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Climate Change

The Gay-Rights Playbook

How can climate warriors build an unstoppable social movement—and avoid a global catastrophe? Lisa Bennett sees seven lessons from the struggle for marriage equality.

There is little question that the gay-rights movement is the most successful social crusade in recent American history. (The Supreme Court rulings sanctioning same-sex marriage only put the icing on that cake.)

Coal Dark Future

In a sense, we are in the the pre-Stonewall age of the climate-change debate, but we don’t need to be. (AP (2))

So how can that success inspire the most essential fight of our time—a climate movement big enough to demand that Congress do what’s needed to avoid catastrophe by leveling the playing field for renewable energy?


Tesla Joins NASDAQ 100

The Silicon Valley electric car manufacturer has plowed through its adolescence and is showing signs of maturity. Having paid back its government loan and turned a profit, it is now being invited into an exclusive stock market club.

The milestones keep coming for Tesla Motors, the start-up electric car manufacturer many people love to hate.

It repaid the large loan it took from the government nine years early, posted its first profit since inception, and has seen its market capitalization soar above $14 billion.  Tuesday morning, Tesla received another stamp of approval. Nasdaq announced it would add Tesla to the Nasdaq 100 index, which is composed of many of the  largest non-financial companies traded on the exchange. The move will take place on July 15 as software giant Oracle leaves for the New York Stock Exchange.


A Tesla Model S electric sedan is driven near the company's factory in Fremont, California. (Noah Berger/Reuters)


Young People Shun Cars

Record numbers of young Americans don’t own a car or hold a driver’s license, and people are beginning to take notice.

Why do young people hate America so much?

Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, famously described the propensity of our countrymen to drive around in gas-guzzling vehicles part of the “blessed” American life.


Young people are taking trains and buses more and more. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Car Tech

Brilliant Stop-Start Engines

Like idle hands, idle vehicle motors are a big threat. They waste energy and cause pollution. Simple technology solutions that shut off engines when they’re not in use can lead to huge savings.

We hear about climate change every day. The growing need to address our impact on the environment is almost inescapable in modern society. Engineers have worked across all industries to innovate for the greater good. Solar panels, hybrid cars, and recycling all offer ways for the average consumer to make a serious difference, but many resist the idea of such grand change. It falls to subtler, simpler technologies to recruit the mass populace into the war against global warming.


Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. displays prototype of the Subaru XV hybrid vehicle. (Aflo/Corbis)

One such technology is the stop-start, or microhybrid, car. These vehicles still run almost exclusively on gas, but will be one of the most important catalysts for fuel efficiency in the next decade. Stop-start technology is simple: when your car pulls up to a red light or stops dead in brutal rush-hour traffic, the engine will simply shut off. An auxiliary battery provides the power necessary so you can keep jamming to your favorite radio station or power the air conditioning on a hot summer day. According to Car and Driver, Ford claims that its 2012 models using the technology can increase fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent. In effect, stop-start eliminates fuel wasted when cars idle.


Electric-Vehicle Sales Soar

Cars that run partially or entirely on electricity make up a tiny sliver of the vast U.S. car market. But companies selling them posted big gains in June.

Electricity is slowly, slowly becoming a transportation fuel. While they account for only a tiny fraction of sales, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are rising. They’re being fueled by competition, federal tax credits worth up to $7,500, and the persistence of high gas prices. While consumers have several choices, three companies—Nissan, General Motors’ Chevrolet, and Tesla—hold almost 75 percent of the market for electric cars. And each has posted significant gains this spring.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan sold 2,225 of its Leaf electric cars in June. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

On Tuesday car companies (but not Tesla) reported their June sales. In the month, Nissan sold 2,225 of its all-electric Leaf. That’s up from 2,138 units this May and up a whopping 319 percent from May 2012. Nissan said that by lowering prices and producing the car domestically, it was able to attract a greater number of consumers to the Leaf. The vehicle has even gained traction abroad, with Nissan celebrating its 10,000th sale in Europe in late May.

Paperless Airplanes

Pilots Ditch Charts for iPads

Many airlines are getting rid of old-fashioned paper flying manuals in favor of iPads, which can hold all the information a pilot might need in a quarter-inch thick device. Miranda Green reports.

You’ve heard of paper airplanes. Now there are paperless airplanes.

Airplane pilots are going paperless in a new push to save time, money, and energy. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that multiple airlines are doing away with old-fashioned paper flying manuals in exchange for the sleek and lighter design of an iPad, which can hold all the information a pilot might need in a quarter-inch thick device.


United Continental Holdings Inc.


Inventor Builds Cardboard Bikes

Cardboard Bicycle

Baz Ratner/Reuters/Landov

Around the world, people are putting garbage and cast-off materials to productive use. Behold the cardboard bicycle!

Cardboard, empty plastic bottles, and used car tires. To most these items are nothing but trash. But to Izhar Gafni, they are the future. Those three recycled items are all it takes for Gafni to build a revolutionary and low-cost new form of transportation: simply called the Cardboard Bicycle.

