Archive for the 'Transportation' Category

Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome

At a youth climate meeting in Minnesota in January 2008, a neat idea emerged from discussion:

‘We need to start training young people, not just FOR green jobs, but TO CREATE green jobs. We should start in the Twin Cities this summer.’

Fast-forward three years, and over 250 young people have been trained over three years in Summer of Solutions programs around the country to create innovative and self-sustaining solutions around energy efficiency, green industry, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and smart transportation and design that advance job creation, social justice, and community empowerment. A network of over 70 youth leaders has coalesced to launch a national organization from nothing and develop 2011 Summer of Solutions programs that will support hundreds of youth in creating the clean energy economy in 15 cities nationwide. These programs have expanded rapidly in number, quality, and sustainability over the years without grant support, and with a major influx of funding and leadership in late 2010, we’re just hitting our stride.

As you read on, I’d encourage you to think of any young people (individuals or groups) who might be interested in a summer program based on community-based innovation in the clean energy economy. If so, please invite them to apply to any of our 15 programs nationwide by April 24th at

Continue reading ‘Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome’

Signs of change: Day One at the COP16 climate talks in Cancun, Mexico

Cross-posted from WWF-Canada Blog –  November 29, 2010

(c) Fredy Mercay/WWF

I have arrived at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico. The first thing I saw as I drove away from the airport in a shuttle was a massive billboard advertisement for the NISSAN Leaf, “100% electrico” car.

 The second thing I saw before we reached the outer perimiter of the airport property was a Monarch butterfly. It brought me back immediately to my childhood tape deck, playing a David Suzuki sing-along on Monarch butterflies.

With an icon of a solution to climate change, and an icon of biodiversity, Day One in Mexico was symbolic of our work as a whole. We ultimately attend these international negotiations on climate change out of our interest to protect biodiversity by implementing solutions to climate change. Continue reading ‘Signs of change: Day One at the COP16 climate talks in Cancun, Mexico’

Rails of Freedom

Bombardier's experimental Jet Train

I am obsessed with trains.  There, I’ve said it.  I would even go so far as to argue that I love trains more than Joe Biden does. When I was young, my father used to take me to the train station to watch trains.  This is while I was growing up in Baroda, India.  While I cannot recall the specific memories of those visits, I do know that at one point in time I would be able to rattle off all the parts of a train, including the different types of engines, rolling stock, their purposes, and the roles of the different employees involved in the industry.  I would even spend countless hours drawing scenes of vibrant train stations and would eventually go through several different model train sets until about the age of 13.  There is a magic to a journey aboard trains that is unsurpassed by any other form of transit.  It inspires.  And a study of its history reveals the powerful impact the technology has had on the growth of nations around the world.  On April 16, 1853, the departure of the first passenger train from Mumbai (previously Bombay) to Thane traveling just 34 kilometers signaled the arrival of industrial revolution in India.  Today, India boasts the second largest passenger rail network in the world and the Indian Railways is the largest employer with approximately 1.6 million employees.

When my family left India, I did not realize that I would be leaving behind a country with a rich legacy of railways

America's Streamliners

to come to a country which has all but forgotten its own similar legacy, which served as the very foundations on which it was built.  In 1869 the last spike in the transcontinental railroad, the first link between the east and west coasts of the United States, was driven into the ground.  With it, a Morse code message was sent across the United States simply stating, “done.”  Railways allowed the United States to become truly unified, they allowed for the expansion of cities, for the distribution of resources and information.  Without railways, this country would not have been the same.  Railway transportation of both freight and passengers was a very lucrative business.  Furthermore, America led the world in railway technology innovation through the creation of “streamliners” noted for their speed and comfort.  In 1956 President Eisenhower’s signing the Highways Defense Act signaled the slow and steady decline of a once powerful industry.  It was also the beginning of a long and painful journey America would undertake to becoming addicted to oil fostered by the growth of a car culture and the rise of a suburban way of life.  Rail, a fixed form of transit, ties communities together.  Once upon a time, vibrant downtowns were anchored with a central station, surrounded by shops, business, and not far from residences.  With the decline of rail, America has witnessed a decline in community.  What’s more, our concern for individuality supported by the car culture has jeopardized the safety of the nation through our addiction to fuel sourced from foreign lands.  We are prisoners to this curse.   Continue reading ‘Rails of Freedom’

“The Politics [on oil drilling] May Have Changed, But the Facts Haven’t”

“…what wouldn’t do a thing to lower gas prices is … to open up Florida’s coastline to Offshore drilling. it would have long-term consequences to our coastlines but no short term benefits since it would take at least 10 years to get any oil… it will take a generation to reach full production and even then the effect on gas prices will be minimal at best” Candidate Obama – June 20, 2008 – Jacksonville, FL.

Young people from Florida changed the course of history when they delivered their state to President Obama in the 2008 elections. They worked hard, knocked on doors, called reluctant family members, all in an effort to elect the candidate that spoke those words. Well, after a year and a half spent doing some really great (but woefully insufficient) things to move us towards a clean energy economy, seems like the President is turning his back on the wise words he spoke on his campaign.

“Today we are announcing the the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s Natural resources… the only way this transition [to domestic fuels] will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short run and in the long run”

Many progressive bloggers already challenged the President’s assumption that opening up the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling would be politically (or economically) smart, but few provided alternative strategies to drastically, quickly, and efficiently achieving the stated goals of the President’s new initiative.

Making efficient cars more accessible to the general public is something the administration is already doing great work on. In addition to today’s announcement about doubling the efficiency of the Federal Government’s auto fleet (spoken as a sidenote to the oil drilling expansion),  the Obama administration also enacted stricter greenhouse gas limits to newly built car emissions.

