Category Archives: Sustainable transportation

two WOW’s

It’s a long time between my ‘WOW’s.  After decades and ramblings around, it takes something special & extraordinary to elicit this reaction. Here’s two in the last week:         1) DrawDown                           2) Scandanavian electric cars

Book

DrawDown is Paul Hawken’s latest (swan song?) endeavor along his philosophy of ‘natural capitalism‘ and ‘ecology of commerce‘… in other words they’re solution based. I’m a BIG fan of Paul over the decades, but he’s outdone himself on this one. I knew about drawdown a few years ago and could never quite figure out what it was about until recently. When I attended his sold out (250+) pre-release at the Oakland Impact HUB last week – a big WOW again. Paul’s original thinking and limitless passion are unique in the USA.  Dr. Michael Braungart told me 10 years ago that Paul was the best example of a ‘european eco-dude’ in our midst. I say that with all the love in the world:  a european eco-dude in our midst (sounds like a book or song title) is my way of saying forward thinking with social/economic/environmental balances on the cutting edge within a long-term systems thinking strategic view: like Michael’s green chemistry and C2C endeavors.

Drawdown’s mission & vision:

The Mission

Project Drawdown is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The Vision

To date, the full range and impact of climate solutions have not been explained in a way that bridges the divide between urgency and agency. Thus the aspirations of people who want to enact meaningful solutions remain largely untapped. Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment, wrote, “We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.” Together, let’s figure it out.

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This solution based book (database/case studies) and website (which is VERY deep) is a compilation of the world’s best think tanks and scientific research on carbon reduction projects. In 2001, Paul asked: …‘what are the top five things we should be doing to reverse the CO2 trend?’… no one knew. Fifteen years later, there was still no consensus.  Three years ago, Paul decided to assemble a team of researchers and scientists to answer this question, and he has succeeded. It’ll be interesting to see how the vested interests and climate change mafia (Paul’s words) aka IPCC will react to this seminal work.

In a nutshell, drawdown has three CO2 forecast scenarios: business as usual, adopting 80 solutions, optimistic adoption. In the latter, we could start actually REVERSING global CO2 buildup by 2045. WOW – who would’ve thought that was possible even in the next hundred years! Most pundits including the IPCC, Bill McKibben, etc… have stated that even if we stop all CO2 emissions right now, levels would not go down for hundreds of years. Paul Hawken says otherwise – and more power to him.

Quick summary (spoiler alert) is that even though Refrigerant management is the #1 solution (HFC’s are 100X+ more potent than CO2) combining (#6) educating girls and (#7) family planning makes it over 119 Gton of CO2 reduction, AND combining (#3) reducing food waste and (#4) plant rich diet wheat food also makes it over 136Gton of CO2 reduction. So focusing on women and food instead of energy and transportation would be a better start.

Thanks for refocusing us, Paul. He’ll be at several book signings in the Bay Area if you want to thank him personally…. I know I will, again and again. Stay tuned for Drawdown #2 as there are another 100 coming attraction (solutions) in the works by Paul and his team.

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Electric cars in Norway: 40% of all cars sold in Norway are electric. Norway has set a goal to be 100% electric cars by 2025. WOW. Considering that StatOil is one of the world leading oil producers, and that Norway isn’t exactly located in the sunniest climate = it’s an ambitious and admirable goal.  For starters:  “Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.”  So maybe Germany, China, California can take a clue from Norwegians and emulate them.

One a side note, a couple weeks ago California crossed a milestone and produced 50% of its electrical demand from renewables. And they said it couldn’t be done… by 2020! That’s our current goal: 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020. And we crossed that threshold three years early. Now the challenge is to increase its frequency and duration.

Land of Oz

welcome to SF… what a world class city… still. It’s been a few years since i’ve enjoyed these environs the way I used to: being present with all the livlihoods around: SOMA, Yerba Buena, Chinatown,
Embarcadero skyways, Ferry Building, cool little shops & cafes… did you know there’s a redwood forest in the middle of SF??

The one thing that stood out for me this time (after I shed off the usual zombie-land, master-of-the-universe environs, that I was once part of) was the sheer # of empty muni buses – everywhere! WOW – Uber is going to be SO,SO successful. What a ridiculous sight: empty behemothth buses chewing away KWs of electric buzz-feeds.. at least they’re not on direct fossil-fuel… just think of the cost per mile – the REAL cost – driver labor, repair & maintenance, embodied energy, ugly overhead electric lines, damage to streets, energy cost, accidents, mishaps/deaths, on and on… of all those buses lined up on Market street and beyond with nary a passenger. My biggest bitch tho is the gawd awful sight of those buses squeeling and buzzing away… and the utter destruction of any ambiance that a human being could enjoy.

How distant this is from pedestrian friendly city centers of Europe and Asia! Why oh why, do we have our heads so deep in the tar sands?

The only quick info I could find on the O+M (ops+maint) costs per city bus mile was from the Washington DC area in 2015:  WOW  considering an average car costs around 10cents/mile and carpooling can cut that in half or third… what more can I say?  the writing is on the wall or street (yep = wall street 🙂…Uber will be getting lotsa capitalization from there, and perhaps empty buses, and BIG city buses will be a thing of the past.

