“Transportation Network Companies” = TNC, taking over American streets


Contrary to the story Uber, Lyft, and their peers like to tell, ride-hailing services are not reducing traffic in American cities. Nor will they, even if they meet their goals for converting solo passenger trips to shared rides, according to new research from transportation analyst Bruce Schaller.

While ride-hailing companies add options for people to get around without owning a personal car, Schaller shows that the overall effect of their growth has been to jam more motor vehicle traffic onto crowded city streets. Also known as transportation network companies, or TNCs, Uber and Lyft haven’t just supplanted taxis, they’ve more than tripled total for-hire vehicle mileage in the span of a few short years.

Most of this mileage is concentrated in the nation’s largest, densest cities, where TNCs compete with transit more than personal cars. Fully 70 percent of Uber and Lyft trips are in nine major metropolitan areas, adding 5.7 billion vehicle miles annually.

If cities don’t take steps to curb car traffic and prioritize spatially efficient modes like transit and cycling, Schaller warns, Uber and Lyft will continue to exacerbate urban traffic congestion and weaken surface transit systems.

Schaller’s report, The New Automobility [PDF], augments previous researchwith newly available TNC trip data and thousands of interviews from the National Household Travel Survey.

The main conclusion is that TNCs are bound to generate more car traffic in cities for two reasons: They mostly draw passengers who wouldn’t have otherwise used a car, and each TNC trip includes significant mileage with no passenger.

Travel surveys consistently reveal that only about 20 percent of TNC trips replace personal car trips. Another 20 percent replace traditional taxi services. The bulk of TNC trips — 60 percent — either replace transit, biking, and walking, or would not have been made without the availability of TNCs.

Uber and Lyft have pivoted to emphasize the growth of their shared-trip services like UberPOOL and Lyft Line, but Schaller demonstrates that even under the most optimistic scenarios for shared-ride adoption, the net effect of the services is to generate more traffic than a scenario in which they did not exist.

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NBC News:

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan duo of U.S. senators is urging President Donald Trump to pay more attention to the threat posed by Russia against critical infrastructure like the nation’s electric grid, and to provide an analysis of the risk and a plan of action within 90 days.

In a letter to the White House Wednesday, Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham write that they are “concerned about Russia’s capabilities with respect to cyberattacks on our energy infrastructure.”

“We believe the federal government needs to take stronger action prioritizing cybersecurity of energy networks and fighting cyber aggression to match your Department of Energy’s outward facing commitment,” says the letter.

This is the third time Sen. Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has written to President Trump to express concerns about Russia’s ability to target U.S. energy facilities, pipelines and other critical infrastructure. The White House has never responded.

Unlike the previous letters, however, Wednesday’s request is cosigned by a prominent Republican who has called himself a friend of the president.

And, for the first time, Sen. Cantwell asks the administration to detail what they are doing to combat Russia’s cyber capabilities.


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Commodity producers are having a summer to remember, for all the wrong reasons.

A heatwave across swathes of North America, Europe and Asia, coupled with a worsening drought in some areas, is causing spikes in the prices of anything from wheat to electricity. Cotton plants are stunted in parched Texas fields, French rivers are too warm to effectively cool nuclear reactors and the Russian wheat crop is faltering.

The scorching heat is extracting a heavy human cost – contributing to floods in Japan and Laos and wildfires near Athens. Relief from soaring temperatures, which topped 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Arctic Circle,  may not arrive for at least two weeks.

It’s a timely reminder of the vulnerability of global commodity markets to the changing climate, as human activity disrupts the behavior of plants, animals and the march of the seasons.

The heat and lack of rainfall is pummeling crops across Europe as far as the Black Sea. Output in Russia, the world’s top wheat exporter, is set to fall for the first time in six years, while concerns continue to mount about smaller crops in key growers such as France and Germany. Wheat futures for December have jumped almost 10 percent in the past month in Paris, with prices this week reaching the highest since the contract started trading in 2015.

After years of bumper harvests, global output could drop this year for the first time since the 2012 to 2013 growing season. This could have political and social ramifications. Egypt, which relies on subsidized bread to feed its almost 100 million people, is already paying the highest price for its imports in more than three years.

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Facebook apparently still OK with a whole lot of right wing wackjob hate speech, but climate science sets off their buzzers.

Somebody should maybe let them know?

A brave Republican breaks the carbon barrier with a carbon tax proposal.

Not everyone loves it.


On Monday, for the first time in nearly ten years, GOP members introduced a climate solutions bill. Amid a rising sense of climate urgency and increasingly partisan rancor, Rep. Carlos Curbelo stepped forward to offer the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463), a bill which “captures the political energy of the moment by not only seeking to drastically reduce carbon emissions, but also funding much-needed infrastructure modernization in our country.” Motivated by the dramatic climate impacts he sees in his Florida district and a desire to break through the “depressing paradigm of bipolar politics,” Curbelo has frequently distinguished himself as a climate leader in his three terms in office, but the MARKET CHOICE Act marks his boldest action to date.

