- US Solar PV Trade Group Seeks To Widen Scope Of China Import Duties
- Attention Shoppers: Free Solar Powered EV Charging on Aisle 5
- County-Level Employment And Income Gains From Wind Energy Development
- Scotland Announces Drastic Decarbonization By 2030
- Opower Releases New Energy Mobile Phone App
- US Department Of Energy Backtracking On 1 Million EVs By 2015
- England’s Controversial New HS2 High-Speed Rail Line — Route Revealed
- Other Cleantech & Energy News: 5MW Wind Turbine Obtains Design Certification, President’s Climate Toolbox, Top 10 LED Reflector Lamps,…
- Climate Change News: Climate Change Impacting Health, Safety, & Economy; New Monthly Heat Records Mostly Due To Global Warming;…
- Clean Transport News: Exterior Airbags On Cars, 1st Rimac Electric Supercar Delivered, Fisker Heads To China For Investors,…
- Wind And Solar Competitive With Natural Gas In The Lone Star State
- Solar News: Solar At 11 Euro Cents In Germany, Solar Benefits Residents, Polish Feed-In Tariff Reviewed…
- Germany, China, North America Head List Of Top 10 PV Markets
- Cyclists & Walkers Enjoy Their Commutes More Than Drivers
- Fact-Checking Anderson Cooper’s Horrid High-Speed Rail Segment — Keeping CNN Honest
Posted: 05 Feb 2013 12:00 AM PST
The Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) is looking to widen the scope of recently imposed duties on imports of silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels manufactured in China. A coalition of some 230 US solar energy industry participants, CASM on February 1 filed appeals with the US Court of International Trade in New York, the main thrust of which are to close loopholes that industry group members say are being exploited by Chinese PV manufacturers in order to avoid paying the import duties.
Capping a year-long investigation, the US Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission (ITC) last November determined that Chinese manufacturers were dumping product on the US market and benefiting from government subsidies that violated World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. The imposition of import duties ranging from 24% to 250% was limited to silicon PV cells and panels manufactured in China.
Excluding silicon PV cells manufactured outside of China but assembled into panels in China created a loophole that Chinese PV manufacturers are taking advantage of. US manufacturers of silicon PV cells and panels continue to operate at a competitive disadvantage as a result, which also limits and threatens job creation, CASM asserts.
Expanding the Scope of Chinese Import Duties
Having grown into vertically integrated businesses that dominate the world market for silicon PV cells and panels, Chinese manufacturers are fabricating silicon crystals, producing solar silicon waters, and are outsourcing conversion of the wafers into silicon PV cells to companies in Taiwan before importing them back into China for assembly into panels that are then being exported to the US.
"With our cases, the US government went a long way in investigating and attempting to halt the anti-competitive and destructive impacts of China's illegal trade practices on America's domestic solar industry," stated Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, the largest US manufacturer of silicon PV modules and the driving force behind CASM. "Now we are looking to finish the job. American jobs depend on it."
As CASM points out, "the bipartisan US International Trade Commission (ITC) voted 6-0 that China's trade practices were harming US manufacturing. More than 25 solar manufacturers of all kinds have dramatically downsized, filed for bankruptcy, or quit the business since 2010."
US imports of Chinese-made silicon PV cells and panels have fallen sharply since the imposition of the duties. Contrary to expectations, that hasn’t stopped the declining trend in solar PV prices. On the contrary, they continue to fall, at least to date.
Amid globalization, CASM’s international trade petitions are but one aspect of the increasingly complex economic and trade relationship between China and the US, as a series of posts on sister site The Inspired Economist highlight. In addition to widening the scope of the import duties, CASM’s appeals also challenge decisions not to investigate Chinese government subsides on aluminium extrusions and rolled glass, "which the Department of Commerce has found in other, similar cases to be illegally subsidized and dumped in the U.S. market."
The trade group is also challenging the imposition of lower import duties for several large Chinese silicon PV manufacturers, such as Trina Solar, Hanwha SolarOne, Chint Solar, and JA Solar. They should not have qualified for the lower duty rates "because they failed to provide sufficient evidence that they wer not ultimately owned or controlled by the Chinese government," CASM asserts.