Continue reading ‘“The Politics [on oil drilling] May Have Changed, But the Facts Haven’t”’

The Hummer is history

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that General Motors’ bid to sell the brand to a Chinese heavy equipment manufacturing company fell through. Unless the contract is picked up quickly, no more Hummers will be manufactured.

Hummers have been notorious as environmentally unfriendly vehicles and a source of controversy ever since they were introduced to the public. The most fuel-efficient Hummer averages about 16 mpg, a frighteningly low number when considering that some hybrids get an average of upwards of 40 mpg. That’s more than double the fuel-efficiency of the Hummer.

The popularity of the Hummer brand has declined in recent years. The brand was popular soon after its release, with 71,524 Hummers sold in 2006. By December 2009, sales were down 85%.  Stock prices have continued to drop, and GM recently filed for bankruptcy.

The discontinuation of the brand is a good sign. Continue reading ‘The Hummer is history’

Eye of the TIGER

Yesterday, the hard fought for Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) stimulus grants were awarded to applicants around the country.  These were $1.5 billion worth of for innovative transportation ideas, and boy was there fierce competition.  Requests for funds were about 40 times the $1.5 billion available.  I’m pleased to say the local DC region benefited from one of these grants, including my college town of College Park.  We were awarded one of the largest grants for bus transit, which can be found on page 14 of the TIGER grant recipients list. Continue reading ‘Eye of the TIGER’

Do Americans’ Actions Speak Louder than Words on Climate & Energy?

Today the Yale Project on Climate Change released its latest (3rd) report: Americans’ Actions to Conserve Energy, Reduce Waste, and Limit Global Warming. In brief, they found that there is a significant gap between Americans’ conservation attitudes and their actual behaviors. For example:

  • 88 percent of Americans say it is important to recycle at home, but only 51 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 81 percent say it is important to use re-usable shopping bags, but only 33 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 76 percent say it is important to buy locally grown food, but only 26 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 76 percent say it is important to walk or bike instead of driving, but only 15 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 72 percent of Americans say it is important to use public transportation or carpool, but only 10 percent say they “often” or “always” do;

On the positive side, large majorities of Americans think these actions are important. Yet there is also plenty of room to improve. It is important to recognize, however, that each behavior confronts its own set of barriers. For example, public transportation may not be locally available or convenient. Policies to lower these barriers will make it much easier for people to act in ways consistent with their values.

The survey also found that, in the past year, approximately 1 out of three Americans have rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products, while slightly fewer report that they have punished companies that have opposed steps to reduce global warming by not buying their products. Finally, in the past year 12 percent of Americans have contacted government officials about global warming. Of these, 72 percent urged officials to take action to reduce global warming.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from

High Speed Rail – Actions Speak Louder than State of the Union Words

Amtrak's Acela High Speed Train photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. youth climate movement has rightfully been dissecting Obama’s State of the Union speech and its aftermath – the good, the bad, the really? – and taking action of our own.

But this week, Obama did more than just talk, he acted, putting a big down payment on a high speed rail network that will cut pollution, save energy, and provide good jobs in the clean energy economy.

On Thursday, President Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary (and former Illinois Republican congressman) Ray LaHood announced $8 billion in economic recovery money dedicated to building high speed rail and otherwise improving rail transportation across much of the country.

That’s good for cutting climate change and improving air quality, since rail transportation is more energy efficient and overall less polluting than cars or planes. That’s assuming people actually use it, though, and long travel times compared to flying have hurt Amtrak’s public acceptance, even as it’s fastest routes grew their ridership (page 6). Continue reading ‘High Speed Rail – Actions Speak Louder than State of the Union Words’

Power Shift West sends ripples across 13 states


Student organizers working with Cascade Climate Network (CCN), Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG), Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), and student groups at the University of Oregon hosted Power Shift West ’09, which began Friday, November 6 and went through Sunday, November 8. The three-day event featured educational workshops; special guests including Rep. Jefferson Smith, Rikki Ott, and Pete Sorenson; opportunities for participants to learn more about organizing local groups to advocate sustainable living practices; and a capstone march through the streets of Eugene.

Backbone Campaign brought props from “Procession for the Future” and built model wind turbines with participants at the conference. Participants raised a banner measuring 15′ x 30′ foot giant banner with helium powered weather balloons as the grand finale.

Over 500 students and youth from Oregon and 13 western states attended to promote four primary goals:

  • Pass a strong climate bill and negotiate a strong International Climate Treaty in Copenhagen
  • Generate support for a high-speed rail corridor from Eugene to Vancouver, B.C.
  • Mobilize local community groups to address sustainable living practices
  • Unite regional campuses to advocate plans to move beyond coal usage

“There’s never been a better time to become more educated and involved in promoting clean, renewable energy in our communities,” said Jeremy Blanchard, a core organizer and a UO student Senator. “The national success of Power Shift depends on the action we take locally, and we’re encouraging students and young peole to actively communicate with their local and state representatives so that our generation’s voices are heard in the halls of Congress.”

Student activists from thirteen states across the West coast converged to learn skills and netowrk with peers around clean energy solutions and climate change. Some traveled from as far away as Alaska to build a grassroots movement for sustainability and global warming solutions.

Continue reading ‘Power Shift West sends ripples across 13 states’

Robert Samuelson’s Column is a Train Wreck

Cross-posted from: here

Some columns and rantings out there are so bad, there aren’t enough hours in the day to address all their crazy “facts” and the conclusions they draw from them. It’s probably important to say SOMETHING about Robert Samuelson’s Washington Post column, and let others pick up other pieces. After all, with the Transportation Reauthorization funding bill coming up soon, along with Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood’s vision for a high-speed rail system, it’s important the funds are there. Continue reading ‘Robert Samuelson’s Column is a Train Wreck’