Cars News and Reviews The Car of the Future Comes to Singapore- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

Singapore seems to be a city-state of transportation legends: its trains are state of the art and run on time. More than that: they are free for early-bird commuters - in fact, better than free: if you come in before 7.45am your zero fare comes with a breakfast voucher.

This all makes sense if you consider Singapore's equally legendary commercial spirit: because nothing wastes time and money as traffic congestion. This is why Singapore has a strict cap on the number of personal cars.

But still they have congestion. So now they are considering the idea of inviting a new kind of legend onto their streets: the driverless car.

I've said it before: in my ideal future, there will still be cars on the road. Fewer than now. I may have the use of any of them, but none of them are mine: I will be done with car ownership.

Quite possibly I - and myriad commuters - will also be done with traffic congestion, because if every car were driverless that takes away the need for traffic lights and other traffic control devices that avoid accidents but do slow traffic down.

Singapore has already done a successful on-campus demonstration a driverless Mitsubishi i-MIEV electric car, developed in a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and MIT.

Driverless Car Demo, NUS-MIT

In 2015 Singapore will test driverless cars in real-life traffic. The pilot will be much like an Uber service, only there are no drivers involved. This was announced by Lam Wee Shann, director of the futures division for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport. The "futures division"!

Why wait for the future if you can shape it?



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Cars News and Reviews Bicycle Lanes in Cambridge- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

It's been quite some time since the fare was a quarter. But wandering the old haunts in Cambridge MA over Thanksgiving, I was pleased to find that the Number 1 bus still plies its route over Massachusetts Avenue, between Dudley Station and Harvard Square. The buses have been updated, and the fare column is now equiped with an RFID reader for the CharlieCard that gets you access to Boston's public transport network.

But what is new on Mass Ave is the bike lane that goes both sides along its length. It's still only a lane, marked off with mere paint. But it's there.

You can look at a bird's eye view - OK, it's a google satellite image, so it's marked with the various features, like the bus stop, and the greyed mark designating the road - but you can see what happened: Where there used to be two car lanes each way, going in front of 77 Mass Ave, there are now still two lanes headed toward Harvard Square, but only a single lane headed toward Boston. The space that used to be occupied by the fourth lane has been divvied up between the two bicycle lanes.

I can't help wondering how much doing it took to put in that change. Certainly bike lanes are now all over Cambridge. And even though they are still only lanes, it's still a welcome change for the better.

And while the bike lanes are still between the traffic and the parked cars, who knows, maybe this town will some day see proper bike paths where they belong, between the parked cars and the sidewalk.



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Cars News and Reviews The Diesel to Electric Transition- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Sunday

Diesel engines pack a roaring fuel efficiency. Modern diesel engines, with a turbocharger at the front end and scrubbers at the tail end, pack much higher efficiency than gasoline engines, and are much cleaner than diesel-powered trucks of the past. But are they clean enough?

While modern diesel engines, both for personal and commercial vehicles, no longer spew out a cloud of black smoke wherever they go, they are not entirely "clean". The biggest problem is the small particles in their exhaust, that cause health issues in the lungs. The small particle (or PM2.5) pollution is much reduced with the use of "clean" diesel with very low sulfur content.

But where the sulfur content is high (China, India, Brazil outside the big cities) the use of diesel can still lead to severe smog and extreme particulate pollution. And even where the diesel fuel contains ultra-low concentrations of sulfur (US, Europe), very high densities of diesel vehicles can still cause problems.

In its drive to reduce carbon emissions, European countries have long opted to encourage the use of diesel engines, boosting the already high efficiency inherent in the engines themselves, with significant reductions in the fuel tax. In a way, it is a policy that works towards climate justice by taking on the immediate health risk of diesel fuel use by the home population, while the reduced carbon emissions benefit the planet as a whole (the European fuel efficiency standard is well ahead of the American one).

But supporting diesel has health implications. Because diesel engines last forever, older cars that don't have the scrubbers and particulate filters are still on the road and still cause high levels of small-particle pollution even with the cleaner diesel. Beside the particulate matter, nitrogen oxides (NOx) can be a problem. Despite good public transport options, the rise of the private car has been relentless; add that to the very high density urban environments found throughout Europe, and you have a real urban health problem.

(To put this in perspective: the current situation in European cities is still far better than how it was in the 70s and 80s when European cities frankly stank of exhaust fumes out of all those cars merrily doing their combusting without any filters or scrubbers. Ugh).

Many large European cities have declared themselves Low Emission Zones (LEZs) where older diesel vehicles are banned, and most personal cars as well. While this is of course the real long-term solution (most of these LEZs have excellent public transport), several European countries are now moving away from favouring diesel fuel as well.

France, where after three decades of pro-diesel policy nearly 80% of all cars run on diesel, is now doing an about-face, with the prime minister, Manuel Valls, making the stunning pronouncement that France's support of diesel fuel has been a "mistake". Starting January 2015, France will phase out the subsidies on diesel taxes, which currently makes diesel 20% less expensive than unleaded gasoline. (In comparison, American gas stations charge about 15% more for diesel than for regular unleaded)

I hope they put some of that extra revenue into public transport improvements. At any rate, there are plans for enlarging LEZ areas, and giving perks live free centre-city parking to very low emissions vehicles such as EVs.The steep hike in diesel prices will be softened by a bonus of up to € 10,000 if you trade in your diesel car for an electric one.

It is likely that the UK will soon go the same way on diesel cars: a European court has ordered it to clean up the air in its cities, where NOx from not-so-clean diesel has reached unacceptably high levels. I would think it is quicker and cheaper to clean up the supply of diesel to it has the same ultra-low sulfur content as the rest of Europe.

A few decades ago, it made sense for European governments to favour the new generation of diesel cars that deliver the much-reduced carbon emissions. But now that European carmakers are in good position to start selling electric cars, it is time for this transition. Although I repeat, in the long run they should encourage the transition away from the personal car altogether.

Carmakers will probably start selling more diesel models in the US now that the European market is shrinking. It wouldn't be the first time that they put their latest technology into the more demanding European market, introducing it to the US with a few years' time lag.

And that's actually okay. The US is a much better place for diesel cars for several reasons: Most Americans still live in suburbs and small towns where the pollution from diesel cars is not a critical issue; in rural areas the particulate pollution overwhelmingly comes from dust from unpaved roads. Even in the cities, except for a very few, urban densities are much lower than in European cities. And Americans drive more, so the higher purchase price for a diesel car is offset by the lower cost to run it, as well as the longer lifetime. Adding more diesel cars to the nation's fleet would help significantly lower carbon emissions from transportation.

Living in a small town in the US, I am going to keep driving my diesel car without worrying about its particulate emissions. I wouldn't encourage CelloPlayer to stand in its exhaust, but I wouldn't do that with any car. Its 45 mpg highway mileage still beats most cars. Meanwhile, I'm doing my bit to get proper bike paths and other infrastructure that allows the real transition we need. And I'm waiting for the EV that makes my heart beat.