US Solar PV Trade Group Seeks To Widen Scope Of China Import Duties was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 05:47 PM PST
You know solar power has really gone mainstream when your local shopping mall offers free solar powered EV charging, but you’ll have to go over to Carmel, Indiana for this particular freebie. That’s where Duke Energy has teamed up with Toshiba and other high profile partners to install a “first-of-its-kind” solar electric vehicle charging station, at the Simon Property Clay Terrace Mall. So, free or no free, what difference does one little EV charging station make?
As it turns out, plenty. After all, when the nation’s most prolific producer of electricity teams up with a global tech leader and the largest real estate company in the world, what you have is no mere demonstration project, it’s the beginning of a revolution.
Public solar powered EV charging stations are beginning to show up here and there, and EV manufacturers like Ford and CODA are promoting charging stations and solar power in private homes, but this particular installation has some unique features that push it to the front of the pack.
Namely, the “Plug-In Ecosystem” includes Toshiba’s advanced energy storage system based on a 75 kilowatt lithium ion battery. That enables excess energy from the 10 kilowatt roof-mounted solar panels to be stored on site, where it’s available for vehicle charging at night and in cloudy weather.
In other words, EV drivers looking for a 100 percent clean energy charge can get it at one of these charging stations, practically any day of the year. In contrast, your typical grid-connected charging station without energy storage could be fired up with coal, gas or nuclear power.
More significantly, the storage system will help buffer the grid from usage spikes and excess load during peak periods that are bound to result from EV charging. A two-port station with a 10-kW array won’t make a ripple but as the number of EVs on the road multiplies, the energy management end of things is going to be increasingly critical to a stable, efficient grid.
Distributed renewable energy is already starting to play a role in grid management, so this project fits right in with Duke Energy’s existing projects for distributed rooftop solar power.
Turning Shopping into a High Tech Experience
Simon Property Group really is the world’s largest real estate company, so you might be wondering why they chose a mall in Indiana to launch what could turn out to be a significant feature in the future energy landscape.
On one level it’s all about offering a top level, up-to-date shopping experience in the hyper-competitive retail market. The reasoning will sound familiar if you’ve ever visited a rundown mall before and after it gets a Simon makeover (disclosure: yes). It makes even more sense when you realize that this isn’t Simon Property’s first foray into EV charging.
As explained by the company’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability, George Caraghiaur:
“The majority of our shopping malls across the state [of Indiana] are now equipped with electric vehicle charging stations, and we're seeking to upgrade this infrastructure just like we work to enhance every aspect of our customers' shopping experience. We're proud to play a role in perfecting this new technology and offering it to our customers."
Okay, So What’s the Big Deal About EV Charging Stations in Indiana?
EVs are a plenty big deal in Indiana, which aside from being home to the legendary Indianapolis 500 has been building cred as the go-to state for testing and demonstrating EV technologies and related systems.
A couple of years ago, energy companies and other stakeholders organized in Indiana to form the Energy Systems Network with the aim of vaulting the state (and points elsewhere) into the advanced energy future. Part of that effort is aimed squarely at promoting EV infrastructure through an initiative called Project Plug-In, of which the Clay Terrace charging station is the latest example.
Also helping things along is Indiana’s growing solar power and wind energy profile, thanks in part to the Recovery Act of 2009.
Note: The Clay Terrace solar charger is free as of this writing, no word on how long the promotion will last.
Image: Solar EV charging at Clay Terrace Mall courtesy of Energy Systems Network
Attention Shoppers: Free Solar Powered EV Charging on Aisle 5 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 09:00 AM PST
Publishing the results of a first-of-a-kind emprical study, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that average annual personal income increased approximately $11,000 and employment by 0.5 jobs per megawatt (MW) of installed wind power capacity at the county level across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions.
