Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Coal train EIS scoping hearing in Seattle Thurs. – speak out!

by December 13th, 2012

A public hearing will be held Thursday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to seek comment on how best to assess environmental impacts of a proposed freight train route to a terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham that would facilitate a range of international exports including coal to China. The Dec. 13 Seattle hearing will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 800 Convention Place, Ballroom 6F, with doors opening at 3 p.m. There will be 150 two-minute slots for comment at the hearing, and other opportunities online.

Fossil fuels will still dominate U.S. energy usage in 2040

by December 6th, 2012

In 2040 almost four-fifths of the energy the United States uses will be from the fossil fuels of oil, coal or natural gas. That’s just a bit less than last year but natural gas – seen by some as greener than oil or coal – will play a larger role in that mix, and coal and oil less. And by 2040 more than a tenth of the nation’s energy supply will come from renewables such as hydropower, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power, and wave motion. That would be a good dollop more than the eight percent share for renewables in 2011.

These are some of recent facts and future projections in the baseline or “reference case” case scenario for the Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Early Release presented in a a Washington, D.C. briefing yesterday by Adam Sieminski, the head of the U.S. Energy Department’s data and forecasting unit, called the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

WA advisors give preliminary green light to mileage tax

by December 4th, 2012

In a report released today, an advisory committee to Washington state transportation officials pronounced as “feasible” an envisioned and sure to be controversial working concept for charging drivers by the mile, to fund future surface transportation system needs in the state. In a draft feasibility assessment, work plan and budget reviewed today during a meeting in SeaTac of the Washington State Road User Charge Assessment Steering Committee, the body found the proposed mileage tax – which it prefers to call a road user charge – “is feasible in Washington” and warrants further study detailed in the report. Next steps would cost at least $3.5 million and present the state legislature with enough information to decide whether the mileage tax is desirable, and if so, exactly how it would be implemented. Lawmakers will decide in the coming 2013 session whether to proceed with more study.

Cities may seek more delays on green fleet conversion

by November 9th, 2012

Does the lobbying organization for Washington’s cities want to push against a 2018 deadline to convert municipal vehicles to use alternative fuels? The Association of Washington Cities is pondering that question, and expects to be making a decision in early December, said Dave Williams, the organization’s director of state and federal relations. The next legislative session starts in early January, with education funding and another multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall both front and center. But a recent AWC draft memo to members stresses local concerns about rising fiscal pressures on cities, infrastructure and jobs concerns, and state mandates. It says a possible priority in the 2013 legislative session starting in January is to “further delay the deadline or modify the mandate for conversion of local government fleets to alternative fuel vehicles” past 2018.

Irrigation lubricates the farm economy, but challenges ahead

by October 29th, 2012

Irrigation in agriculture packs a big economic punch. Although the almost 57 million acres of irrigated farmlands in the U.S. represent just 7.5 percent of all crop- and pasturelands in the nation, that good wet earth nonetheless accounts for a full 40 percent of the value of U.S. agricultural production and is on average more than three times more productive in dollar terms than dry croplands, according to a report issued last month by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report, “Water Conservation in Irrigrated Agriculture: Trends and Challenges in the Face of Emerging Demands,” also notes that almost three-quarters of U.S. irrigated agriculture in is 17 Western states. The report warns that competing demands for water will mount from requirements for in-stream flows to protect water-borne species; from Native American water rights; and from an expanding energy sector. One response will need to be increased water conservation in irrigated agriculture through improvements to equipment and management practices, the report says.

Washington State ranks 10th nationally in irrigated acres of farmland. Twelve states together account for more than three-quarters of U.S. irrigated acres of harvested cropland, pasture and other lands. Among those 12 are Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, which together account for 15.8 percent of U.S. irrigated acres. Three data visualizations from the USDA report follow.



U.S. irrigated acres grew from 48.8 million in 1982 to 56.5 million by 2007. Total irrigated acres grew most sharply in that time in the Northern Plains, and Delta regions, and have declined in the Pacific region.



Western U.S. crops most requiring irrigation are rice, vegetables, orchard fruits, peanuts, and sugar beets. A very small percentage of wheat croplands in Western states are irrigated.



Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Global vehicle penetration, sliced three different ways

by October 28th, 2012

Data visualizations derived from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators show that while North America far outpaces other major global regions in vehicles per 1,000 people, that gap compared to the developing world is declining. And perhaps more revealing: several developing global regions have more vehicles per kilometers of roadway than North America. Surface transportation of course is just one sector of the energy economy. Growing global energy demands in coming decades for surface transportation, plus other consumer, commercial and institutional uses, and manufacturing, accent the bracing challenge of developing competitively-priced green energy on a vast scale in order to limit climate change.

The World Bank has posted a wide array of World Development Indicators to Google Public Data Explorer, so that users can easily build their own charts, graphs and visualizations. Picking just three among dozens of data depictions across different World Development Indicators, let’s look at global vehicle penetration, by global region, and measured three different ways. The first is passenger vehicles per 1,000 people (not including two-wheelers). North America has almost 2.5 times more than the next closest competitor, but has been declining in recent years; while on the rise are the Europe/Central Asia region, Latin America/Caribbean, and East Asia/Pacific. This chart will likely look quite different in 2020, and even more so in 2030, as the gap between North America and the rest of the world continues to narrow.

Adding in buses and freight vehicles, this next graph looks at motor vehicles per 1,000 people. The gap between North America and other continents is even wider.

However, the measurement of motor vehicles (no two-wheelers) per kilometer of built roads is quite different. Though the data set has a few gaps, it is fairly striking that in the one year so far in which data exists for the Middle East and North Africa (2008), it leads the pack. By this metric, North America ranks third among the major global regions used in the World Development Indicators, behind Middle East/North Africa, and Europe/Central Asia. Data for Latin America/Caribbean is limited to only 2004, so can’t really be factored in. East Asia and Pacific is sharply rising. Europe/Central Asia and South Asia are also rising, North America is declining.

As more road infrastructure is built in developing nations, motor vehicles per kilometer of roadway will likely continue to grow in the developing world. This in turn has a strong probability of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the surface transportation sector, unless net-green alternative fuels can be produced and sold on a wide scale. North America of course, with its huge number of vehicles overall, faces a related environmental challenge.

Against a backdrop of strong global concern about climate change, the data suggest we can expect even more effort will be focused on developing affordable green vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels; and that scrutiny will intensify of how electricity is produced for transportation and other purposes. In the developing world especially, will coal continue to dominate, or will cleaner, greener alternative energy sources actually gain a substantial foothold?

RELATED: “Global Energy Use and Carbon Emissions, 2005-2035,” Public Data Ferret.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Sound Transit watchdogs too much like lapdogs, says audit

by October 26th, 2012

A new performance audit by the State of Washington says the Citizen Oversight Panel of the three-county Seattle region agency Sound Transit suffers from poor ethics, a poor understanding of its mission, and could be also considerably more transparent online. The audit details problems due to lack of screening of COP members and poor oversight of themselves by Sound Transit’s overseers. This includes boosterism of Sound Transit by COP rather than scrutiny, plus overlapping relationships and ethically dubious backscratching between COP board members, non-profits and for-profits that were paid by Sound Transit, and the agency itself.