The team at republicEn.org applauds Curbelo and bill co-sponsor Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania, who called the measure a “science-driven approach to fund infrastructure and address climate change.” Florida’s Rep. Francis Rooney also co-sponsored the bill.

The MARKET CHOICE Act: how it works

The MARKET CHOICE Act would swap a $24/ton tax on carbon emissions for elimination of the regressive gasoline tax. Seventy percent of the revenues generated from the carbon tax—estimated at $700 billion over ten years—would be directed to the Highway Trust Fund, which is used to pay for infrastructure projects. Ten percent of the revenues would go to states for grants to low-income families and five percent would be directed toward chronic coastal flooding mitigation and adaptation projects. As long as the carbon tax is meeting emissions goals—and resulting reductions are projected to exceed the U.S. commitment made in the Paris Climate Agreement—the measure would impose a moratorium on EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases. However, in 2025, if emissions goals are not met, the moratorium would terminate, providing a backup plan to ensure effectiveness. It’s border adjustable, meaning it would impose a “border tax adjustment” on imported goods in amount equal to increased costs paid by comparable U.S. products. The bill would also establish a National Climate Commission directed to prepare a report to Congress in 2026 and every six years thereafter with analysis of existing policies and recommendations for reducing emissions.

Huffington Post:

So things should be looking up for Curbelo and his proposed bill (even though it’ll likely be overwhelmingly rejected). But a closer look at the legislation dispels any notion this bill would have the kind of impact necessary to stave off climate change’s worst impacts and alter the course of climate disruption; it misuses taxation as a powerful incentive on behavior change necessary to the transformation of the transport sector. Read the rest of this entry »


WRAL Raleigh North Carolina:

We asked whether voters would be more or less likely to support a legislator or candidate who favored renewable energy options like wind, solar, and biomass technologies. Results showed that 90 percent of registered Democrats supported such a candidate. No surprise there, you might say.

But how about this: 87 percent of unaffiliated voters and 79 percent of Republicans expressed support for clean energy. That’s right – almost eight in 10 Republican voters want their candidates to demonstrate support for renewable energy options.

Several years ago, policy debates involving renewable energy revolved around subsidies. Conservatives understandably balked at some policies that they thought picked “winners and losers.” With the technological gains of the past few years and the rapidly falling cost of solar and wind energy, renewables are now cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels. The debate has shifted significantly to allowing for market access, healthy competition and customer choice as to where, how and from whom you purchase your energy.

In fact, the poll found that on some issues, voters who describe themselves as conservatives outpace liberals in support for clean energy. When we tested voters’ thoughts on the recent Duke Energy rate cases, slightly more conservatives (53 percent) than liberals (47 percent) favored letting private companies directly enter the energy market in North Carolina, seeking the kind of market competition that benefits customers. In that same question, only 14 percent of conservatives said they supported Duke Energy’s $13.8 billion plan, which would raise bills to implement a number of projects – some helpful, some involving more routine maintenance and repairs.

And, when it comes to reducing regulation and allowing for more private-sector development of solar, wind, and biomass, Republicans again outpaced Democrats in support (85 percent to 79 percent).

In my opinion, and evidently in the opinion of many other North Carolina conservatives, support for clean energy is about support for economic development. It’s about strengthening our state’s economy and the overall business climate. It’s about the tenets that we as conservatives have been staking claim to for the life of our party, and it would be more surprising to me if the poll had not indicated conservative support for clean energy.

Wisconsin Public Radio:

More Republicans in Wisconsin say they’re getting excited about renewable energy.

While Democrats have traditionally led the fight for harvesting electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar, a few Republicans say they’re coming on board to the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview/description of New Ionic Materials battery above, clip from a longer PBS Nova piece you can view at bottom of post.

IEEE Spectrum:

According to Silicon Valley visionary and Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, much about the future of energy and climate change hinges on a simple question: How soon can the world’s electric grid get its battery pack?

As a partner in the Menlo Park, Calif. venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers from 2005 to 2014, Joy says he focused on what they called the “big hard aggressive goals” or BHAGs. And from climate to water desalination to electric grid stability, the real challenges of BHAGs often circled back to cheap, safe, scalable, and reliable grid-scale energy storage.

Last month, Joy was in Woburn, Mass. for the ribbon cutting of new facilities for a solid state battery company he’s an advisor to and investor in, Ionic Materials. Ionic Materials has developed a plastic electrolyte—the medium in a battery through which energy-storing ions flow between cathode and anode and back again. This specially designed plastic conducts ions like a metal conducts electrons. And switching from today’s flammable liquid electrolytes to flame-retardant solid electrolytes, the company says, could bring about a new generation of lighter, more powerful, non-flammable rechargeable devices.