First-of-its-kind Empirical Study of Economic Impacts of Wind Energy Development
Whereas prior studies of the long-term economic impacts of wind energy development at state and local levels were based on project case studies and input-output models such as NREL’s Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) model, the DOE-USDA research team gathered and analyzed data from actual wind installations across nearly 130 counties and 12 states between 2000 and 2008, according to an excerpt from the DOE’s Fourth Quarter 2012 Wind Program Newsletter.
"Although the study does not provide a comprehensive economic analysis, it provides an empirical assessment of county-level economic development impacts while avoiding many of the potential weaknesses apparent in other methods," the DOE explains.
Though not strictly comparable to the results of studies based on input-output models such as JEDI, the research team found the results of the DOE-USDA empricial study "are of similar magnitude" with respect estimated impacts on labor and employment.
"Such a finding suggests that input-output models, including the JEDI model, that are commonly used to assess the economic development impacts of wind energy (at least when applied at the county or local level) may not be unduly impacted by the generic methodological limitations highlighted earlier and appear to be reasonably accurate in their estimation of impacts," according to a descriptive summary of the report.
In addition, the USDA-DOE research team also compared their results with seven independent analyses that used input-output models "to examine more than 20 individual scenarios and found that input-output models can be reasonable."
As the DOE-USDA report authors note, "The economic development potential from wind power installations has been a driver of public and policy support for the industry at the local and state levels for many years.”
"The possibility for economic development has been particularly salient in rural areas of the country where new investment, earnings growth, and employment opportunities have, in many cases, otherwise trended downward for some time."
The full report, “The Impact of Wind Development on County-Level Income and Employment: A Review of Methods and an Empirical Analysis,” is available on Science Direct, Energy Economics.
County-Level Employment And Income Gains From Wind Energy Development was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 08:00 AM PST
First Minister Alex Salmond says Scotland will reduce carbon emissions from 347 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour in 2010 to 50 grams by 2030.
Salmond said the next step is to outline specific targets and policies.
According to Business Green, “Scotland has the best emissions reductions in Western Europe, ahead of Germany, Denmark and England and is more than halfway to meeting a 2020 goal of reducing emissions 42 percent against a 1990 baseline.”
Even though the goal of becoming 100 percent reliant on clean energy by 2025 isn’t on the table anymore, Scotland has been doing its part to get renewables going. In 2011, Scotland beat its goal of getting 31 percent of electricity from clean sources by a whopping 4 percent. Also, opening a Renewable Energy Skills Training Academy keeps Scotland in the game with other clean-tech.
Source: Business Green
Scotland Announces Drastic Decarbonization By 2030 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 05:30 AM PST
Another day, another company adding to the list of smart technologies to enhance energy efficiency and smart grid potential for customers.
This time, its Arlington Virginia’s Opower, a leader in providing customer based solutions for utilities. In development for five years, the app will allow customers to use Opower 4, which uses five main components: big data analytics, home energy control, behaviour engagement, energy information services, and retail and marketing services.
“Opower 4 has gained a tremendous amount of traction in 2012 and now reaches more than 15 million customers through a variety of channels,” said Founder and CEO of Opower Dan Yates.
"Opower Mobile enhances the innovative solutions we bring to utilities and can help utilities both reduce their cost-to-serve and improve the customer’s experience, all while bringing the trusted Opower program to the palm of your hand.”
Opower’s new mobile app will allow customers to do a lot of neat things while on the move. One feature that should get people’s attention allows a person to see how much energy they are using in their home, while comparing their energy usage to similar homes.
Other features offered in the app include: on-line bill payment option and reminders of when its due; integration of the thermostat; customizing features for a customer’s specific need; and reporting service interruption on their mobile phone.
Opower recently announced they had saved US residents 2 Terawatt hours, enough to take Sacramento off the grid. Opower have also recently teamed with Honeywell to pair Opower’s energy management systems with Honeywell’s thermostat technology.
“While many utilities have offered mobile applications in the past, they have often been developed for a singular function, such as bill pay,” said Senior Vice President of Marketing & Operations at Opower Rod Morris.
