No Escape

Imagine there’s a video game, where the player must decide which tools to use to dig themselves out a hole without acknowledging that holes exist OR that the player is trapped in one and hence needs the tools. The point of the game (beyond your apparent need to never face 30 contiguous seconds of not looking at your phone) is to let players experience what it feels like to be a member of the House Science Committee:

Despite this reputation, the environment and energy subcommittees called four honest-to-God climate scientists to testify about one of the most controversial solutions to climate change: geoengineering. These technofixes, which could reflect sun back into space or draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, all with the intent to cool the planet, were front and center. Committee members were actually eager to hear about it and where the federal government could spend to help prop up research.

There was just one tiny problem: None of the Republicans could bring themselves to acknowledge that carbon dioxide is the root cause of climate change. Nor could they bring up that reducing carbon emissions is a way more proven and cost-effective avenue to address climate change. It was at once comical and damn terrifying.

Level three is when comical and damn terrifying meld into one confused emotion. Welcome to level three.

Costs, Benefits and Analysis

This post on the Vélib program in Paris brings up a couple of interesting points. First:

While far behind cities like Amsterdam (who isn’t?), Paris is trying to hold its own in the green sweepstakes. To date, one of its most important projects has been a short-term bicycle rental system. Vélib, which started in 2007, is today fully integrated into the fabric of the city, counting millions of passenger trips each year. In proposing my Autolib article, I explained that the city was seeking to build on that “‘hugely successful’’ model.
My characterization of the bike program as ‘‘hugely successful’’ led to a lively debate among my editors, a number of whom argued that Vélib was not in fact successful because it had failed to reduce traffic and so many of the bicycles are damaged, vandalized or stolen that the program was probably running at a loss.


Programs like Autolib and Vélib have little impact on local air pollution and noise, and whatever effect they do have could probably be achieved at lower cost, he said.
All the same, they can be effective ‘‘in setting a first step towards a transition in transport, energy and the environment — a transition that probably is needed in the next decades,’’ Mr. van Wee said.

Touché. That’s the whole point – there are limits to looking merely at the costs and benefits and calling it analysis. We could be doing all kinds of things by implementing these programs, of which making bikes available for rent is just one. By the same, very same, token, it is possible to look at the cost of say, a bike program, and compare it to the costs of a personal automobile program. We have an abiding belief that the costs of roads, bridges, cars themselves (payments and maintenance), insurance, not to mention the gasoline and not to even hint at the wars that are necessary from time to time to maintain access to that gasoline, are relatively acceptable or low-cost in some aspect, or somehow a natural part of the world. But the costs of driving are none of these things. They are excessive. And would be unthinkable if considered in their totality.
Only then, when we have an idea of such a sum, such costs, should we compare that number and the bits of flesh that will eternally decorate it to the cost of a bike program, or a wind farm, or outfitting every man, woman, child, dog, cat and long-eared galoot with a personal solar chapeau and matching lawn darts set. Then we might know which might be worth it, and which might be just another receptor for our rage.

Speaking of which, see also this.


What’s the Question?


Oh, yes: Why are BP’s profits down?

Analysts at banks including UBS, Bank of America and JPMorgan Cazenove now predict BP could unlock as much as $100 billion for investors, either by splitting its upstream exploration and production division from its refining and marketing arm, or selling off its entire US business.

BP’s shares are still trading 28% lower than they were at the time of the Macondo spill in April, despite oil prices soaring to $127 a barrel this year. Shell is up 13% over the same period.

A breakup? Is the writing on the wall that difficult to parse? Investors – I resent that term – may indeed only feel the company has only lost its way. But they are fooling themselves in their larger capacity as citizens grappling with how an oil giant deals with the future of transportation. What happens at those board meetings anyway? Do they really sit and listen to climate change deniers spout off? Really? Electric cars as the connection from the past to what’s next continue to dog the energy dinosaurs [sorry]. It’s powering those which is where the money is and will be, until people can figure how to live closer to work. What happened to Beyond Petroleum? Was it only an excellent marketing strategy?

What does Green(e) Street mean?

I was just up in the city of New Amsterdam with a couple of ne’er-do-wells of mutual acquaintance. We were staying on a street that featured an interesting configuration of pavement designs.


That’s Grand Street. The arrows denote the bike lanes and the tourist buses that are now impaired from criss-crossing SoHo because of said bike lanes. Also offended: trucks of all kinds. It’s a one-way, with a line of parking separating the bike lanes from traffic – an excellent safety and alt transportation feature that snakes through SoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy and has upset all kinds of other users. Bloomberg wanted 1,800 miles of bike lanes in the city and this is what that kind of conflict thinking looks like. Definitely still a work in progress.

Sharing the road is difficult, but not impossible, especially if the number of combustion-engine vehicles remains the same. Taking some number of C-E vehicles off the road: also very difficult.

Traffic Calming

A friend who recently visited UCSB was telling me about the bike lanes all over campus there. But without the current crazy amount of car congestion on the campus just outside my window, that would be greatly alleviated by the use of bicycles – and the construction of dedicated bike lanes like you see here – I might not have tried to find a picture.

uc santabarbara

So… you can see it. But you can also see that such volume of riders is not just about getting people on bikes but also making bikes-as-transportation safe and reliable. It IS a way to get rid of many cars where close-proximity driving (less than 1 mile) is the norm. But it takes a commitment to develop the infrastructure to support it – just as it takes for cars. Unfortunately there is no sign of any such commitment presently visible from my or any other nearby windows.

Communist Boob Trays and Bike Racks

Okay maybe not the trays, I just happen to like those, personally. But no bikes – they’re part of an evil plot.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

Exactly. Now back in your car, ma’am. I realized a while back that this whole green thing was a sucker’s game. But I didn’t know you could also play it from the other side. What we want you to think is that everything is out to get you, that if you don’t become deeply suspicious on your own, we’ll have to force you to do so.

But they’re going to ruin this, too; because when everything becomes Communist, of course nothing will be. Really.