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Cars News and Reviews Making Carbon Dioxide Visible- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

"If only you could see carbon dioxide," is the sigh often heard from climate activists. If carbon dioxide were not an odourless invisible gas, we would have started to curtail its emissions long ago. It is unfortunate that something so dangerous goes undetected by our human senses.

But what if you could see carbon dioxide? What if it had a colour, say pink, and you can watch pink clouds billowing out of factory stacks, chimneys and tail pipes? Gregg Kleiner has imagined just such a world in his children's book "Please don't paint our planet pink", that visualises the problem and - pardon the pun - paints a solution. (Book review by ClimateMama here).

Laurel Thompson's illustrations for this book may seem whimsical, but they are in fact close to reality. Compare them to footage from the makers of the movie "Racing Extinction" (out in 2015), who have enabled their cameras to "see" carbon dioxide by putting the right filter in front of the lens. Here is a taste of what that looks like:

(2 mins) via Upworthy

In this video footage, the carbon dioxide appears as white clouds coming out of smoke stacks and tail pipes, and breathed out by people. As the producers say, it's scary to see how it's everywhere, since everything we do involves burning fossil fuels.

And, zooming out from the breath of a single human, an ultra-high resolution computer model from NASA shows the carbon dioxide produced on the surface of the earth and subsequently dispersed throughout the atmosphere by the various air streams of the global weather patterns.

It compresses one calendar year into a mesmerizing 3-minute watch: you can see the plants come into leaf, then re-releasing their carbon throughout the seasons. Very high concentrations of CO2 are visible as enormous red plumes covering industrial areas in the United States, Europe and South China.

NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth's CO2

But unfortunately, in too many places on earth you don't need a lively imagination, special filters or satellite data crunched by supercomputers to see the carbon dioxide. In regions where coal and high-sulfur diesel are the main sources of energy, all you have to do is look at the nearest smoke stack of the tail pipe of a passing truck: Their carbon dioxide emission is marked by the small particles that are also in the exhaust stream.

Please save the PLANET

Photo by Vijay Chennupati

While factory stacks can be taken as signs of progress in developing countries, their particulate pollution also brings smog, lung health issues, and shortened life spans. It is no wonder that pressure is mounting in China to move their economy to cleaner sources of energy. And it is quite possible that India will follow that same path, for the same reason: you can cut down on carbon pollution and significantly improve public health at the same time.

And that would be a real gain, not a whimsical children's tale.



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Cars News and Reviews Turkey Dealer- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross

I'm on the road and see a VW dealer. There's snow in the forecast. I'm feeling generous toward my conveyance, so I decide to replace a wiper that has a loose patch of blade with a genuine VW part, from the VW dealer. So I pull into the dealership.

Photo by Ilya Plekhanov

I ask the way to the parts window - this is not the dealership near by me where I usually get my dealer business done - and wait a while. They have to page the clerk twice before he appears. I apologise for cutting into his lunch (it's 1.30pm) and he's gracious about it.

"What can I do for you, ma'am?"

"I just need a replacement wiper blade for my Golf."

"OK. Can I have your name and phone number?"

I blink.

Look, I know the lay of the land: people don't ask me for my phone number because I'm stunningly good looking. So why should the parts guy ask for my phone number?

"I'm sorry, I don't like to give that out. I'm paying cash. Can we do this without the phone number?"

"Sure. Do you get your car serviced here?"

"No." This is not my dealership: I'm just passing through. But I don't say that. Now they've woken up by stubborn streak.

"Um, OK. Can I have your VIN number?"

I nearly break out laughing. Unsuccessful at asking for my phone number, now he's asking for the vehicle identification number of my car? This is like the cashier at the grocery store asking for my social security number as I'm trying to pay for a jar of peanut butter. In my younger days I would have given the poor guy an earful. Now I'm much mellowed, and I just say,

"Oh come. You can sell me a common part without going through all that. I'm just looking for the left wiper for a 2012 Golf. You can do this."

"It's Volkswagen. They make us enter your data for every sale."

OK. What this guy doesn't know, and I'm not about to tell him: I'm a second generation Volkswagen owner. I've been in many VW dealerships, and I've stood at the window of many a parts department asking for anything from an air filter to the 24mm bolt that holds together the two halves of an engine (don't ask: that was a project of my dad's). But I have never been asked for my phone number or the VIN of my car, until now.

I shrug, and wait for this nice clerk to wrangle the system into selling me a wiper blade without me divulging my private information. I've even got him to sell me only the left wiper instead of the pair which he also claims Volkswagen makes them bundle. It comes to about $32.

("You were going to pay thirty-two dollars for one wiper blade?" CelloDad exclaimed when I told him the story. He knows me so well).

Then the parts guy surprises me by going around the desk that has so far separated us.

"We need to see the cashier", he says.

We go around to the swankier parts of the dealerships where the offices are and such. He puts my wiper blade on the counter, and I thank him. The cashier turns to me:

"Could you please sign the invoice?"

Whoa. What?

"Why do I have to sign the invoice?"

"Oh it's Volkswagen. They makes us do the paperwork."

I lean forward, lower my voice and I say, "Okay, this is just crazy, right? You guys ask me for my phone number, for my VIN, and now you want my signature. You know what? If I go to an auto parts store, I can get a wiper blade off the shelf and pay cash and nobody would ask me for my phone number or my VIN."

"Oh if you went to an auto parts store you'd have to give the VIN too. Otherwise how would they know what blade to give you? That's why we ask for it: to make sure you get the right one."

Wow. So now the carmaker hires such bad personnel they can't be trusted to get the right part from knowing the year and model of their cars? And this lady knows better than me what happens when you buy a part at an auto parts store? Like I've done a thousand times before?

She's fumbling around with envelopes and such. I can't see a proper cash register: so far it's been my part and that invoice.

"I'm sorry ma'am; I don't seem to have the change."

Who knew it was going to be this difficult? This was going to be a quick stop for a common part.

I push the wiper blade and its invoice in her direction. Still keeping my voice quite low, but speaking rather slowly, I say,

"Guess what: it's okay. I don't really need this wiper right now. You don't have the change, that's fine. Here. You bring this back to that nice man who helped me, and please tell Volkswagen that this customer is not going to buy a wiper this way."

And I walk out.

When I got home, I called my own dealer. My buddy at the parts department quoted $35 for two wiper blades, and yes, they are in stock, come in any time before 6pm. I had to ask:

"If I come in, are you going to ask me for my phone number?"

There was a nonplussed silence. My poor buddy was probably trying to figure out where I was going with this.

"Um, no: this is a regular part, you pick it up here, pay for it and that's it."