“This new offering is innovative in that it brings the full customer engagement program that utility customers expect to a smartphone,” he said.
Given there are 6 billion cell phone subscribers now in the world, its not surprising the rise of mobile apps. This is especially helping to boost the creative ways of advancing smart grid and energy-efficient technologies across the planet. In recent months other apps have been devoted to solar energy, and EV’s.
Mobile Apps Putting Cleantech into Consumers Hands
Given that costs of technology have gone down in recent years, expect the continuing trend of convergence of information technology and energy in the climate-energy era.
Main Source: Opower
Opower Releases New Energy Mobile Phone App was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 05:30 AM PST
The US Department of Energy is backtracking on President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address aiming for 1 million electric vehicles in American driveways by 2015. The DOE stressed its continued goal of bringing down the cost of lithium-ion batteries from $650 to about $300 via $2.4 billion in federal grants over the next three years.
To reach the 1 million EV milestone, demand needs to nearly double from last year’s numbers of 488,000 electrified vehicles (which includes electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids) sold in the US. The failure to reach 1 million isn’t exactly a shock — it’s been fairly clear since at least April 2012 that the objective was maybe… quixotic.
Lower than expected demand has forced lithium-ion battery makers — and DOE grant recipients — A123 Systems and EnerDel to file for bankruptcy.
The good news is that research money is being funnelled into new battery technologies and ways to reduce the cost of manufacturing lighter weight materials. The Congressional Budget Office reports that policies to champion electric vehicles will cost about $7.5 billion through 2019, which includes the federal grants for lithium-ion batteries.
The DOE is also encouraging employers to install EV charge stations with its Workplace Charging Challenge, striving for 500 companies to participate. Google, Verizon and General Electric Co. have already signed on.
November 2012 numbers show that Toyota remains as the leader in EV sales. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt come in second and third, respectively.
I wonder what Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, would say about his 2009 assertion that there is “absolutely no reason that you won’t have much more than 1 million electric cars in the United States 2015.”
US Department Of Energy Backtracking On 1 Million EVs By 2015 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 04:10 AM PST
The planned route for the controversial new HS2 high-speed rail line was just announced by the UK government. The planned route, which will be the first major railway expansion north of London since Victorian times, is predicted to cut the travel times between many major cities in half.
“The first phase of the project, from London to Birmingham, is planned to open in 2026,” Planetizen writes. ”From 2033, the journey from Manchester to Birmingham should be cut to 41 minutes and from Manchester to London to 1hr 8min. The journey to Leeds will take 57 minutes from Birmingham, less than half the time it takes today,” Gwyn Topham of the Guardian announces.
“However,” said Gwyn, “the government has played down the speed and time savings to stress the need for extra capacity, along with the economic benefits and tens of thousands of jobs that the new infrastructure will bring. Department for Transport officials claim it will create at least 100,000 jobs.”
There is some controversy around the project, though. Major cities, such as Sheffield, have taken issue with where the stations are being planned. And, currently, there is direct link to Heathrow Airport planned. But the real controversy is around the environmental impact that the route may have on the “Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and on many important wildlife habitats.
The government in the UK, however, considers the new route to be a “vital engine for growth” that will benefit all of the UK. It contends that the route will be necessary for continued economic growth.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Additionally, high-speed rail is much cleaner than automobile travel, cutting carbon emissions and other types of pollution.
The HS2 route is set to be finalized by the end of next year.
England’s Controversial New HS2 High-Speed Rail Line — Route Revealed was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:56 AM PST
Grid & Energy Efficiency
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:44 AM PST
The #1 impetus behind our cleantech revolution is climate change. To tag on to our own climate change stories, here are some top climate change stories of the past week or so:
Climate Change News: Climate Change Impacting Health, Safety, & Economy; New Monthly Heat Records Mostly Due To Global Warming;… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:36 AM PST
Love clean transportation? Can never be too informed? I know how you feel. If our own clean transport stories weren’t enough for your reading appetite, you may also want to check out some of the following pieces:
EVs & Hybrids
Clean Transport News: Exterior Airbags On Cars, 1st Rimac Electric Supercar Delivered, Fisker Heads To China For Investors,… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:30 AM PST
Texas is tops among US states when it comes to installed wind power generation capacity, having added 1,826 megawatts (MW) in 2012 to bring its cumulative total to a whopping 12.212 gigawatts (GW), enough to power nearly 3 million average American homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) latest industry report.
