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Dinner links: cheap, plentiful parking spaces are like clean coal

I got a new way to park: WebUrbanist finds "15 Creative, Innovative & Hilarious Parking Solutions", from the giant VW factory cavern to falling into quicksand. Via Planetizen.

Photo via WebUrbanist.

Just say no: Bloomingdale's ANC will consider a curb cut request on First Street, for a row house without alley access. All of the houses in the row have regular stoops; a front garage will seriously defile the house. Yet another reason for some level of historic preservation? Or will the new "no curb cuts" policy nip this one in the bud? Update: the curb cut will connect to the back, not the front, to add only two private spaces while removing one shared public one.

A performance park? A letter writer asks, how about paying for the Mall's needed improvements by charging for parking on Mall roads? (tip: Michael); NPS wants a National Mall iPhone app; Arlington's CommuterPageBlog agrees with GGW on the message we should take away from the inauguration.

And: Another Georgetown corner store might go residential; NYC ponders cab sharing (which DC abolished with meters (tip: Bryan); Prince George's closes inside-the-Beltway schools while building new ones in sprawling greenfield areas.

This page is a mermaid: Bloomingdale, For Now notices clever ads on the Washington Post's "page not found" error pages. It's part of the same ad campaign as the mermaid, alien, and sasquatch posters in the Metro Center station.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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"Clean coal does not exist."

A friendly reminder from the oil industry.

by Steve on Jan 26, 2009 6:44 pm • linkreport

Al Gore's the oil industry now? Sierra Club? NRDC? League of Conservation Voters?

by David Alpert on Jan 26, 2009 6:48 pm • linkreport

Those Reality commercials are terribly conceived. I had to watch them no fewer than 20 times before I realized that they weren't ads promoting clean coal. When it's got the guy walking around the desert saying this is the current state of clean coal technology, my thoughts were "wow, they can bury the carbon sequestration units any you don't even see them on the surface. Cool."

They assume way too much about the knowledge of the viewer.

by Reid on Jan 26, 2009 8:05 pm • linkreport


I first saw the no such thing as clean coal ads during one of the Sunday a.m. talk shows, usually given to promoting airplanes, bombs, nuclear energy, other defense industries. When I saw the no such thing as clean coal ad, I flipped! At first I was thinking, "what?" because those a.m. talk shows are usually promoting the most wasteful ways to use energy, and it was just...jarring. But in a good way. I went right to the computer and looked them up. It's a start. They should build on the ads. I find them extremely challenging to the viewer (not for the viewer).

by Jazzy on Jan 26, 2009 8:11 pm • linkreport

Maybe I'm just stoopid, but I'm used to "green" technologies having ads where they demonstrate how little their technology affects the environment. I guess I just thought this was one of them. And I think: A. if you don't watch the ad that closely (like I don't watch most ads) and B. you don't follow the whole clean coal debate that closely either, you could easily arrive at the same conclusion I did.

by Reid on Jan 26, 2009 8:27 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with Reid on the TV ad. I kept expecting him to say something like "see? this is where we can put all the emissions - in the SKY!" If they weren't going that route, why not just show an empty room or something, or a bunch of people jumping out and yelling "SURPRISE!"

The Metro posters are very clever. So is the Post banner ad. The TV spot, not so much.

by David Alpert on Jan 26, 2009 8:35 pm • linkreport

I had the same experience as Reid at first. I thought they were trying to demonstrate how they could bury the carbon in the rockbed without disturbing the environment. That windswept field looked like wildlife habitat to me, not "nothing". "Nothing", to me, would have been better conceptually visualized as an empty white room, or complete black screen not a place where shrubs, lichen, insects, micro-oranisms, jack-rabbits and tortoises might live. Really, I saw a place to go hiking instead of "nothing".

by Bianchi on Jan 26, 2009 8:37 pm • linkreport

Between oil we have to buy from countries that hate us and coal we can buy from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, I'll take coal. We stopped building nuclear plants decades ago. We only have so much natural gas of our own; once it's gone, we're left with buying it from the same thugs who sell us oil.

by Steve on Jan 26, 2009 9:47 pm • linkreport

The stuff either gets used or it doesn't. Once this latest eco-fad dies off, people down the road are gonna use the stuff.

Might as well enjoy it now.

by MPC on Jan 26, 2009 9:48 pm • linkreport

I know MPC, I mean it's going to be great continuing on with using the stuff like it's going to last forever. The best will be the part where we don't spend any money on building any infrastructure to support what's next so it'll be really painful and expensive to switch over when the time comes. (I'm not trusting the market to have a lot of great foresight about this one).

by Michael Perkins on Jan 26, 2009 11:26 pm • linkreport

I'm not trusting the market to have a lot of great foresight about this one.

And you're putting your faith in the government?!?

The same government that artificially jacked up commodity prices with its ethanol subsidy. A lot of good that did.

The same government that thought price controls of gas in the 70's would do the trick.

The same government that's run a foreign policy based of the defense of oil. Read the Carter Doctrine. It spells it out right there.

The same government that subsidizes automobile use heavily and thus oil consumption.