Joy sat down with IEEE Spectrum for a conversation about the promise of solid-state lithium (and rechargeable alkaline) batteries, the “Internet of energy,” and the coming electrification of airplanes.

IEEE Spectrum: As you have said, the English language doesn’t have a single word for the kind of battery breakthrough that’s needed—a solid conductor of ions, a solid electrolyte.

Joy: There’s this evolution of language. Like we had telephone, and then we had the touch-tone phone. And then the phones that weren’t touch-tone suddenly were rotary phones. And then you called on cellphones. But now when you say “phone” you mean a mobile phone, and if you want to talk about the other phone you need to say “landline.”

Now here’s this thing we’ve never had a name for. It’s like when you apply for a patent at the Patent Office, and they say, “No prior art.” It’s really a rare thing.

IEEE Spectrum: You called this new kind of solid electrolyte an “ionyl.”

Joy: I’m just trying to say that it could be like “metal.” I mean, you can have a liquid metal. But “metal” normally means a solid.

IEEE Spectrum: One battery expert I spoke with said that you can make all kinds of new materials, but what really matters is making the battery—proving that your new materials really work as the basis for a new generation of battery technology.

Joy: Making batteries has [traditionally] been hard, because they had liquid in them. Especially if the liquid needs to have no water in it, and there’s moisture in the air. To make something at scale involves a lot of investment in manufacturing equipment, and batteries made with our polymer require less capital equipment. But Ionic [Materials] is not building a battery factory. We can make batteries in the building. But the truth is for the high volume of manufacturing, we’re working with a bunch of different companies. And the different companies will have different techniques they want to use, different materials they want to use. We’re not a battery company. We’re a materials company and an IP company.

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Clean Economy Weekly (newsletter):

The electricity grid that serves most of Texas hit an all-time record for demand last Thursday, topping out at 73,259 megawatts between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The record may not stand for long, as hot conditions continue.

The heat is causing hardship across the state and the country, and also providing lessons for the people who manage the grid and make energy policy.

Texas leads the nation in wind energy. Meanwhile, the state has seen a wave of coal-plant closings, as the plants cannot compete with less expensive power from renewables and natural gas.

Supporters of coal power have long said that renewables are not reliable enough, and they said their point would be proved in a crisis, be it a heat wave or a winter storm.

Now, the crisis is here, and so far Texas’s grid is holding up fine. To understand what’s happening, I spoke with Michael Webber, an engineering professor who is deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The risk isn’t zero, but the risk is low,” he said about the possibility of blackouts as the heat continues. “We have enough capacity to run the system until something goes wrong. When it’s really hot out, things can go wrong. A transformer could blow up or a substation could go offline.”

As we get into the day-to-day battle to deal with high electricity demand, one of the key considerations is how much wind is blowing. The grid manager does a daily wind forecast to help plan for what other resources may be needed.

The wind has been strong during times of peak demand in South Texas, Webber said. At the same time, West Texas has been less windy, as the hot conditions lead to stagnant air, he said.

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New Scientist:

This heatwave across much of the northern hemisphere could continue for weeks, and possibly even months. And accelerated warming in the Arctic compared to the rest of the planet could be a key contributor.

The heatwaves have killed dozens in Japan and Korea, triggered wildfires in California and Sweden, and led to prolonged dry weather in the UK and across northern Europe, raising temperatures beyond 30°C in Scandinavian sectors of the Arctic Circle. In Greece, the deadliest wildfires in more than a decade have claimed at least 74 lives.

“It could persist for weeks, potentially for months,” a spokesperson for the UK Meteorological Office told New Scientist.

The outlook was echoed by the German Weather Service, DWD, which warned this week of “a continuation of the drought situation and above-normal temperatures for at least the next two weeks for Northern Europe, from Ireland to the Baltic States and southern Scandinavia”.

Last week, temperatures exceeded 30°C in the Scandinavian region of the Arctic Circle, with Norway recording a record high temperature of 33.5°C in Bardufoss, a town just south of Tromsø. More than 50 forest fires raged through Sweden in mid-July.

Heatwaves in Japan and South Korea have claimed at least 40 and 10 lives respectively, with high temperatures and dry conditions triggering wildfires in California. In Algeria’s Sahara Desert, a temperature of 51.°C was recorded on 5 July, a record for Africa, and Canada has already seen 18 days exceeding 30°C, compared with nine all last summer.

Stalled jet stream

One reason is that the jet stream—a fast-flowing river of air snaking continually round the northern hemisphere at altitudes of around 6 kilometres—has stalled over Europe since May, and could continue to do so, trapping regions of high pressure that are cloudless, windless and extremely hot. Read the rest of this entry »