Ongoing improvements in wind turbine technology, manufacturing processes, installation and operations and maintenance, along with investments in transmission infrastructure, bode well for the future. The same is true for solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems, and though solar energy hasn’t caught on nearly as fast as wind power, Texas is no slouch there either, ranking seventh nationwide in terms of installed solar power generation capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association’s third quarter 2012 state rankings.
Progress on the clean energy front is happening extraordinarily fast. So much so, in fact, that in its latest biennial Long Term System Assessment report to the Texas legislature, regional grid operator the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) "found that if you use updated wind and solar power characteristics like cost and actual output to reflect real world conditions, rather than previously used 2006 assumed characteristics, wind and solar are more competitive than natural gas over the next 20 years," Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Colin Meehan highlights in a January 28 EDF blog post.
Texas Alternative Energy Paths
Basing the assumptions incorporated into the complex models ERCOT uses to project and forecast conditions on Texas’s electricity grid on actual, historically recent real-world data as opposed to the assumptions used in 2006 made a huge difference in the results reported in ERCOT’s latest Long Term System Assessment.
"What they found was astounding: without these real-world data points, ERCOT found that 20,000 MW of natural gas will be built over the next 20 years, along with a little bit of demand response and nothing else.”
"Once they updated their assumptions to reflect a real-world scenario (which they call ‘BAU with Updated Wind Shapes’) ERCOT found that about 17,000 MWs of wind units, along with 10,000 MW of solar power, will be built in future years," Meehan writes.
ERCOT’s report authors go on to state that "the added renewable generation in this sensitivity results in lower market prices in many hours [of the year]."
"This means that when real-world assumptions are used for our various sources of power, wind and solar are highly competitive with natural gas. In turn, that competition from renewables results in lower power prices and lower water use for Texas," according to Meehan.
The latter point – lower water usage – shouldn’t be lost on Texas legislators responsible for making policy decisions and taking actions to help assure healthy, sustainable living conditions for present and future generation Texans.
Better understanding the interrelationships between water supplies and usage and energy production and use — the water-energy nexus — have become increasingly critical in recent years given changing precipitation patterns, a global rise in mean temperature and two years of historic drought — drought that has recalled memories of the Dust Bowl years that affected Texas and Texans so badly.
Scientists and policy makers worldwide are working to improve our understanding of water and energy resources and their interrelationship. There’s an urgent need to go beyond and improve upon the overly simplistic, generalized models and metrics still most commonly used, as sister site PlanetSave notes.
As Meehan notes, ERCOT’s report lays out two alternative future paths for Texas’ energy system, one dominated by the use of natural gas to produce electricity, and the other based on a diverse mix of energy sources centered on clean, renewable wind and solar-generated power. It’s now incumbent upon Texans’ elected state representatives to fully and openly assess ERCOT’s report and chart the future course for energy production and use across the Lone Star State. In doing so, they can put Texas on the road to a healthier, more sustainable future.
Wind And Solar Competitive With Natural Gas In The Lone Star State was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:16 AM PST
If you’re solar obsessed, beyond our own solar power stories from the past week or so, you may also want to check out some of these pieces:
Other European Countries
Solar News: Solar At 11 Euro Cents In Germany, Solar Benefits Residents, Polish Feed-In Tariff Reviewed… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 02:30 AM PST
Germany, China, and North America led the way in the top 10 photovoltaic (PV) global market places in 2012 based on recent research done by NPD Solarbuzz analysis.
In a recent PV Tech article, Germany again took top prize with 26% of the global PV market share, thanks to slight volume increases on a year-on-year basis. However, the solar giants dipped 2% on their portion of total world demand.
