Weekly Links

Not Only is the EPA’s Wasteful Spending Unpopular, Its Entire Mission is Unpopular

Energy/Transportation

Sweden Introduces Electrified Roads

From The GuardianA 1.2 mile stretch of roadway in Sweden is now fully equipped to charge electric vehicles as they drive. While newer models of electric vehicles have longer ranges than previous models, the major drawback for such vehicles has always been the inability to drive as far as gasoline-powered vehicles between charges/fill-ups. It also takes several hours to charge an electric vehicle to full capacity. The new roadway technology means cars can travel much longer distances without having to re-charge. This also means batteries do not need to be nearly as large, which lowers costs. Of course, the electricity used to power the cars must come from renewable sources for there to be any widespread environmental benefit.

Stockholm in the rain. Image Credit: Lex Kravetski


History

How to Find an Industrial Prehuman Civilization

From Scientific AmericanWhile many are looking for life and civilizations on other planets, some are focusing on Earth for signs of past, prehuman, civilizations. “Consider our own industrial age, which has only existed for about 300 years out of a multimillion-year history of humanity. Now compare that minuscule slice of time with the half-billion years or so that creatures have lived on land. Humanity’s present rapacious phase of fossil fuel use and environmental degradation, Frank says, is unsustainable for long periods. In time it will diminish either by human choice or by the force of nature, making the Anthropocene less of an enduring era and more of a blip in the geologic record. “Maybe [civilization like ours] has happened multiple times, but if they each only last 300 years, no one would ever see it,” Frank says.”

New Orleans is a sinking city, which means it’s more likely to become part of the geologic record. San Francisco, on the other hand, is rising which makes evidence of its existence more susceptible to being erased by erosion. Image Credit: SustainAtlanta


Urban Design

As Walking and Cycling Increases, So Do Hit-And-Run Incidents

From The Wall Street Journal (paywall) and AAAThe number of hit-and-run incidents has increased at a rate of 7.2 percent per year since 2009. The authors of a recent study done by AAA say this is largely due to increasing numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In 2016, there were 1,980 hit-and-run crashes and almost 1,400 of those involved non-vehicle occupants (aka pedestrians and cyclists). Southern and western states generally had the most hit-and-run fatalities per 100,000 people.

The study is full of interesting data points, but the most interesting points might be those related to methods used to deter hit-and-run crashes. Studies have found that increasing penalties have no effect on hit-and-run crashes. A study out of California showed that hit-and-run crashes decreased once legislation was passed allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. There was little mention of how we could improve roadways, particularly in urban areas, to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The study was done by AAA, though, and AAA has a strong financial incentive to get more people driving since they’re in the business of offering driver-related services. Urban and street design that favors, or at the very least takes into account, pedestrians and cyclists could lead to fewer drivers, which might not be great for AAA.

Miami’s Brickell District. Image Credit: SustainAtlanta


Politics/Environment

President Trump’s Environmental Policies Are Widely Unpopular

From The Hill and Change Research. A recent poll done by Change Research found that by fairly significant margins, Americans oppose President Trump’s environmental policies, but they are split on whether cutting the National Weather Service’s budget puts the country at risk. You should keep in mind that Change Research is considered a left-leaning organization and 41 percent of respondents identified as Democrats while 33 percent identified as Republicans (other polls show that 44 percent of Americans identify as Democrats and 37 percent identify as Republicans). However, 47 percent said they voted for Mr. Trump while 49 percent said they voted for Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 election (Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote 48.2 percent to 46.1 percent). Forty-six percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of Mr. Trump while 54 percent had an unfavorable view. This compares to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls showing 40 percent of the country approves of Mr. Trump. So while the study was done by a left-leaning group, respondents in the study had a more favorable view of Mr. Trump than in almost every other poll.

The poll by Change Research shows that only 36 percent of respondents approve of Mr. Trump’s environmental policies with 68 percent saying solar and wind energy should be favored over fossil fuels. Only 28 percent of respondents think we are on the right track when it comes to protecting and preserving our planet for future generations. Nearly 70 percent of respondents have an unfavorable view of Mr. Trump’s plan to sell public lands for mining and development. A separate poll from Public Policy Polling shows that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who is mired in wasteful spending scandals, has a 29 percent approval rating.

The numbers aren’t too surprising. Previous polls have shown similar cross-party support for environmental protections and opposition to this administration’s environmental policies. In deep-red Mountain West states like Idaho and Montana, a recent poll showed residents overwhelmingly oppose Mr. Trump’ plan to sell public lands. Despite all of this only 48 percent of respondents said Mr. Trump’s environmental policies will play a role in how they vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

Perhaps the most surprising data point comes from a question related to the National Weather Service. Only 54 percent of respondents said Mr. Trump’s proposal to cut the budget of the National Weather Service by 25 percent would put the country at a greater risk. This is surprising since 2017 was one of the worst hurricane seasons on record. Much of Puerto Rico is still without power after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September. Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas last August, went from a disorganized remnant of a tropical storm to a strong category 4 hurricane in just two days. It is tied with Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record and damaged or destroyed over 300,000 structures in Texas. And then there’s Hurricane Irma, a storm that caused widespread damage in Florida and Georgia and came within a few miles and hours of striking Miami as a strong category five storm.

A drastic reduction in the budget of the agency responsible for monitoring storms and providing warnings will almost certainly hurt Americans. Your local weather station and The Weather Channel don’t produce many data themselves; they heavily rely on information from the National Weather Service.

Flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Image Credit: US Dept. of Defense

 

 

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