Friday, April 22, 2011

Complete Streets Are Safe For Everyone

New study shows making roads safe for pedestrians make them safer for cars too.

Via Discovering Urbanism: New study sheds light on roadway safety for all

Quote from the study:
"This study finds that the factors associated with a vehicle crashing into a pedestrian and cyclist are largely the same as those resulting in a crash with another vehicle. Designs that balance the inherent tension between vehicle speeds and traffic conflicts can be used to enhance the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike."

Northern Michigan To Get World's First Industrial Biobutanol Plant

Via Biofuels Digest: Cobalt, American Process to launch first cellulosic biobutanol plant

This could be big.

Why It Matters

Butanol is the alcohol fuel you've never heard of. Biobutanol is butanol that has been produced with the help of microbes.

We've all heard of ethanol. Butanol is like ethanol in that it is an alcohol fuel and can be used in cars and it is commonly used by industry.

It is unlike ethanol in that in can be used as a straight-up replacement for gasoline with no engine modification; it has a higher energy density than ethanol; and can be shipped in existing gasoline pipelines because unlike ethanol it does not absorb water (ethanol has to be shipped by truck).

This is a bit of good news after the roller coaster rides provided by natural gas and biomass.

The explosion of natural gas leases in northern Michigan dried up as quickly as they appeared (TheTicker). Plus, the geological formation holding the gas (Utica Shale) only produces economical recovery rates through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and this process is being found to have all kinds of faults (yes, that is geology humor) like what is currently happening in Pennsylvania (See Reuters: U.S. natgas well blowout raises safety concerns).

As far as biomass is concerned, TCLP was forced to abandon plans for a biomass burning power plant after community concerns (See IPR: TC L&P Abandons Biomass)

What It Could Mean

The Alpena Biorefinery will initially use waste wood from a particle board plant. But if successful it could mean a need for more cellulose sources in the future. The forests of Michigan perhaps, but even better would be planning ahead. If I ran a power company I'd find fallow land, plant native and quick growing woody plants that can be used as feedstock (e.g., willows) in biomass operations, then see what happens.

In 10-15 years if we're using alagae, wind, and solar to meet our energy needs then lease the purchased land to farmers; if biobutanol is a big deal then use the mature plants as the source for alcohol fuels.

Additional Reading
AP: Companies announce plans for Alpena refinery that converts wood waste to industrial chemical

Ecoseed: American Process and Cobalt Technologies to build world’s first biobutanol refinery

Sustainable Planet: World’s First Cellulosic Biobutanol Refinery to Be Built in Alpena, Michigan

Official site: Alpena Biorefinery

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Focus Is About Saying No"

The title quote is attributed to Steve Jobs.

This is why your old Mac's mouse only had one button and why the iPhone has only the physical Home button. The lesson Steve Jobs has given the world is say No to what is extraneous so you can focus your efforts on solving problems elegantly.

The people of Traverse City have spoken and they said "No Road".

No doesn't mean don't do anything though. People have their own reasons for voting No, those include:

"No" because the City must focus on traffic as a whole system.
"No" because there is no evidence showing that Boardman Lake Avenue will work.
"No" because roads like these have historically increased traffic.
"No" because other cities are tearing out roads that cut off neighborhoods from each other and amenities.
"No" because this road does not make the neighborhood safer.

We're trying to focus on the problem so we're saying No to building Boardman Lake Avenue.

We want to focus on enjoying and making better what we have.

Focus on building a trail and an Old Town park.

Focus on access to Boardman Lake.

Focus on complete street design. We want Cass, Union, and Lake Ave to be residential streets too. To do that they have to look like neighborhood streets. This means traffic calming.

We need to focus on making the streets we have better.

Focusing on Traverse City traffic issues is about saying No to Old Town's Boardman Lake Avenue bypass.