You don't trust the market? Then how do you explain fuel-efficient cars from Japan in the 70's while Detroit was languishing with muscle cars. I'm sure that was all directed from a government bureaucrat, right?

Market-driven energy efficiency has done more to conserve energy than any government program.

by MPC on Jan 26, 2009 11:56 pm • linkreport

MPC: That's a good example of the logical fallacy known as the "false dilemma": If I don't trust the free market, then I must support terrible government policies.

I've written before on about what policies I do support, but here's a summary:

  • Carbon Tax with 100% rebate of the proceeds through per-capita grants.
  • Removal of policies that single out specific technologies or fuel sources (such as ethanol, solar, wind, nuclear, oil, hybrid cars) for benefits. Benefits if given should be outcome-driven and technology-neutral. For example, if we decide that HOV lanes should have a goal of improving fuel efficiency, then we should allow any car with high fuel efficiency obtain special HOV plates rather than only "clean fuel" cars like hybrids.
  • A CAFE (auto fuel efficiency) standard that is market-based and increases over time. As I've argued before, the standard should changed like this:
    • the categories should be lumped together rather than divided between cars and trucks, foreign and domestic, and divided between individual manufacturers (one national average standard),
    • manufacturers should be allowed to trade vehicle fuel efficiency credits (e.g., GM should be able to balance poor truck fuel efficiency by purchasing Toyota's excess credits from making small cars),
    • the standards for measuring fuel efficiency should be the same whether you're calculating the EPA numbers that go on the window sticker or the NHTSA numbers that go into the fuel efficiency requirements,
    • the standards should apply to all vehicles that you can drive without a commercial license (witness the large number of vehicles in the late 1990s/early 2000s that had weight ratings just a hair over 6000 lbs so they would avoid fuel efficiency standards -- like the Chevy Avalanche and the BMW X5, and even the International Harvester SUV, which was one pound short of the commercial vehicle limit),
    • the standards should slowly and steadily increase over time (with a potential safety valve being when the price of a fuel efficiency credit becomes very high), and
    • special calculations that cause ethanol or other politically favored fuels to be burned "for free" should be eliminated.
  • To the extent it's possible, we should figure out a way to better neutralize transportation spending between mode choices. We should figure out what we're trying to do (reduce pollution, reduce wasted time, promote mobility) and then approve spending on projects that meet those needs.
  • In addition to a carbon tax which promotes the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increase the motor vehicle fuel tax to provide funding for transportation infrastructure. Witness the high fuel taxes in Europe and their relatively better transportation infrastructure.
There are others but the comment is getting long. Needless to say I don't support ethanol subsidies, price controls, subsidy to automobile use, I'm kind of indifferent to the Carter Doctrine (mostly because highly volatile oil prices often lead to calls for incredibly stupid policies like the price controls mentioned above).

Fuel efficient cars from Japan: My argument is that Japan was in the right place at the right time, and after the initial success in the late 1970s people started to realize that the Japanese built cars that were reliable, reasonable in price and were somewhat efficient. The fact that CAFE standards were increasing so rapidly (doubling efficiency in 10 years) meant that there were a lot of really terrible cars out there.

I would say that Japanese cars would still be pretty good sellers today if the situation were reversed. Let's say that instead of having a reputation for quality and reliability and being more fuel efficient than domestic cars, Japanese cars had only the reputation for quality and reliability but got slightly worse fuel efficiency. Domestic autos would still have a reputation for shoddy quality and being unreliable, but now they would get 2-3 mpg better efficiency. Do you think that the domestic auto makers would be doing much better? I doubt it. Fuel efficiency ranks pretty low traditionally in terms of customer preferences except during the very recent price spike, which apparently was temporary.

For cars, the market is not driving fuel efficiency, CAFE standards are. Once the CAFE standards increased, automakers had to improve their cars. Now that the standards have stayed flat for around two decades, vehicles are heavier, more powerful, and physically larger. Most of the fuel efficiency improvements over the past twenty years have gone into giving us higher-performance vehicles with the same fuel efficiency, not more efficient cars with the same performance. So the market isn't driving fuel efficiency (I would say because fuel prices are too volatile), it's the standards.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 27, 2009 7:17 am • linkreport

david -

according to a comment on bloomingdale (for now) posted on sunday, "The proposed curb cut is actually going to be placed on seaton st. for access to the backyard of 1819 1st st. The curb cut will yield two additional parking spaces while only taking away one street space and no trees will be taken down." this would seem to indicate no major changes to the front of the row house.

by jenny on Jan 27, 2009 8:27 am • linkreport

Those clean coal adds are an insult to any half-way intelligent free-thinking person. We should be supporting new and GREEN froms of producing energy not poo-pooing them. There are a lot of possibilities for new energy forms out there- its not all about wind and solar. We should be looking at diversifying our energy consumption in the future and clean coal could be a big part of that.

So called enviornmentalists should be ashamed of themselves for supporting those ads.

by mafiosa on Jan 27, 2009 10:36 am • linkreport

"Yet another reason for some level of historic preservation?"

