coal power ONLY
  8.  Spray extra untested pesticides on your fruit and vegetables
  9. Sit idle all day, don’t even move to refill your soda, keep the soda bottle at your feet
  10. Put your newspapers , junk mail, and cardboard boxes in your regular trash; actually put those in the bonfire, see #5

I hope those gave you a laugh.  Continue to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, use public transportation, and only use the energy you really need – you’ll find it will save you money and it will be better for your health! Have a great day!

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While 2012 was the year of Hurricane Sandy and the supposed “end of the world” as per our Mayan ancestors, it was a great year for sustainable transport.  When I say sustainable transport, I’m not referring to electric cars (although the Tesla from El Chupacabra’s post is pretty awesome) but rather more sustainable/efficient/environmentally friendly means of moving people, especially with in metropolitan areas.  This includes buses, subways, street cars/trollies, monorails, car sharing systems, and the oldest of them all…bicycles.  In 2012, there were countless mass transit systems that began operating all over the world, from Mexico City to Rio de Janeiro, to Washington DC.  I’d like to highlight a few that particularly stood out to me, and give a heads-up for what to expect in the year to come.

Mexico City’s MetroBus Line 4 BRT (photo credit: Protoplasmakid)

In April of 2012, Mexico City finished construction and began operating its MetroBus Line 4.  MetroBus is Mexico City’s BRT system, which moves over 700,000 people every day.  What is a BRT you ask?  BRT stands for Bus Rapid Transit.  Think of it as a subway above ground on wheels.  The busses get priority lanes so they can by-pass traffic, the stations are usually at level with the bus floor and require prepayment, so that boarding and de-boarding at stations occurs much like a subway rather than a traditional bus, and the bus corridors usually cover larger distances, acting as a major transit line through the city.  MetroBus got it’s first corridor online in 2005, and has since grown te system to 4 distinct lines covering a distance of nearly 100km (about 60 miles.)  Besides adding another route to an already very popular system, Line 4 provides access to the airport, and also traverses it’s historic downtown.  Look for MetroBus to get another line up and running sometime this year.

Rio de Janeiro's Transoeste BRT (photo credit: Aaron Minnick)

Rio de Janeiro’s Transoeste BRT (photo credit: Aaron Minnick)

Rio de Janeiro also got on the BRT bandwagon and opened operations on its first corridor in June.  In preparation for the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio is building a brand new BRT system, which will include 4 corridors that will cover a total of 95 miles when all is said and done.  This will nearly doubles the miles of BRR in Latin America, and provide cariocas with an integrated transport system that connects all areas of the city together.  The Transoeste corridor made big news when it was inaugurated during the Rio+20 summit, getting the attention of celebrities like Mayor Bloomberg (maybe NYC will follow suit?)  In the next few years, if you visit Rio de Janeiro, expect to have an amazing selection of transit modes to choose from, from its popular bike-share system, to subway, to a fleet of BRT.

Washington DC’s Capital Bikeshare (photo credit: Kaid Benfield’s Blog on NRDC Switchboard)

Now if you’ve visited or lived in Washington DC in the last two years, I’m sure you caught sight of a bright red bicycle riding around and neat little stations all over.  Those bikes would be Capital Bikeshare (CaBi), DC’s baby bikeshare system that’s showing the world that the US can do bikeshare too.  Bikesharing is a pretty simple concept.  You pay for a memebership, you find a bike, you rent the bike for a period of time, and then return it to another station.  The idea is to provide people with an alternative to owning their own bike, or to give cyclists an option to ride one way, then take another mode of transportation back (think sunny morning but rainy afternoon commute.)  CaBi was debuted in September 2010, with 400 bicycles and 49 stations.  The system was so successful that by its one-year anniversary, CaBi had reached 1 million trips.  Last year, the CaBi system grew exponentially, reaching nearly 200 stations and over 1700 bicycles.

CaBi is an amazing success story for bikesharing in the US.  Overt he winter, CaBi is planning a whole bunch of new stations (54 to be exact) and expects ridership to increase.  Now that bikeshare is a hit in DC, other major metropolitan areas will be following close behind.  2013 will see the launch of the New York City Bikeshare system, as well as the Chicago system.

All of these different transportation modes provide city dwellers with multiple options to move around their metropolis.  Now that more than 50% of the world population lives in urban areas (and this number is expected to keep rising) providing good mass transit and active transit option is key to keep emission down, but also to increase mobility and make cities better places to live.  As I mentioned in my last post, it will be the cities of the world that will lead the climate flight.  I see a bright future for sustainable transport in the years to come.

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This kid has not been to a wedding to do the real electric slide

The news I’m reporting is electric.  It pertains to the trucking industry (I have a thing for big cars that can get the mileage of a Prius (when I studied in Italy I found a diesel Land Rover, it’s not available in the U.S.)).  A new report by the Carbon War Room found that the trucking industry could eliminate 624 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2020, and each truck would save $22,400 annually by retrofitting to electric engines. Now, I’m not a mechanic and I don’t know the full logistics of how the conversion would occur (that’s what YouTube is for), but the article reports that transmission and cruise control upgrades and better tires will play a large role in the reduction of carbon dioxide (I’m not for warming, I like wearing a jacket in the winter).

