The New York Times published an op-ed piece written by Al Gore yesterday, in which he proposes a five-point plan that will allow the United States to produce 100 per cent of its electricity from energy-efficient sources within 10 years:
- The government should offer incentive for the construction of renewable energy plants.
- A new grid should be built to transport renewable energy from its production sites to cities.
- The government should give incentive to automobile companies to switch their production to hybrid cars.
- All buildings should be equipped with energy-efficient windows and lighting in order to stop pollution and reduce energy bills.
- The government should put a price on carbon emissions and lead the way to replace the Kyoto treaty by a better one.
Gore says that these initiatives will also help improve the state of the economy.
I found the section on the automobile industry particularly interesting:
We should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.
This made me think of a profile of Mitchell Joachim, written by traffic expert Tom Vanderbilt, that I read in Wired’s October edition. Joachim is an architect who focuses on reducing the ecological footprint of cities.
Among the biggest sources of waste, he argues, is the automobile—not only in energy but in the space it occupies (cars, he notes, spend more than 90 per cent of the day parked.) For nearly a century, Joachim says, “cities have been designed around cars. Why not design a car around a city?” So he did just that. One of his concept vehicles, the City Car, was named to Time magazine’s Invention of the Year list in 2007.
His various cars would be less machine than Facebook on wheels. Instead or rpm gauges, there’d be social networking software telling drivers where their friends are and how to get there. Nade from neoprene and other soft materials, cars would no longer suffer traffic-fouling fender benders, merely what he calls “gentle congestion”—picture a flock of urban sheep grazing against one other. Like Zipcar vehicles, the cars would be shared. They would “read” potholes and send warnings to nearby drivers and city repair crews. Urban parking would be eased by intelligent real-time supply and demand management, with people bidding remotely for available spots. Of course, there’d also be more spaces to begin with, since his cars could be folded and stacked like shopping carts. The average New York City block could handle 880 of the vehicles, he says.
Al Gore, meet Mitchell Joachim.
Source: The New York Times, Nov. 9, 2008
Wired, Oct. 2008