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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for February 2nd, 2007

Island City still “better in every way”

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Richmond News February 2, 2007

…in recent months, Gordon Kibble, who co-chairs the city’s advisory committee on the environment, started noticing a new logo – “Better In Every Way” – appearing on city advertising.

When Kibble started asking who made the change and why, he said he got no answers from city councillors.

“I have never gotten a straight answer as of yet,” he said. “Who decided the slogan needed to be changed and why? And who gets to vote on this?”

Never mind that – who in their right mind would think this is any any way a defensible statement? And better than what … or where?

Let’s just look at some of the ways Richmond is well behind other cities:

  • Traffic – Number 3 Road is proverbial in the region as one of the worst places to find yourself stuck
  • Risk of flooding – the dyke is inadequate even before taking into account the inevitable sea level rise consequent upon global warming
  • Very little affordable housing and no plan to provide more
  • Absolutely zero provision for the homeless
  • Hardly any assistance for those on low incomes other than a food bank which is entirely dependant on charity. The food bank was supposed to be a temporary response to lack of provision by governments at all levels. That was what 20 years ago. It is now a permanent feature and one of the excuses that allows such poor public provision
  • Aircraft noise: no controls over the way YVR can send low flying, heavy aircraft over populated areas
  • A shameful human rights record in the Fire and Public Works Departments

I could go on – but you get the idea. For the longest time I have tried to get organsiations to see that complacency is the greatest barrier to improvement. Win an award, or tell yourself “We’re No 1” and no-one is allowed to point out how you could do better. And Richmond – the City and the place – really needs to do better – than we are doing now!

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study

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Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study

Ian Sample, science correspondent

Friday February 2, 2007
The Guardian

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This story didn’t make this morning’s Vancouver Sun, which I think is probably a fair reflection on that paper’s editorial policy. Canwest is still pursuing the line that there is no consensus on climate change, that it is still controversial and that both sides have to be heard. But of course, the new report of the IPCC shows that there is very little doubt.

The contents of the IPCC report have been an open secret since the Bush administration posted its draft copy on the internet in April. It says there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C this century, depending on emissions.

Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific institute, said: “The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that ‘business as usual’ would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise.”

And who am I to dispute the words of Lord Rees? (Oh yes, there’s lots of us, you know – and we know how to spell our name right too!)

The strategy of throwing doubt on the science worked well for the tobacco lobby for years and now seems to be making sure that Bush Jr does the bidding of his Texas oil buddies. What worries me is that so many people I talk to seem to have fallen for the same claptrap. Although recent coverage now suggests that the tipping point on public opinion here may have turned. About time too!

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2007 at 8:22 am

Just another slight of hand…………..

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*B.C.’s luxury auto surtax gives the SUV gang a real break*
*A financial stimulus that encourages people to buy larger, less efficient autos*

Pete McMartin – Vancouver Sun
Thursday Feb 1, 2007

Pete wrote an article last Saturday, pointing out that the provincial tax break on hybrid cars (no PST) has had little impact since only 4710 have been sold since 2001 – or 0.18% of the fleet (2.6m passenger vehicles). This brought a response from Matt Price, of Victoria. Price is the coordinator for a non-profit agency called Conservation Voters of B.C. He points out that the province has been reducing the luxury car tax

“The policy situation [encouraged by the provincial government],” he
wrote, “is even more crazy though. I presented to the B.C. budget committee this year using the example of the hybrid tax break versus the lifting of the threshold of the luxury tax on vehicles.

The [luxury tax] is a financial stimulus that encourages people to buy larger, less efficient autos.

And the kicker is that it costs the treasury 30 times the amount that the hybrid tax break does!”

Price was referring to B.C.’s luxury auto surtax. Designed to dissuade drivers from buying larger, less fuel-efficient autos, the surtax threshold was introduced by the NDP government a decade ago at $32,000.

It was then raised in Premier Gordon Campbell’s first term to $47,000, then $49,000. It now stands at $55,000. For any car over $55,000, the surtax adds one per cent to the PST to a maximum of an additional three per cent at $57,000.

So the current annual cost to the provincial revenues is SUVs and Porsches $45m, hybrids $1.5m

Pete also links this to contributions to Liberal election funds by car dealers but that is a low blow. I think the Liberals have made a principled stand. Give tax breaks to the good folks who vote Liberal (and drive Jaguars) and stick it to the greens while making it look like we care about the environment. Pete goes on to compare the number of hybrids sold compared to the number of big trucks used for passenger transport, but attributing that to recent tax policy is being blinkered. It is a trend that has been going on for years and is mainly due to the big three US automakers trying to get around the CAFE standards. Up to now hybrids from Honda and Toyota have been in limited supply and carry a hefty price premium over similar sized conventional cars. So the pay back from lower fuel consumption is a long way off – long after most people who buy new cars will have moved on to the latest fashion statement. Smaller conventional cars currently offer similar fuel consumption to the Prius and Civic hybrids at much more affordable prices. And to be fair that is exactly what Pete wrote on Saturday – and that article (linked above) is not locked for subscribers only.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2007 at 8:07 am