"That's why I LOVE you guys! You don't give me the runaround." I get effusive in my praise, and I tell him the story. He tells me that some dealers do that so they can put you on their mailing list and send you "offers".

Aha. Like I said, nobody asks me for my phone number on account of my outstanding beauty. So okay, I also played a game with that other dealer by not telling them that I'm just passing through (and so their offers are not interesting to me). But what a rigmarole for, in the end, no sale.

CelloMom's 2014 Turkey Award goes to all car dealerships that play stupid games with their customers. Wake up: this is the internet age. Ever heard of Yelp? Yeah, that Yelp. So don't play games, and don't lie to your customers. You can't get away with that kind of stuff, without everybody hearing about it.



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Cars News and Reviews Science on a T-shirt- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

Twitter can be extremely useful for many reasons. It can be a waste of time. It can be a fun waste of time!

My favourite hashtag this week is #scishirt. People post selfies of their science-themed T shirts. Some have institution's logos, often re-worked to get some effect. Some are funny. Some make you think, Oh God that's way over my head. But it's great to see how scientists are into their science.

Here's one for justifying slacking in the lab:


And #SciShirt is not just for in the lab:


Here is a cool astronomer #SciShirt:


This is one of my favourite finds this week! Rather than "back-of-the-envelope", this derivation is "front-of-the T-shirt"!


Which is even better than this one:


And I will add my own, a long-time favourite. The Maxwell equations describe the electromagnetic waves which make up light. Geeky? - you bet! You can tell it's me, because I'm about to saw - I mean practice - on my cello. This is actually the second version of this T-shirt for me: I bought the first one several decades ago. That one was bright yellow with blue letters. I wore it until it had so many holes it wasn't really decent any more. But last spring I found this one!

Go on: check out #SciShirt. You won't be sorry.



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Cars News and Reviews Tesla Taxis- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

What do you think of when you hear the word "Taxi"?

The answer depends on where you live. New Yorkers think Ford Crown Victoria painted in that iconic yellow. (So iconic, no privately owned car comes in that colour. Which is a pity, because it would make for a badly needed break from the reds, black&whites and blues on American streets).

Photo by David R. Tribble

London has its own iconic taxi, the FX4 with the cavernous passenger compartment that has plenty of space for luggage, baby stroller or cello. London's hackney cabs have recently abandoned the traditional black garb, and now come arrayed in a bewildering plethora of advertising graphics. Some can be amusing, but personally I find them a blight on the streetscape.

Photo by Darren Hall

Mumbai's cabs (mostly Fiats) are a bit of everything: yellow on top, black on bottom, and adorned with advertising.

Photo by Bernard Gagnon

Taxis in Berlin tend to be either Volkswagen or Mercedes, tinted a pleasing beige. Dutch taxis are black Mercedes, sometimes with a discreet Taxi sign on top, all provided with the special blue licence plates. No advertising.

Germany and Holland are egalitarian places where public transport is excellent and used by just about everybody. Taxis are for business people and tourists. Not surprisingly, the largest number of Dutch taxis are deployed in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam corridor, which includes Schiphol airport.

From a well-appointed Mercedes it's really only a small step to another luxury car: the electric Tesla. So there is now a fleet of Model S Teslas servicing the airport. In a specious bit of greenwashing, Schiphol claims the Teslas help it be a greener airport - conveniently sweeping the megatonnes of carbon from its flights under the green rug.


Undoubtedly the three taxi companies running the Teslas enjoy hefty tax benefits from the electric cars, since Dutch vehicle taxes are kind to low-emission vehicles while being downright punishing on gas guzzlers. Inside, these taxis are equiped with 4G wireless service, so that the executive never needs to shed his electronic shackles.

The Dutch Tesla taxis made the news because there is a fleet of them. Meanwhile in Norway, where electric cars are extremely popular (and get their electricity from hydropower), Teslas have been used as taxis as well. Here is a Model S convertible seen at Gardermoen, Oslo's airport.

Photo by siggywinter

I'm not sure how useful a two-seater is as an airport taxi. You could pick up only a single passenger with not too much luggage. But I would become a Norwegian taxi driver just to drive this thing.



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Cars News and Reviews Average Work Commute Takes Six Weeks a Year- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Sunday

When I was growing up, we lived on the south side of Delft, a Dutch city of 100,000; my mom went to work on the north side, a 30-minute bike ride away, or 10 minutes by car if the weather was very bad. Her friends and acquaintances were always amazed: "You work all the way on the other side of town?"

But that was back when school children and working people still came home for lunch. If you lived 30 minutes from work, it would be hard to come home, have a decent lunch, and come back in the time normally allotted for lunch, about 90 minutes.

In places where workers don't come home for lunch, it turns out about half an hour is the average commuting time. This is true across the board in developed countries (including today's Netherlands).

Average commute times by zip code

This map shows the commute time in the US by zip code (a click on the map links to the interactive version). The countrywide average commute is - drumroll - 25 minutes. Metropolitan areas, where traffic congestion is a major issue, typically have longer averages, but only for those commuting into the city from its surburbs or ex-urban sphere.

You can see this very clearly on the commuting map: places like St. Louis or Kansas City have a core with commuting times in the 10-15 minute range, surrounded by rings of neighbourhoods with progressively longer commutes, an occasional one topping 60 minutes.

The job at the end of an hourlong commute had better be worth it! It turns out about 30 minutes is at the long end of how long people are willing to go for their daily tasks, be it commuting to a cubicle, fetching water, or doing construction work. And it holds whether the commute happens on foot or by bike, car or transit.

This is why many large cities spawn sub- or ex-urban satellites with employment opportunities that make it possible for people to live closer to where they work, while still being reasonably close to the city centre. An example is the Route 128 corridor around Boston.

Still, if you do the average commute, that's one hour that you spend getting to and from work each working day. Added over a year, that's the equivalent of 6.5 working weeks.

Think of what you could do with an extra six weeks every year!

If you take the train to work, or are a passenger on a rideshare, you can at least read, deal with your email stream, or play games on your commute. If you drive the commute you can't do those things. (Note: I didn't say you shouldn't. I said you can't. Because you can't afford to take your eyes off the road. You really can't).

No wonder telecommuting is on the rise. The internet has been a great enabling technology in this trend. The numbers vary wildly (depending on how you ask the question) but surveys indicate that more and more people telecommute at least part of the time. About three million American professionals work from home full time.

The advantages are legion: you tend to be much more productive outside the office with its many distractions; you live without the commute stress; you can easily do short errands, like picking up your children from school; you save big on car insurance / transit tickets. And you can get up later and still get to work on time, and you can work in your pyjamas.

Sure, there's nothing like an actual meeting where everybody is in the same room. But you'd hope that such meetings don't happen every day (or how would you get anything done?) And some jobs require that you be physically on the job. But there are plenty of jobs that don't require that. So if you can do them from home, you'd improve your own life, and you'd free up road and transit space and make the commute easier for those who have to show up for work.