The most important conclusion of the report is that the financing for the upgrades will be repaid in 18 months!  We often forget that most of the goods we get in this country are trucked and transported from a port or warehouse that can be several states away, especially food (I don’t need pineapples in the dead of winter)!  The trucking industry is a very large sector of economy and the potential for reduction of carbon dioxide is great. EPA started the “SmartWay Partnership” in 2004 to reduce carbon emissions in the trucking industry.

Since it began, the program has amassed nearly 3,000 partners that have benefited from $6.5 billion in fuel savings and reduced 23.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the agency.

Two weeks ago, the City of Chicago announced it received $15 million  from the U.S. Department of Transportation to create an incentive program for the private and public trucking industry to convert to electric vehicles.

Phew Doritos are electric

The program is set to launch in the Spring of 2013 and Chicago will be a national leader of electric fleets on it’s city’s streets. The vouchers will support up to 60% of the conversion costs and roughly 250 vouchers will be issued.

This movement is great; both sides benefit – reduced fuel costs and lower carbon emissions.  This news also comes at a time when Consumer Reports just announced that the Chevy Volt is America’s Most Loved Car. 92% of owners said they would buy the Volt again.  If I had to take a survey, I’d give high remarks to my no-car decision, as I approach year 3.  Do what you can to reduce your footprint – walk, bike, public transport, reduce the weight in your car, make less trips, and carpool.

Have a great week. Cheers.

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This post welcomes you back state side, with a nice hard landing.  Hope you enjoyed your trip to paradise—given that it may be quite different the next time you decide to go—because it’s back to a U.S.-centric mindset as we return our eyes to the U.S. Senate.  The Senate has been quite the hotbed of activity this week and last (shocking, I know)—and it will continue to be next week.

We're watching you.

Unfortunately, the activity is not taking place with regard to my last post, Senator Bingaman’s long-awaited 246th attempt (at least, right?) at an energy standard.  The action is taking place on another field—a field seemingly unrelated, or perhaps more tangentially related, to our beloved environment.

The Senate is debating a two-year reauthorization of the surface transportation act, which, among other things, provides a means of funding for the Highway Trust Fund, the means by which we support (or don’t) our roads and infrastructure.  Just to make sure we’re on the same page, the House is—very unsuccessfully—trying to consider a five-year extension. What has this fund done for you lately?  Not much.  For one, anyone who drives can tell our roads are certainly in need of a massive facelift (start taking public transportation, fool).  But, debate over this fund surprisingly has a lot to do with our beloved environment.

In bringing this bill forward for consideration on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is also conceding to consider 30 amendments.  These amendments are jam-packed with issues that tug at our heartstrings.  They include:

Expediting—by bypassing the president—approval of the Keystone XL pipeline—offered by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Not allowing the oil carried by the pipeline to be exported—offered by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).  This amendment would have also provided for an expeditious review of the pipeline and the assurance that it be constructed with parts made in the U.S.A.

Extension of the expired 106 Treasury Grant Program and other energy tax extenders—offered by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to revive the expired (as of last year) grant program that facilitated the development of numerous renewable (particularly solar) enterprises.

Simultaneously, a repeal of all energy tax provisions–offered by Senator Jim “Tea Party King” DeMint (R-SC).

Postponing implementation of the EPA’s Boiler MACT regulation—offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), this amendment would have given the EPA a 15-month extension to propose new “achievable” standards that were the “least burdensome.”

Expanding offshore drilling—offered by Senator David Vitter (R-LA).  State affiliation plus hound dog status equals need I say more?

The legislation itself also includes a lovely subsidy (read: big, fat handout) to the tune of $109 million for natural gas development and the development of natural gas vehicles.  Call it the T. Boone Pickens life support plan.  All else fails, T. Boone, the U.S. Gov got yo’ back.

Tycoon T. Boone

Fortunately, some of these amendments have already been defeated.  The Collins amendment to postponed boiler MACT went down 52-46 (the amendment required 60 votes to pass); same for the Vitter amendment.  Most notably, the persistent problem child, Keystone XL, rose from the dead only to be struck back down.  The Keystone amendment needed 60 votes to pass; it only garnered 56.  Note that 11 Democrats joined 46 Republicans in voting for the measure. Senator Wyden’s Keystone amendment also did not pass.  For a full vote list from last week, see the roll call vote list.

While greens have been scoring big, we’ve got more challengers next week.  Both Senator Stabenow and Senator DeMint’s amendments will be up for consideration next week. I’d like to say getting rid the Nat Gas provisions will be like a 5-12 upset, in that it actually has a good shot of happening, but I don’t think we’ll be that lucky amigos.  Oh, and then there’s this—Republicans are promising that the persistent problem child will once again rise from the grave when the transportation bill, inevitably, goes to conference.  Liken it to Duke telling UNC, “Y’all might have beat us on senior night, but you just wait for the moves we’ve got stored for the big dance… bitches.”

Suffice it to say Spinach lovers: your work week may be over, but this battle wages on.  Next week, we will pick up with the to-be-continued episode of transportation-environment tango.

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