If the goal is to simply ban curb cuts, then historic preservation isn't the appropriate answer, amending the city code would be. I'm not arguing against the merits or disadvantages of historic preservation for this particular neighborhood, but preservation should not be used as a catch-all measure to protect against bad urban design.

by JP on Jan 27, 2009 10:39 am • linkreport

jenny: i'm somewhat reassured to hear that the front of this house won't be destroyed, but the argument that two additional parking spaces will be created, while taking away one, for a net gain of one, doesn't quite sound right to me.

the fact is that, right now, no one is living in that house, so no one from that address is using on-street parking. if this curb cut is approved, they'll apparently gain two spaces for private use, but the public will be down at least one, and i'd say more like two spaces. there is a lot of room either side of a curb cut that isn't legal for parking, and i'd guess such a cut would take two spaces out.

that means the owner of the house would have a net gain of two, the public would have a net loss of two. if there was no curb cut, and the owner planned on parking two cars in the public space, there would still be a net loss of two parking spaces for the general public overall. either way, there will be the equivalent of two less spaces available on a daily basis in bloomingdale. the difference is that the new owner either has a windfall at the expense of the public, or he sticks with the status quo.

by IMGoph on Jan 27, 2009 10:55 am • linkreport

mafiosa: sure, we should be supporting 'green' forms of energy. unfortunately, any use of coal is not one of them, no matter how the industry tries to spin or greenwash their image...

by IMGoph on Jan 27, 2009 10:56 am • linkreport

IMGoph- Why are you trying to limit our future possibilities. Of course coal isn't clean now- that doesn't mean we shouldn't try and develop it. We use an awful lot of coal in this country and thats not going to change.

A lot of renewable energy is that coal haters tout is not scaleable now either- should we give up on that too?

by mafiosa on Jan 27, 2009 11:11 am • linkreport

mafiosa: thanks for putting up a no-win question for me to answer. of course we should try to make renewable energy scalable. i never said we shouldn't, but your comment tries to make it sound like i could. invest, invest, invest, i say!

now, you can't deny the chemistry involved here. extracting energy from coal will release carbon. period. whether that makes it into the atmosphere or is sequestered somehow, there is absolutely no way you can deny that reality. using wind power, as an example of renewable energy, does not release additional carbon into the atmosphere. that's the end goal here—stop producing more carbon.

by IMGoph on Jan 27, 2009 11:15 am • linkreport

Or we could invest invest invest a little into clean coal tech too...

The fact is our energy mix going forward is going to come from a lot of places- renewables, nuclear, oil, natural gas and yes coal (we do have quite a bit). Therefore if you want to make the world a cleaner place you should support making coal cleaner- it seems perfectly rational to me.

And if the carbons not being released into the atmosphere and polluting the earth- who cares?

by mafiosa on Jan 27, 2009 11:26 am • linkreport

And the goal isn't to stop producing carbon- the goal is to stop polluting.

by mafiosa on Jan 27, 2009 11:28 am • linkreport

you're incorrect, mafiosa. if we continue to add carbon to the atmosphere at current rates, we'll turn this entire planet into a hothouse. humanity would be stressed to the breaking point given all the arable and livable land we'd lose.

by IMGoph on Jan 27, 2009 11:31 am • linkreport

We want to stop global warming. Adding to carbon to the atmosphere at the rate we do is the biggest contibuter to GW. Therefore we should stop adding carbon to the atmosphere- clean coal aims to do that. I'm really not sure what your arguing against.

by mafiosa on Jan 27, 2009 11:49 am • linkreport

mafiosa: first, please check your spelling and grammar before posting, it's difficult to follow what you're saying.

secondly, you kind of made my point—"clean coal" aims to not emit carbon. wind energy (for one) has already reached that aim.

by IMGoph on Jan 27, 2009 11:52 am • linkreport

Wind energy provides a tiny portion of our country's energy- coal provides about half. That won't be changing anytime soon. If you support green energy you should support clean coal- how are you not getting this???

by mafiosa on Jan 27, 2009 12:03 pm • linkreport

mafiosa, a lot of people think "clean coal" is an oxymoron. If you think differently then share some studies on the science and technology that a skeptic can read and assess. Virtually yelling "how do you not get it" will never "enlighten" someone to something you are already enlightened to. It will only alienate because it implies you think the other person is stupid. The skeptic who thinks "clean coal" is an oxymoron could "yell" the same thing at you. You obviously think clean coal is an option. So appeal to the intellect of the skeptics and provide some information beyond your opinion. I'm one who hears "clean coal" and thinks "oxymoron". Yelling at me that "i don't get it" will never change me. It will only make me dismiss you. However, I am skilled at reading scientific studies and if I read one that I assess as well designed with robust results and few important limitations - that could influence me. One more thing, just because wind comprises a small proportion and coal a large one now does not mean this trend can not be changed. The notion that we humans can change things is a point of common ground that you and I share- you are convinced that coal can be changed into a clean energy, I am convinced we can change our sources of energy.

by Bianchi on Jan 27, 2009 1:29 pm • linkreport

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