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Cars News and Reviews The Price of a Prius- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

Cars are cheap in the US. I've said this before (and I will probably say it many more times). That's because, in the US, the price of a car is just that: the price of the car. The sales tax gets added on, but that varies from 7.5% (California) to nil (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon).

I've compiled the list price of a basic Toyota Prius in selected countries. I've chosen the Prius because it is sold everywhere, with the same hybrid drive and engine size, and in much the same version - although it's always amusing to see the variations in the websites. Here's a screen shot from Toyota's Chinese website:

Yeah, I know: I don't read those kanji characters either. But there is a trick that makes it possible for English speakers to navigate websites that don't even use alphabets: my tips here.

The current US price for the Prius, $ 24,200 for the basic model, is very similar to that in Canada and Mexico. In stark contrast, in Brazil the Prius is more than twice as expensive as in the US. And in Argentina, which saw a substantial hike in the tax on luxury goods, the price is an eye-popping six-figure number when expressed in US dollars.

The only other place that comes close to that would be Singapore: not because the list price of the car is so very high, but because you need to buy a Certificate of Entitlement, or the right to own a car for ten years. Currently those are auctioned for about $58,000.

In European countries, the Prius' hybrid engine tends to get it a break from the vehicle taxes dictated largely by a car's carbon dioxide emissions. Except in Denmark, where the hybrid exception doesn't apply. In most places sales are still subject to a hefty VAT (currenty 21% in the Netherlands, 20% in the UK).

Toyota Prius

MSRP "From"in US $
US$ 24,200$ 24,200
ArgentinaUS$ 108,900 $ 108,900
BrazilR$ 120,830 $ 49,100
Germany€ 26,850 $ 36,800
Netherlands€ 26,550 $ 36,400
DenmarkKr 428,990$ 73,400
UK£ 21,995$ 37,000
Japan¥ 2,232,000$ 20,600
South Korea? 3,140 00 00 $30,000
China¥ 229,800 $ 37,500
India Rs. 36,63,479 $ 59,900
IndonesiaRp. 635,900,000$ 52,300
AustraliaA$ 37,753$ 33,400

Japan is the one country where the Toyota Prius has a smaller price tag than the US. A few years ago, in 2011, the Japanese price tag was higher when expressed in US dollars: since then the dollar has strengthened considerably compared to the yen. Incidentally, Japan has the highest proportion of hybrid cars in the world: one third of passenger cars in Japan are hybrids.

In more developed Asian countries like South Korea and China, the Prius sells for $30,000 or more. Developing countries like India and Indonesia tend to put large import duties on foreign cars: this tips the price of a Prius over the $50,000 mark.

I repeat: cars are cheap in the US.



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Cars News and Reviews Solar Energy From a Road Surface is Now a Reality- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

Roads are great for allowing us to get from here to there in a quick and safe way. But while they're waiting to serve the next vehicle, they're just lying around idle, making the world warmer with their dark surfaces.

But it doesn't have to be that way. A city in the Netherlands just installed the first bit of road capable of generating electricity: this bike path - of course it's a bike path! - has solar panels embedded in the surface, beneath a protective glass layer.

The photo above shows a section of the bike path being installed. Only half of it has the solar cells embedded in the surface; I'm guessing the other half is there for comparison: since this is the first of its kind, the people who built it will want to observe how it does under real-life circumstances.

The top glass layer is roughened to give enough friction to ride on, so the surface doesn't look much different from ordinary concrete surfaces like that of the footpath tiles;

The SolaRoad project is a collaboration of the Dutch innovation incubator TNO, the technology company Imtech, the infrastructure construction company Ooms, and the government of the province of North Holland.

For all the powerhouse participants, the first stretch of solar-energy generating bike path is only 70 meters long - you could coast over the whole thing without pushing your pedals at all. But the hope is that this will be the initial part of a whole network of energy generating roads that can power at least the street lighting and road signs, and eventually also the homes in the neighbourhood.

It's certainly true that there is a whole lot more surface on roads than on rooftops. And where space is at a premium, such as the densely populated Netherlands, it makes sense to put all the available surface to work.

SolaRoad, the road that generates electricity from sunlight. from Mattheus Bleijenberg on Vimeo (In Dutch, with English subtitles).

In the US, Solar Roadways has proposed a similar idea, their Indiegogo campaign (the one with the snazzy "Solar FREAKIN' Roadways" video) raised over $2 million, or twice as much as they had aimed for. Apparently it's an idea whose time has come.



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Cars News and Reviews Limits on car sales in Singapore: a model for capping carbon emissions?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

Singaporean authorities would rather that you not buy a car at all. After all, the tiny city state has excellent state-of-the-art public transport, and not a lot of space for roads and parking. But its wealthy population loves cars; even steeply increasing road taxes didn't keep the automotive overpopulation from becoming an acute problem. By the 1980s Singapore's road congestion had become unbearable.

Enter the Certificate of Entitlement.

The COE scheme is birth control for cars - to be precise, import control: Every year somebody counts the number of cars that have been retired from Singapore's automotive fleet, either by being scrapped or by being sold abroad. Also, the desired number of cars is determined for the next year. Those two things set the number of new cars that can be sold for that year, embodied by Certificates of Entitlement.

A Certificate of Entitlement is the right to own a car in Singapore for ten years. The COEs go on an auction, so the price is determined by how badly people want to own a car. This month, a COE in the "small car" category (engines up to 1.6L and 130HP) went for S$ 63,880. COEs for "medium" cars were S$72,180; that's down from over S$90,000 in January 2013. A Singapore dollar is about US$0.80.

Let me rub this in: S$72,180, or about US $58,000, does not buy you the car: it merely buys you the right to go haggle with your dealer about the price of the medium-sized, small-engined car you wish to own.

Also let me emphasize, before your social justice hackles go up: In Singapore you don't need a car to get to your job, go grocery shopping, take your children to the cinema or swimming pool, or otherwise have a good life. So a car is a luxury item.

It should be said, this is not the only way to achieve vehicular population control. For instance, before buying a car in Tokyo, you must prove that you have a parking spot ready to house it. But the COE scheme fits very well with Singapore's competitive capitalist instincts. Besides, it works.

Right. If all you wanted out of this article is to get scandalised over the price of car ownership in Singapore, you can stop right here.

But I think the really interesting part is how Singapore's COE scheme can be applied to fighting climate change. Let me explain.

When people call for a "price on carbon", it usually means that they want to levy a fee for burning fossil fuels, which causes carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. The idea is to start off the fee pretty low, around $15 per tonne of CO2 emitted, and to increase it every year until fossil fuels become relatively expensive and businesses and households start to shift to renewables for their energy needs.