Roaring into the number two spot was China at 16% . The emerging market country showed massive gains, helping to advance its market share on a year-on-year basis by 70%. The extremely fast growth in China helped them leapfrog past Italy, which fell to fourth (11%).
Meanwhile, North American markets — consisting of the United States and Canada — jumped up the ladder by two spots (past Italy) to third spot (12%).
Much of the upward trend seen in North America was its doubling of its year-on-year market share. Just in the third quarter of 2012 alone the United States saw 684 megawatts (MW) of new installed solar capacity, an increase of 44% compared to the third quarter of 2011.
Coming in at number five was Japan (7%); sixth France (4%); seventh Greece (3%); eighth Australia (3%); ninth India (2%) and the United Kingdom was tenth (2%). All other countries represented 14% of the global market share in 2012. Overall in 2012, the top ten markets made up 86% of world PV demand.
However, that did not stop global markets outside the top ten from growing. In fact, countries outside the top ten advanced their market share by 3%, while increasing their volume by more than 40%.
In 2013, expect more shakeups within the top ten.
NPD predicts China will claim number one, and Japan number four, due to a 50% increase in growth within the Japanese market. Brian Barker, Senior Analyst with NPD Solar Buzz said the solar markets, once dominated by Europe, is now getting a run for its money from other competitors:
World demand has also been helped with ongoing declining solar costs, which have helped contribute to consumer demand for solar power. However, NPD suggests there could be some head winds facing global solar markets in 2013, including various trade conflicts and concerns over Chinese capacity levels.
The Future of Global Solar Markets
Will 2013 see continued phenomenal growth of global solar markets, or will they be tempered by trade war concerns? Don’t be surprised to see continued strong growth in world demand. However, trade wars may limit further upside potential for another sunny year for the global PV market this year.
Germany, China, North America Head List Of Top 10 PV Markets was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 01:30 AM PST
This shouldn’t boggle any minds: walking or riding your bike to work is more pleasant than sitting alone in your car. What we’ve suspected — nay, believed — for years at CleanTechnia, has been confirmed in a study by a Ph.D candidate out of Portland State University.
Oliver Smith’s study called “Commute Well-being Among Bicycle, Transit, and Car Users in Portland, Oregon” surveyed 828 people during January and February in 2012. The results ranked cyclists as the respondents happiest with their commutes. In second place were walkers, followed by riders of express buses and light rail, with lone drivers at the bottom of the commute well-being continuum.
Smith concludes that, “Commuting to work by active modes increases commute well-being, even when controlling for distance, income and other factors. Traffic congestion reduces commute well-being for car and bus commuters, but not bike commuters.”
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine when pedaling, though. Safety is — and should be — a major concern, and many cities are taking steps to improve the protection or cyclists. And weather? Take this guy who’s happy as a clam to bike rain or shine. Impressive resolve, huh?
Source: Streets Blog Network
Cyclists & Walkers Enjoy Their Commutes More Than Drivers was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 01:18 AM PST
This article was originally published on Streetsblog Capitol Hill:
Last Friday, CNN's Anderson Cooper ran a segment about high-speed rail as part of his "Keeping Them Honest" series. Reporter Drew Griffin did an "exposé" of a Vermont rail project that spent .00006 percent of the federal stimulus money on needed track improvements and came in on time and under budget. Scandal!
It amounts to a high-profile smear campaign on the high-speed rail program from a mainstream media source trying to expose government corruption and waste where none exists. Cooper makes it clear they're going to stay on the story; they already did a similar takedown of the California rail program.
I've counted ten ways this story was misreported. Let me know in the comments if I've missed any…
1. Higher-speed rail is not a failure. Perhaps the Obama administration could have done a better job making clear that their rail program was split into two halves: one for high-speed rail and one for incremental upgrades to inter-city passenger rail. Not all of the projects were intended to bring speeds up to 110 mph.
