the renewed city.

stricter tailpipe standards are on their way in the U.S.
January 25, 2009, 9:44 pm
Filed under: commentary

the globe and mail is reporting that the freshly-minted obama administration will soon push through policy allowing individual u.s. states to control their own tailpipe emissions. the announcement comes after years of lobbying by california and 13 other states that fell on deaf ears in the bush administration.

there’s no doubt that such an announcement will ruffle some feathers. i can already hear the arguments that  the policy will force vehicle manufacturers to spend billions of dollars and countless other resources to meet dozens of different emission standards from michigan to florida to oregon. but looking at the policy from a more rational and economic perspective what’s more likely to happen will be that the highest common denominator will become the de facto national standard and the one that car manufacturer’s will likely plan and design for (here’s looking at you california).

that being the case, though, i can see the real potential for a real bureaucratic nightmare. letting individual states essentially compete to push forward the ‘golden’ standard may be a huge waste of resources, research and taxpayer dollars. given that, the more appropriate course of action may have been for the obama administration to enact nation-wide standards comparable to those in california or washington.

either way, it’s pretty good news. once the new standards are in place the united states will hopefully start to see some big improvements in air quality and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. so too will canada as the regulations start to trickle north of the border. clean fuel technology should become cheaper and more accessible as it is used in all new cars.

of course, these benefits will only be incurred if we haven’t outgrown our affinity with motoring and already switch to far cleaner modes of transportation like walking, cycling and public transit. without more walkable cities and efficient and accessible mass transit systems, though, this may be a long way off, what with the increased spending in roads and highways in the name of economic recovery, and we’ll have to just settle for cleaner (but still noisy and obstructive) cars and trucks.


the environmental costs of a google search
January 18, 2009, 9:52 pm
Filed under: commentary

cbc, bbc, and the times (uk) are all reporting on a recent study by harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross demonstrating, albeit probably through very painstaking calculations, that running two google searches releases the same amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as boiling a kettle of tea, about 7g of CO2.

this is certainly interesting stuff, in a very nerdy, academic kind-of-way. but lets get real here. the fact that such minuscule pollution associated with ‘googling’ is making major headlines around the world represents a disheartening distraction from much more pressing emission-related issues that all too often go ignored in mainstream media. these are, of course, the fact that most of us drive too much, eat food from halfway around the world, live in bigger houses and consume way too much stuff.

if we want to make real headway in reducing emissions, we need to get people thinking about how they can change their behaviour and actions when it comes to these ‘big ticket items’, not whether or not they should open up google to peruse for a bootlegged copy of the new U2 single.