There are a few such schemes already in place, from British Columbia's revenue-neutral carbon tax, which is said to have modest success, to the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS has helped reduce emissions, but could have achieved a larger cut.

So while carbon cap & trade schemes are working, they are not working fast enough. And here's why: Because the carbon fees are levied on businesses' carbon emissions, these schemes are a bit like trying to conserve water by putting a tax on people's wastewater stream. You can imagine the loopholes: There's leakage (both literal and figurative in the case of water); people might decide to use their bathwater for garden irrigation; people could take all their laundry to their cousin in the next state where they don't tax the wastewater; and so on.

Photo by Rachel Pasch

So it's asking for trouble to put a fee on carbon emissions: The huge number and variety of smokestacks and tailpipes instantly turns it into an intractable problem, an accounting nightmare, even before trading, offsets, credits and futures are introduced. In contrast, placing a levy at the source turns an intractable problem into one that is merely very difficult: this is because a rather small number of companies are in the business of fossil fuel production, and the production happens at a manageable number of sites.

This is a confusing point, so let me try to clarify the difference between putting a fee on emissions, and putting one at the source: Most schemes focus on carbon emissions, and seek payment from the businesses that burn fossil fuels, causing the emissions. That includes electricity generating utilities, airlines, construction companies, clothing manufacturers, farmers, and so on, all the way to the pizza place on the corner.

On the other hand, putting a levy at the source means that a carbon fee is paid by the companies that produce the fossil fuels, by drilling, digging or fracking. Those include Exxon, Shell, Peabody Coal, and producers controlled by the Koch brothers.

Let's think about carbon in term of flows: the carbon flow starts when fossil fuels are extracted from the ground. It then gets distributed to businesses who either burn it to generate electricity or make stuff, or pass it on to consumers who burn it to heat their homes or to make their cars move. So there are a myriad points where the carbon flow enters the atmosphere. In contrast, there are only a small number of points where the carbon comes out of the ground: where the flow begins.

"L-system Tree" by Nevit Dilmen

So Citizens Climate Lobby's proposal to levy a carbon fee at the point of extraction makes sense to me.

But one could argue that even that is not enough.

Here's the thing: we know how much fossil fuel is in the ground, and we know that in order to prevent catastrophic warming, most of those fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Because once it's been drilled, dug or fracked, it will get burned.

Let's go back to the example of Singapore, which aimed to reduce severe traffic congestion. The government tried putting an increasingly steep road tax on cars. That didn't help much: Singaporeans (whose per-capita GDP is among the top five globally) could afford the tax, and the number of cars continued to rise inexorably.

What it took to stabilise the car population was a hard limit on the number of new cars: a real cap, placed at the point of import.

Similarly, what it takes to stabilise and then reduce global carbon emissions is the introduction of a well-defined and global cap on the extraction of fossil fuels. We know what is required to stay below 2C warming: an emissions reduction of 6 percent annually. The most effective way to get the required reductions is to cap the extraction of fossil fuels at those steadily decreasing levels.

Furthermore, I propose that the limited number of permits to drill / dig / frack are not sold at a set price but auctioned to the fossil fuel companies. (Let it not be said that I never say anything in favour of healthy competition on the free market). This "Cap & Auction" scheme is entirely separate from whatever agreements are currently in place between fossil fuel companies and the countries where they produce the fuels.

One permit is the licence to extract enough fossil fuels to result in the total ("lifecycle") emissions of one tonne of CO2; this accounts for the differences in carbon emission potential between, say, natural gas and tar sands bitumen.

A permit is to be used in the year it is issued, by the company who won the bid for that permit. Such a "use it or lose it" rule precludes trading, and the invention of futures, options and other derivatives on permits. Keeping things simple tends to keep prices from going up and down in wild gyrations.

Worldwide emissions is currently about 50 gigatonnes of carbon per year. If the Cap & Auction proceeds are $10 per tonne, the total yield is $ 500bn every year.

Of that, let the first $100bn be earmarked for climate support as requested by developing countries. (In fact, one can impose a minimum price, to guarantee a yield of at least $100bn). Perhaps that can also be earmarked as reparations, owed by developed countries for past emissions, since a large fraction of these costs are passed on to consumers in rich countries. That way the rich countries need not actively scrape together those funds (shamefully, they're not even coming close on that, anyway).

For the bulk of the Cap & Auction proceeds, the global equivalent of CCL's idea of a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend can be achieved by disbursing an portion to each country according to its population divided by its per-capita GDP (you can tweak that by also dividing by the country's carbon intensity). This disbursement scheme favours developing countries, which have the most pressing need for funds for climate mitigation and adaptation, while allowing for their development over the years.

You can't tell any country what to do with their part of the auction proceeds. And that is how it should be. After all, climate change will affect each region in a different way, so solutions for mitigation and adaptation will need to be optimised for local needs, and aligned to local culture and tradition.

One can imagine that some countries put those funds to work shoring up their coastal defenses or greening their transportation networks. Some countries might invest in sustainable irrigation works, renewable energy generation, or desalination plants. Some countries might decide to cut a "dividend" check for each citizen, and some might put the money in a disaster relief fund, to be used when climate disaster strikes. Which will happen to everyone sooner or later.

I know what this sounds like: it is the talk of a geek who has no clue of how international agreements are reached in places like the UN.

I'm not saying that the Carbon Tax, Cap & Trade, and other schemes to reduce emissions aren't working. I recognise and respect the results of lots of hard work by lots of people who do know how to negotiate. I'm saying that maybe they aren't working fast enough. If we are serious about emissions reduction fast enough that we can stay below 2C of global warming, maybe it's time to consider some alternative methods to put limits on our carbon emissions. A global Cap & Auction scheme is one.

(Updated 15OCT14 to clarify difference between imposing carbon fee at source and at emission point).



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Cars News and Reviews My Dutch Canondale- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

I was getting too old for my bike.

Not that I'm getting too old for biking. Let me explain.

My trusty bike is a Canondale that has been with me for twentyfive years now, and on which I spent happy days with my friends, tearing up the trails in the woods.

The bike easily accommodated my children when they came: first in a baby seat that I hung from the handlebars, then in a child seat on the back. I have two Dutch bikebags that I hang from the luggage rack, for errands to the library, the grocery store, etc.. The only thing you have to be careful about is that the Canondale, with its aluminum frame, is considerably lighter than a standard Dutch bike, so you have to be more careful balancing cargo - such as a baby at the handlebars.

About those handlebars. You know how mountain bikes have straight handlebars? It gives you better handling on rough terrain.

But I'm never on rough terrain any more. And the straight handlebar, not exactly ergonomic, was starting to hurt my wrists. Leaning on them while biking doesn't help that at all. Also, as I'm getting older I find that I'm less comfortable leaning over: I feel much better balanced on a Dutch bike that allows you to sit up straight.