"We've never been very public about this but, yes, we've felt for a long time that the administration has done a poor job around messaging," said Dan Schned of the Regional Plan Association. "The bulk of the money went to regional projects, but they still had the secretary going around the country and calling this the 'high-speed program.'"
The crux of the CNN story is that while the Vermont project did everything it set out to do and was a responsible steward of taxpayer money, it's not "the high-speed rail that you or I think of." Well, no. There's a reason for that.
2. It takes more than three years to build high-speed rail. Cooper embarrassed himself when he ominously intoned that three whole years after the passage of the stimulus (actually, it's been four years), "we can't find any high-speed rail that's actually been built." They show images of almond trees and dairy farms in California along the planned route. "Not a single piece of track on that line has been built."
True – they plan to break ground this summer in California. But, as House Republicans constantly complain, highway projects can take up to 15 years to complete. There are lots of reasons for that, which I won't delve into here. But to expect something as massive and complex as high-speed rail to instantly appear like magic the minute the deal is inked is, well, a little naïve. Federal Railroad Administration Chief Joe Szabo calls high-speed rail "a multi-generational effort," noting that it took "10 administrations, 28 sessions of Congress" to complete the interstate highway system.
3. There is high-speed rail. Cooper says they couldn't find any high-speed rail. I guess he wasn't looking in the Midwest, where officials just cut the ribbon on new service between Chicago and Kalamazoo. It's the second fastest line in the country, nearing Acela speeds of 150 mph. Other trains in the Midwest can reach 110 mph in places.
And that fits the U.S. DOT's definition of high-speed rail. In 2009, the agency made clear that they defined high-speed rail as "reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 mph." That's not the Japanese definition or the French definition, but it's what DOT committed to, and it's happening.
And even slower speeds like the Vermonter's will build the travel market, which will then justify greater investment in higher speeds and enhanced reliability. Amtrak is joining California in buying high-speed rolling stock – clearly they're preparing for a faster future.
4. $52 million isn't enough to turn around decades of neglect. The improvements made on the Vermont segment that was singled out by CNN can be helpful as part of a reinvigorated rail network — but that network still has a long way to go. "Instead of complaining about this, they should be demanding more money spent," said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association. "We've let rail fall apart in this country to such a state that there are a lot of basic repairs that are needed as well."
CNN's Griffin criticized the line for its infrequency — there are only one or two trains a day — and it slowness — one passenger Griffin interviewed said it takes nine hours to get to New York, versus five-and-a-half hours driving. That's right, Kunz readily admits: Rail in the U.S. is substandard.
"It's the 21st century, we're a top country in the world — why do we have such crappy rail service?" Kunz said. "It's because we have never invested in rail in this country in 100 years."
5. We're still waiting for the CNN expose about the $4.7 billion highway to nowhere. The interstate system has been the beneficiary of more than $600 billion in public subsidies over and above what it rakes in from fuel taxes and tolls. Spending on highways and aviation dwarf what that nation spends on rail, and people still suffer through the frustration of congestion and delays on those modes. What if we started pouring equal amounts of cash into inter-city rail? America could have a state-of-the-art system in no time.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation spent most of its $241.2 million in stimulus money on roads. The $52 million to make some basic efficiency upgrades to its Amtrak line – which resulted in substantial time savings — doesn't seem like an inordinate amount. And it's a drop in the bucket compared to the real sources of waste in American transportation spending, like Alabama's $4.7 billion zombie highway.
6. The only criterion was an environmental impact statement? Wrong. Griffin interviewed just one "independent" source, and it's railophobe Randal O'Toole of the Cato Institute. O'Toole looks at the camera and tells this bald-faced lie: "The federal government had one criteria when it was passing out high-speed rail funds, and that was, 'Had states done an environmental impact statement, so the projects would be shovel-ready'… It didn't matter whether the project was worthwhile."
That's just "flatly incorrect," said Dan Schned.
Actually, a GAO report two years ago praised the FRA for following recommended project selection practices with its high-speed rail grants. Schned notes that while RPA had recommended a highly quantitative model, the FRA's selection process was more qualitative, but it's still just a load of hooey to say shovel-readiness was the only thing they looked at. After all, the program was oversubscribed by a factor of 10 to 1. The FRA clearly didn't just take everyone with an EIS.