A mechanical engineer in northern Israel, Gafni is best known for designing the award-winning pomegranate peeler and juicer now used by Pom Wonderful. An avid cyclist, Gafni had wondered if there was a way to build a functioning bike with alternative materials; what he found was incredible. When folded several times, similar to origami, cardboard had legitimate structural strength. With this technique, Gafni created several iterations of his Cardboard Bicycle, the last of which met his primary criteria: functional and aesthetically pleasing. Fire-resistant, water-resistant, and capable of supporting up to 400 pounds, the commercially viable bicycle (it costs only $9!) is made of nothing but recycled materials.

With a highly successful presentation at the innovation convention Ideacity, a 2013 Best Inventions Award from Popular Science, and recognition from CNN, Gafni’s Cardboard Bicycle is now getting some serious attention. Various venture capitalists and investors have offered significant cash in return for equity, but Gafni believes their values are financial-centric, not socially motivated. Instead of taking the easy money, Gafni’s company, Cardboard Technologies, launched a crowd-funding campaign through Indiegogo. He hopes to raise $2 million to finance the building of a production line. For those that contribute, gifts ranging from miniature origami replicas of the bike to the actual bike (once it starts rolling off the production line) are available.

Hitting Consumers

Obama’s Best Green Idea

Buried in the president’s climate-change address was a call to set higher standards for consumer products. From lightbulbs to cars, Daniel Gross on why the proposal could have a powerful impact.

The biggest headlines coming out of President Obama’s big climate-change speech will likely be his call to limit omissions from power plants and his proclamation of a small-scale war against coal. He also called for more green energy and for the government to become a bigger consumer of green power.


President Obama unveils his plan on climate change June 25 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Buried in it was a call for new efficiency standards for appliances. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Buried in there was a call for new efficiency standards for appliances. And to me, this idea—the notion of improving environmental performance by imposing higher standards on consumer products—is the most powerful and doable of the bunch. The U.S. is a consumer-driven economy. We won’t make a serious dent in energy consumption until Americans become much more careful with their use of energy. But appealing to a desire for savings is a nonstarter. I, like most Americans, prefer the comfort of air conditioning to lower electricity bills. Only a small minority of us are willing to change our behavior for the sake of the planet’s future.

Despite the president's big speech, the answer remains "not much"

At 1:30 today, the president will make a big speech outlining his plans for carbon control.  It involves using the EPA's regulatory power to slap emissions controls on power plants, and minor additional subsidies for renewables, and speeding up permitting for clean energy projects. Conservatives are predictably huffing about lost jobs, while liberals are blaming Congressional Republicans for not signing onto a bolder but more economically efficient plan, such as a carbon trading scheme.  My take is somewhat more laconic: this just doesn't matter much.  It's a way for Obama to please environmentalists in his base, and maybe get a footnote in the history books for doing something about global warming.  But the odds that this initiative will noticeably slow global warming are pretty slim.

My basic take on global warming is that on the science, liberals are the realists, while the right has spent too long in denial.  (Yes, I'm familiar with the skeptics' arguments, and I agree that folks like Michael Mann and Peter Gleick have behaved very badly, but let's be honest: most Republican politicians are not having arcane debates about modeling assumptions, decisions under uncertainty, and the philosophy of science.  They are ignoring a fairly compelling body of science because they don't want to even talk about doing something.)

But on the policy side, the conservatives are the realists and the liberals generally let wishful thinking drive their pronouncements.  Kyoto goals were met, but mostly thanks to three factors we probably can't repeat: the exhaustion of Britain's coal deposits,  the collapse of the Soviet Union and the shuttering of Eastern Europe's vilely inefficient industrial base, and the 2008 financial crisis. (Just in case you're tempted to argue "But without Kyoto, they would have risen!" let me point out that the United States, which didn't sign Kyoto, is also enjoying carbon emissions below their 1997 level)  


Are Texbooks Over?


Say goodbye to the 25-pound backpack. Technological and economic forces are shaking up the $13.7 billion textbook industry

By Ellen Lee

The Department of Justice and Apple are battling in court over e-book pricing, but that's not the only high-stakes brawl that's brewing in the publishing industry.


Darren Kemper/Corbis

Shame on You, Walmart!

With an Ohio Walmart hosting a holiday food drive for its own workers, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticizes the notoriously stingy company for not paying them more.

  1. Obama Gets Credit for Stock Market Play

    Obama Gets Credit for Stock Market

  2. Twitter’s IPO: World Reacts Play

    Twitter’s IPO: World Reacts

  3. Phone Throwing App Is Awful Play

    Phone Throwing App Is Awful


Congress: Hail Our Media Overlords

Congress: Hail Our Media Overlords

Forget Comcast being on the ropes over its proposed multibillion-dollar merger with Time Warner Cable. It smoothly overrode concerns at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Breaking: Trend Stories Are B.S.

Woman Power

Christine Lagarde’s Tightrope Act


The ‘Money Honey’ Moves On

You're Hired

Obamacare Frees Us from Cubicles