I considered importing a Dutch bike. CelloDad told me I was crazy. And he has a point. A good Dutch bike of old-fashioned quality is not a cheap item, and then you have to get it over here somehow.

But I did the next best thing: bought myself a Dutch handlebar this summer. Dutch bike shops have a selection of them, with varying widths and different curvature. A handlebar is much cheaper than a whole Gazelle bike, and you can carry it inside a suitcase. Last week, I finally made it to a local bike shop, the haunts of one of my rideshare children; they did an expert job of installing the handlebar.

I am stoked!

It's still my trusty Canondale: smooth gear shifting, easy to haul up a hill - but now I'm sitting upright on it!

I can look around, not up: I don't get a crick in my neck from just biking around town. I'm not bent over the handlebar, so the weight is off my wrists. And - let's be honest about it - my tummy doesn't get scrunched, even after a big meal. I feel better balanced, and can take the corners tighter and faster - heck, I'm almost ready to ditch my helmet!

Just kidding. I wouldn't ride around without a helmet anywhere in the US; the odds are stacked too steeply against cyclers here.

But I'm going to ride around on my Dutchified Canondale, wearing a big grin on my face. For the first time in many years, I'm actually totally comfortable on this bike. And it's not as heavy as a Dutch bike. With its light frame, and with that pleasingly curved and ergonomic handlebar, now it's a Dutch/mountain bike hybrid: if that isn't too much of an oxymoron (there are no mountains in Holland).

A hint to bicyle advocacy groups: if you want more bikers, and better bike infrastructure, you must get the moms on board. And yes, the little old ladies whose cadre I will be joining soon enough. There are lots of us, and our numbers will really make a difference. But we do need to feel comfortable: we need safe bike paths ("If an eight year old can't bike there alone it's not a safe bike path"), bike-friendly laws - and mom-friendly bikes. A mountain bike is fun, but it's not mom-friendly: it's really designed for energetic young people, without children and without a tummy. Too bad it's about the only kind of bike sold in the US right now.



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Cars News and Reviews Greener Ways to Get There- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

I've written before of the lowest-carbon way to get from here to there, and summarised it in this graphic:

The people at 1BOG (which stands for One Block Off the Grid) have made a much larger infographic which is more complete and breaks things down by the distance traveled. I don't usually like large infographics, but this one is worthwhile because it shows that for transportation, not one size fits all.

A few takeaway points:

For travel inside or near town, nothing beats a bike. (And it makes you feel happy. And it's good for you!).

For regional travel, a bus is best right now, at least in the US where trains have a far larger carbon footprint than elsewhere. Certainly buses are cheaper. But where high-speed trains are installed and running frequently, they are obviously the preferred way to travel: they're always full.

For long-distance trips, buses (and shared rides in efficient cars) are the very low-carbon way to go. But if you factor in the travel time, you can be forgiven for opting for flying.

On this infographic, travel by car assumes that it's only the driver in the car, which is lonely and tiring. If you share the car, a chore becomes a social outing and, as my graphic above shows,the per-passenger emissions go way down.

And I can't help mentioning: calling a car that does 32 mpg "efficient", as this infographic does for the benefit of American readers, is sort of embarrassing. In reality, 32 mpg is not very efficient. To give an example: my diesel Golf (38mpg) is on the gas-guzzler side of the average new European car, even the ones sold back in 2011. In a few years, my car will be a fossil-fuel relic, as the European emissions standards are progressively tightened.



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Cars News and Reviews People's Climate March: of Community, Communication, and Things Which Must Not Be Named.- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

I've a confession to make: this is my very first march, ever. But even I could tell that this was going to be special, when I showed up at the train station at an ungodly hour, and the woman who got her ticket before me turned around, glanced at the sign that CelloPlayer had made, and said cheerfully, "Looks like we're headed for the same place", before disappearing to the platform.

When I had made my way onto the same platform, I could see her sitting a bit further down. But I never got a chance to say hi to her because a gentleman came up to me and said something about my sign. I looked up, into kindly eyes framed by white hair - and a rainbow beard.

Heaven help me, I stared. Like a five-year-old.

This gentleman, easily older than myself, looked like something out of Harry Potter. In fact, I'd say he handily beats Nymphadora Tonks for colour in the hair. I suppressed an urge to see if I could make his beard change colour by, say, upsetting him with an insult; he was too nice for that, anyway. Instead, we started talking about hair (well: beard) dyeing technique. Pretty soon, we had moved on to carbon emissions and cars' fuel efficiency.

I got on the train but didn't get much of a chance to marvel at this man's easy defiance of the dress code before another man shouted, "But why save the humans?" - making his travel companion giggle, even as she rolled her eyes at me in apology. I made a lame joke, but really I wanted to say, "Because humans include you. And you just talked to me out of the blue. That's cool. There's a few mighty cool things about us."

And so it went.

Emerging, finally, at New York's Penn Station, I decided to walk to the eatery where I was to meet some friends. 8th Avenue saw a steady stream of tourists, tour hustlers, and people carrying signs and wearing T shirts that said "People before Profit" and "Citizens Climate Lobby" and "Ban Fracking Now". The tourists checked us out. The hustlers had seen everything. The climate marchers struck up easy conversations with other marchers walking alongside, speculating about the size of the march, talking of other marches, of their climate activities. Inquiring basic things: where are you from; where are you going to join the lineup?

Passing a subway station on 7th Ave, a burly man in a blue "People's Climate March" T-shirt spontaneously started to give me directions how to reach the lineup (not through Central Park which was all barricaded), then sent me on my way with a smile and a thumbs-up at my Save the Humans sign.

I waited to meet my friends at the corner of 57th and 7th Ave, balancing my sign on one foot and people watching. Among the steady stream of people headed north, there were some who permitted themselves a quick glance at the sign, then strode on, studiously avoiding eye contact. And there were lots who looked at CelloPlayer's sign, looked at my T-shirt, on which I had printed Andy Lee Robinson's Arctic Death Spiral, and registered their recognition with a smile, a nod or a short remark.

They saw me, and they knew.

They knew who I was. They knew why I was in New York that day. They were there for the same reason. All of them: the dads holding their children's hands, the bands of chatting friends, the middle aged couples dressed sensibly in shorts, T shirts and walking shoes, the groups of students sporting their school logos, the union workers assembling around their marching band, the moms pushing expensive strollers and the ones wearing their baby in a sling. They knew me. And I knew them.

Personally, I'm a loner by character; and generally, we in the west lead pretty private lives. For 400,000 people to come out and start talking to each other like we've known each other all our lives, is nothing short of astonishing. All day long, I found myself participating in those conversations - even more, initiating a few. It just blows my mind.