It’s not better on the other side of the Bay in Beserkeley… where empty AC transit buses go streaming by, clogging up roads, belching fumes (there’s no overhead electric lines like in SF).  ahhh to head back to the environs of WinSol and the forest sanctuary… peace & serenity and real (human) nature.

Asthma & Diesel

I turn my car’s fan OFF whenever I am behind a belching diesel truck or bus (especially if their muffler is located down low – like school buses) and for good reason:  diesel exhaust fumes. I’m overly sensitive to chemical smells, and whenever I smell diesel aldehydes I hold my breath and wait for cleaner air.

According to wikipedia diesel exhaust contaminants include substances listed as human carcinogens by theInternational Agency for Research on Cancer of the U.N.‘s World Health Organization.

It made me very, very sad decades ago when I saw children (including my own) being required to stand in line next to a running school bus, breathing in diesel exhaust into their young pink lungs. What a travesty! I knew they were breathing in aldehydes and other carcinogens which would cause health problems decades later.  And it would be such an easy fix (it still is!): just raise the damn exhaust muffler from the ground to higher up! Saying something about this, or worse – complaining! – always falls on deaf ears.

Try telling a trucker to stop idling their rig.

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As with many modern ailments, asthma and other lung infections are caused by modern lifestyles. There’s a markedly lower asthma rate in industrialized countries that have clean diesel than those that do not.

It’s actually kinda easy to wean a person away from an onset of asthma: breathe cleaner air! It’s that simple. Close your windows when the first school buses and garbage trucks start rolling. Open the windows up again after these trucks stop running. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is one of the few things you can control.

An article in the NYTimes Well clearly states the impact of exercising in polluted cities: “The potential health impacts are worrisome. Studies show that athletes who spend long hours in ice rinks filled with exhaust from Zamboni machines, such as figure skaters and hockey players, have unusually high rates of asthma compared to other athletes.”

So next time there’s a smog alert day in your area, besides trying to pollute less, maybe you can rest your body until the air gets cleaner… you’ll be healthier for it.

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Searching on ‘asthma & diesel exhausts’, there’s an entry from a UK study in 2007:

Diesel exhaust fumes on polluted streets have a measurable effect on people with asthma, according to the first study looking at exhausts and asthma in a real-life setting, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Most countries in Europe have had ‘clean diesel’ for over two decades – and it’s WAY cheaper than regular gasoline. Whenever I rented a car there, I always opted for a diesel one. At ~$8/gallon, fuel costs are often higher than rental fees in Europe.

But the USA, thanks to a powerful lobby group, refuses to pass legislation mandating clean diesel – except for California.

Starting in 2010 cleaner diesel truck engines were phased in. California is leading the USA toward cleaner diesel:

https://www.ajot.com/news/future-freight-plan-for-california-depends-on-clean-diesel-power-to-ac

According to 2015 data compiled by IHS Insight for the Diesel Technology Forum, there are over 900,000 Class 3-8 commercial vehicles in California and about 18 percent are the newest generation clean diesel (2010 Model Year and newer) that achieve near zero NOx and PM emissions. Since 2010, these vehicles alone have saved or eliminated 700,000 tons of NOx and 20,700 tons of PM. They have also saved or eliminated 5.8 million barrels of crude oil and 2.5 million tons of CO2. This compares with just over 15,000 natural gas powered commercial vehicles. Nationwide, almost 26 percent of the diesel commercial vehicle fleet is powered by engines that are 2010 and newer generations.”

These points and others were outlined in the Forum’s final comments submitted Wednesday on the draft California Sustainable Freight Action Plan concerning the development of strategies to improve freight efficiency and the transition to zero-emission freight technologies.

And it’s going to get even cleaner with diesels in California, according to Cal’s CARB web site:

The regulation requires diesel trucks and buses that operate in California to be upgraded to reduce emissions. Newer heavier trucks and buses must meet PM filter requirements beginning January 1,2012. Lighter and older heavier trucks must be replaced starting January 1,2015. By January 1,2023, nearly all trucks and buses will need to have 2010 model year engines or equivalent.

The regulation applies to nearly all privately and federally owned diesel fueled trucks and buses and to privately and publicly owned school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 14,000 pounds. The regulation provides a variety of flexibility options tailored to fleets operating low use vehicles, fleets operating in selected vocations like agricultural and construction, and small fleets of three or fewer trucks.

Now, if we can only get other states to adopt similar clean diesel mandates and save our children’s lungs (and retrofit those school buses!!)

WTR related:

Something as mundane as cleaner diesel is part of ‘The Great Turning’ within the Work that Reconnects (WTR).  It’s always easier to remain numb to realities than acknowledge our pain, and make the world a better place – a cornerstone of Joanna Macy’s WTR work: “acknowledge your own pain that ended up as numbness. It’s painful, and hurtful to embrace & acknowledge all the ugliness, violence, chemicals in our daily lives: better just ignore it for your own ‘peace of mind’… which really never comes from numbness.”