7. Griffin's assertion that the project "only" saved 28 minutes is misleading — in three ways.First, it's just sloppy reporting that CNN fails to put the 28-minute time savings in the context of the total trip. Is that shaved off a two-hour trip or a 20-hour trip? The FRA finally cleared it up for me: Turns out he's talking about a 28 minutes savings on a trip that used to take 4 hours and 45 minutes. That's about a 10 percent time savings – not too shabby.
Second, it's worth noting that taxpayers routinely shell out billions to save commuters mere minutes – seconds, even – on the roadways. So 28 minutes is actually a rather substantial amount of time to save for just $52 million.
Third, stimulus-funded rail projects along the Vermonter line will, when completed, result in a time savings of nearly 70 minutes between New Haven, Connecticut, and St. Albans, Vermont, according to the FRA. That's currently an eight-hour train trip.
Here's the breakdown: In Connecticut, improved track and signaling will bring speeds up to 79 mph, saving 10 minutes and, more significantly, increasing capacity. In Massachusetts, they'll improve track and create a more direct route between East Northfield and Springfield, eliminating the need to change direction, for a savings of 28 to 30 minutes. And in Vermont, they improved 190 miles of track and upgraded the signal system on 16 miles south of White River Junction, to save another 28 to 30 minutes in travel time.
There's the missing context for those 28 minutes.
8. Of course extending the line to Montréal would boost ridership. Griffin comes across as a know-nothing when he derides the idea that reconnecting Montréal to the Vermonter line will "somehow or another" increase travel along the line.
"It is absurd to imply that extending the train north to a major destination like Montréal would not produce a big ridership increase," said Ross Capon, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, in a statement. Szabo agrees: "Connecting in a major urban area like Montréal is significant and will exponentially grow ridership."
The Vermont Department of Transportation projects the extension would generate between 78,000 and 120,000 additional riders annually on the line – roughly doubling the existing ridership.
A Canadian diplomat once blogged about his 11-hour journey between New York City and Montréal – a journey that an Amtrak agent told him could have easily been two hours shorter with "pre-border clearance, upgrading speed, eliminating a stop at Yonkers, a dedicated track on Canadian Pacific line north of Rouses Point and no engine change at Albany." Basic improvements like this – which still don't bring the trains up to "the high-speed rail you or I think about" — could easily make the scenic trip fast enough to compete with car travel.
9. Ridership is growing. Griffin acknowledges that ridership in Vermont is up. Amtrak ridership all over the country is up, in fact – by 49 percent over 2000. More people are choosing rail – and that's with a decrepit, slow, unreliable system. Imagine how people would flock to trains if they were fast, elegant, and on time.
10. Vermont is a reasonable place to improve rail. Cooper and Griffin made it sound like Vermont – "a state with no big cities and little congestion" — is a bad place for rail to even exist. Indeed, it's a strange place to highlight when you're doing a news segment about high-speed rail, when the bigger story is what's going on in California, the Northeast Corridor, the Midwest, and Texas.
But Vermont is a perfectly natural place for rail, and the stimulus-funded improvements didn't just save travelers time, they enhanced reliability and safety, too. Additionally, short line railroads will be able to haul heavier loads, taking more trucks off the highways and reducing congestion.
"It is likely, at least in the medium term, what I would classify as feeder service," Szabo told me. "And that doesn't mean it's unimportant; in fact it's a very important part of a network. But it's about feeding those smaller communities in New England to the Northeast Corridor spine. It's the level of connectivity that builds up synergy."
It's not just Vermont – rail is growing throughout New England. In November, Amtrak extended service north of Portland, Maine, to Freeport and Brunswick, opening to great fanfare in those communities. The service has exceeded projected ridership and sparked new development near the stations.
Fact-Checking Anderson Cooper’s Horrid High-Speed Rail Segment — Keeping CNN Honest was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
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