And these were real conversations - not of the "Hey, howya doin', have a nice day" type. Yes, we exchanged personal bits, but mostly it was about the science and politics of climate change, its effects on our everyday lives, our hopes for our children and grandchildren. We were all teaching each other - because no matter how much you already know about climate change, there is always more to learn.

Here is the really amazing part: everyone I've talked to said that they knew people who would have loved to come but couldn't make it on that day. Meaning the 400,000 that did show up in New York, and the hundreds of thousands more at rallies all around the world, are only a small fraction of the people who feel similarly about the climate change issue.

And looking at the photos of all those marches, I find that they look similar. The signs are in English, French, Hungarian, but the look and the feel of those marches is one.

The chant about democracy should have said, 'This is what community looks like." Because in the end, it is the community of people, caring for our common home, that will have to bring about the necessary change.

In the Harry Potter books, the wizards are always trying to move unobtrusively in the "ordinary" world, but never quite succeeding. Climate Marchers were not exactly trying to be unobtrusive, and we succeeded marvellously in making our presense be known, to the world - and to each other.

In a sad twist on the Potter analogy, it is not the marchers who are afraid to name climate change as the defining issue of our times, it is a few government bodies in the business-as-usual mainstream. The Harper government has muzzled Canadian meteorologists, who now aren't allowed to mention climate change in their weather forecasts. The US House of Representatives has barred the Department of Homeland Security from spending money on assessing climate change (even as the department itself is preparing for climate change which it calls the major security threat).

So climate change has acquired Voldemort status: apparently, in some corners it is now That Which Must Not Be Named.

It must be said these governments are aided by mainstream news media. A few, but far from all, major newspapers have carried the Climate March story on their front page. The silence from some TV news shows has been deafening.

That won't stop us. We will go home, and spread the word. We will put away the signs and the T shirts and the costumes but that's not the end. We - and that includes those who were at the March in spirit - will teach, work on policy changes in our towns, have coffee with our friends who aren't awake yet to climate change, organise.

And in all that, we will recognise each other.



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Cars News and Reviews People's Climate March: so big, there was no end to it.- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Monday

As my CelloPlayer was working on the sign that I was going to carry at the Climate March, we talked about how many people were expected to walk the March.

Being a geek, and never one to pass up a teaching moment, I pulled up a map of Central Park West where marchers were to collect. We set out to answer the question: if the organisers are expecting 100,000 people to show up for the march, would they fit in the space provided for the lineup?

We measured out the space between Columbus Circle (59th Street) and 86th Street - a little bit over 2km - and estimated the width of the street to be about 15 meters: So the total area to stand on was 30,000 square meters. Give or take a few thousand.

The math is straightforward: if you want to fit 100,000 people on that area, you need three people to stand on each square meter.

When we joined the march, a little before 11am, Central Park West was already pretty full. There were barricades separating the road from the sidewalk, making the collection area a little narrower than I had estimated, but not by much.

As time went on, and more people joined the lineup, the crowd got denser. Everybody was talking to everybody, which makes you stand closer to each other anyway, but then you look up and suddenly realise that yes, now we are standing with more than three people to a square meter. And still the crowd was getting denser. People remarked they were starting to feel claustrophobic.

The head of the march was to leave at 59th Street around 11.30am. So we waited for the movement to reach 72nd Street, where we were standing. And waited.

And waited.

People were breaking out their lunch boxes, offering goodies to their neighbours, and generally being an incredibly patient and good-natured crowd. There was word that the lineup was now stretching out to 89th Street.

A lone conspiracist suggested that "they" were holding up the start of the march, but couldn't offer any credible reasons. I countered with the positive alternative: that so many people showed up, they had to line up in the side streets. Who could tell? we were in the crowd, and couldn't see anything. There was a helicopter circling overhead but if they were taking images, nobody had enough bandwidth to download them.

But after the march, I came across this photo, reproduced here courtesy of the photographer Noah Friedman-Rudovsky. It shows how dense the crowd was. And how it was overflowing into 72nd Street. (I was standing right behind the yellow banner).

In the end, we didn't start moving until well over two hours after the official 11.30am starting time. The dense crowd started to shuffle forward, then to walk as we got more space, moving to the side as yet more people joined the march from more side streets.

We didn't really get into a stride until we rounded Columbus Circle and started walking along the south side of Central Park, to reach 6th Avenue. We stopped at an eatery for a very late lunch, and to rest our arms, unaccustomed to holding up a sign for hours. That's when we got the message that marchers were to disperse once we reached 42nd Street and 11th Avenue.

This was stunning: An enormous event had been planned at 11th Avenue between 34th amd 38th Streets: speeches, a ribbon tying ceremony, food, networking. All of that had been let go because it became clear that there was absolutely no way we could have fit in the space provided.

So there was no end to New York's Climate March. Which is fitting in a way, because the Climate March is really only the beginning of a lot of work we need to do, to turn our ship around, away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner future.

When the final numbers came in, the tally stood at 400,000 marchers. Or four times more than expected. I'd say that's a statement. Because for every marcher, there were many who wanted to join the march, but couldn't. This really is what it was hoped to be: too big to ignore.

If you didn't make it to any of the marches, you can add your voice to the many that are calling on world leaders to take bold action on climate that will make a real difference. is collecting your signature here.


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Cars News and Reviews Climate Action for Families- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

Want to get your family involved in action against climate change? Join the "families" section at the Climate March. After September 21, consider joining one of the organisations listed below.

Photo by Taro Taylor

1 Million Women

Climate Parents

Climate Mama

Cool Planet

For Our Grandchildren

Kids Climate Action Network

Kids vs Global Warming

Moms Clean Air Force

Mothers Out Front

Our Children's Trust

The Mothers Project

Finally, the Climate Mobilization relies on people's networks to spread the word, and encourage action on climate change. It is a movement where parents and families will naturally feel at home because networking is what parents do: at the daycare center, at playgrounds, at schools. Please consider it.

If you know of any other family oriented organisations working on climate change, please share in the comments!


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Cars News and Reviews Climate March: I'm Marching for my Mom- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross

Of course, I'm marching for my children. Actually, I'm marching for all our children. And this is where my mom comes in.

For a number of years, my mom worked as a pediatrician in a tropical country. She worked with a doctor who ran his practice more like a charity clinic, and at public hospitals. She never had a private practice, which would have been the more lucrative option. But that's not why she became a doctor.

For a time, she lived in a tiny village where the village women would sometimes bring their sick children to her veranda: my mom always helped their children, without asking for payment. The next day those moms would be back to thank her, bringing half a dozen eggs, or a basket of vegetables: whatever they could spare. And a child on the mend.

My mom was that most dangerous kind of woman: a woman who acted out of her own deep convictions. She had become a pediatrician to help out children, and that's what she did, no matter the circumstances. During a cholera outbreak, she was at the hospital twenty hours a day. Being six months pregnant didn't stop her (my brother came out allright, so she must have taken good enough precautions).

Contrary to the custom to prescribe antibiotics at the first cough, then popular with doctors who were encouraged and rewarded by pharmaceutical companies, my mom used antibiotics as the last resort it should be, and on her own predicted the rise of bacterial resistance which is today becoming a quiet crisis.

She went her own way, my mom: because she had a clear vision of how she could make a difference.

So I'm going to the Climate March, and I'm marching for my mom, and all pediatricians like her. These doctors will be at the forefront of climate consequences: because children are more vulnerable to all sorts of threats, from extreme weather, to diseases, to climate-change induced disasters.

This is really the ultimate in social injustice: the fact that our children get to bear the brunt of climate change produced by us and our parents back for generations. Because carbon dioxide hangs around in the atmosphere for a thousand years.

It's young children that are affected most by extreme heat and extreme cold, the kind that is happening more often now. It's children whose health is most threatened by deep drought or fast flooding. In warm places flooding can lead to outbreaks of malaria, dysentery and other communicable diseases which affect children much more strongly than adults.

Insect-borne diseases are now migrating towards cooler latitudes: there is dengue fever in Japan, West Nile virus in California, Lyme disease in North Dakota. Concerned parents are starting to keep their children indoors. But children need to play outside, and not getting enough of that can lead to depression, weight gain, and a host of other problems. Not to mention a disconnect with nature, which is exactly what we don't need right now.

So pediatricians, more than any other kind of doctor, will be dealing with the consequences of climate change in their young patients. I'm marching for them. Heaven help them: they're the ones who need to help out my children, your children, everybody's children, when climate change hits their lives. From what I can see, there can't be anything more harrowing to a doctor than to lose a young patient.

And my mom? In this case, I believe she wouldn't say "Are you sure you want to do this?" (her gentle code for "That's a stupid idea, girl"). She'd tell me to be careful; after all, I've never gone on a march before. But I think she'd approve.



Come march with me: Sign up at's Climate March website, or join the Moms' Clean Air Force.

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Cars News and Reviews How will you travel to the Climate March?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

So, Bill McKibben of has extended an open invitation for everyone to come to New York and march. The People's Climate March is intended to push world leaders convening at the climate summit two days later on 23 September, to get into gear and start doing something meaningful about our collective carbon emissions.

Here's a vexing question that comes up around the Climate March: aren't marchers expending large amounts of carbon emissions to get to New York?

In a word: yes. (I'm not into denial).

I consider those emissions a good investment. The impact of this march on future emissions reductions could be huge.

However, we can still work to minimise the emissions on our travel to the climate march, and there are a few suggestions to do that. Although it is a little late to start walking across the continent like the heroes of the Climate March for Action are doing.

1. Find a Climate March near you.

You don't necessarily have to come to New York. Marches are being organised on all continents: find the one nearest you on's global maps of events. They make it very easy to organise one.

2. Get on the wagon.

The organisers of the People's Climate March have made it really easy for you to find (or organise!) a bus or train specifically chartered to get marchers to New York.

3. Rideshare.

If you are within driving distance, you can invite some friends who will share the drive, the cost and the good times with you. There is also a bulletin board where you can offer or find rideshares, the electronic equivalent of the travel bureaus that put Jack Kerouac on the road.

If you're wondering which is the option with the lowest carbon emissions, here is a chart I put together comparing the carbon emissions per passenger-kilometer for various travel modes. The details (e.g. how I got the numbers) are in this post on Thanksgiving travel.

I'm inviting friends to go march with me. How we go depends on who is going, and where they all live. For this one, I think it's more important that we go, than that we argue over the last pound of carbon. We'll hash out a way to get there, together.

Still not sure whether or not you should go? Try watching this:



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Cars News and Reviews VW Golf TDI: 52 mpg - CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

Road trip, mostly highway, for the beginning of the school year. That tank really could hold enough for 600 miles. My brave diesel Golf did 52mpg on the highway. Not a hybrid!

I just needed to brag record that.

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Cars News and Reviews Enough People- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

Following the post-war baby boom, and a burgeoning prosperity in the West, the 1960s were awash in cars as well as enterprising young people. It was almost inevitable that the practice of phone booth stuffing (remember phone booths?) gave way to car stuffing.

Fun, right?

At the time, the favourite car to stuff with people was the VW Beetle. And the Morris Mini. Around the same time, concern about world population - or rather, over-population - began to surface among the general public. Maybe being immobilised over the steering wheel by the bodies of friends made people think.

Today it is clear that there is not a single global problem - social justice, planetary pollution, overfishing, climate change, resource depletion, you name it - that is not made worse by our rising numbers.

And slowly, tentatively, we are actually starting to talk about it. Because it is such a sensitive subject, most of us tend to shy away from it. But like with many taboos, simply keeping our silence doesn't make the problem go away. It's time to grow up and face the issue. Which means having a civil discussion about it.

The place to start? First, let's get our information right. A lot has happened since the 1950s in terms of how many babies are born, and where. In a fabulous TED talk which is well worth 20 minutes of your time, Hans Rosling sets out to dismantle, in an accessible and convincing (and very entertaining) way, various myths about world population: "The Best Stats You've Ever Seen".

Rosling points out that, while the global population is still increasing, our overall fertility rate is decreasing. In fact, we are now at what he calls "peak child": if the trends continue, the number of children that are on the planet today is the largest the world will ever see.

Trends in TFR 1950-2050.png

"Trends in TFR 1950-2050" by Rcragun - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The graph above shows the declining fertility rate worldwide in the blue squares. The replacement fertility is 2.1, that is, a population where there are 2.1 live births per woman is a stable population.

The graph also shows that less developed nations have a higher fertility rate than developed nations. This is because fertility is well correlated with economic prosperity. In Japan, for instance, increasing prosperity has been accompanied by a drop in the total fertility rate, from abour 5 per woman before the Second World War to about 1.4 today, well below the replacement rate, a major cause of the greying of Japan's population.

But economic prosperity is not the only determinant: even more important is the level of women's education. As an example, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Russia plummeted to less than 1.2 live births per woman after the fall of the Soviet Union, when economic conditions deteriorated.

However, even though the breakup changed the economic conditions drastically, the level of women's education remained high. And that is key. Russian women simply decided that a crash is not the right time for bringing babies in the world, and postponed having families. In 2013, the Russian total fertility rate was back up to 1.7 live births per woman.

For the worldwide situation, while Rosling shows the clear correlation of total fertility rate and economic prosperity, the actual causal connection is that as families pull out of poverty they can afford to send their daughters to school as well as their sons. Educated women know to learn about birth control and its benefits, and to avail themselves of it.

Looking for a solution to world overpopulation? I'd put my money - quite literally - in girls' education.


This post was written for a Change the World Wednesday challenge hosted by the Reduced Footprints blog.



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