Monthly Archives: May 2011

Reversing the Ride May Reverse Bad Vibes Too

It’s so good to see Capital Bikeshare doing something about the logistical problems threatening to turn its riders against the fledgling cyclist sharing business.

Yesterday bikeshare announced a competition that will enlist members to restock stations. It couldn’t come soon enough; I can’t count the times I’ve been late for appointments, classes and meetups with friends in the last few months because stations were either empty of bikes or full-up.

I love the service. I love being able to pick up a bike anywhere in the city and then drop it off again without having to hassle with heavy locks and worry about theft. I even like the idea of sharing with my fellow citizens, thus lowering my own carbon footprint. But having to hoof it or peddle, sometimes across whole neighborhoods, was starting to undermine bikeshare’s biggest selling point: convenience. Enlisting riders to solve the problem and rewarding them for their efforts sounds like a great idea.

The Washington City Paper also has a post with a few contest details.

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I Want this Bike Helmet!

From Tree Hugger's Bike Helmet Fashion Show

So it might not go with all outfits, it’s a much bolder fashion statement than the standard offerings. And so much padding would be comforting if one’s skull were on a crash course with the pavement. If this one’s not for you, the TreeHugger site has an array of cyclist headgear on parade today. Several swerve decidedly into the fashion lanes. Others tilt toward practicality. I also like the collapsible helmet; unattractive but easily stowed. As a Capital Bikeshare members, I get tired of carrying my bulky plastic helmet around with me.

The End of Gas?

creative commons license

When gas prices soar, I guess it’s only a matter of time before complaints and government investigations ensue. But what’s interesting about the current spate is how it reflects the transformation underway across he country as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell sell off their gas stations to regional middlemen, known as “jobbers.” This time around, it’s not Big Oil or the little station operators who are taking the heat for price gouging; it’s the jobbers.

While the price spikes have drawn lots of attention, perhaps more interesting in the long-term is what the (until now) relatively unnoticed round of selloffs may lead to: the eventual disappearance of local fueling depots altogether.

What with predictions of peak oil, the rise of alternative fuels and electric cars, Joe Mamo, D.C.’s biggest jobber, told me his company, Capitol Petroleum Group, is really a real estate business. As his properties in Washington and New York City become more valuable for the “dirt” beneath them than the gas or junk food they can sell, he says they will become condos.

Whether this trend could contribute to the high cost of gas in D.C. and other urban areas is a question I don’t think anyone has seriously examined. It’s not an industry that gets much sustained scrutiny (beyond the occasional price gouging uproars). My profile of Mamo, which ran in the Washington City Paper in February, is one of the few (perhaps the only) in-depth look at Big Oil’s pullout from a major metropolitan marketplace. The Washington Business Journal  suggested it helped prompt the District’s anti-trust investigation of Mamo’s company.

For more information on the D.C. investigation, links to the Washington Post coverage are hereCNN Money has a national round-up of gouging allegations, and here’s a link to my profile on Joe Mamo.

A Call for a “Deep Green” Uprising

After news yesterday drew attention again to the failed strategy and sad co-opting of many mainstream green groups, it begs the question: Is a Deep Green Resistance the way to galvanize mass action on climate change? A growing number of activists – Bill McKibben, Tim DeChristopher, Mike Roselle and others – say it will take a civil rights-like movement to wake people up to the society disrupting challenges climate change will bring (and many experts say has already begun.)

While they represent very different places on the political spectrum, they’ve all given up on a broad consensus and aim instead for inspiring a small but effective minority of people willing to put themselves on the line. But that’s about all they seem to agree on. The DGR — which according to its website will have both public and underground branches —  is already under friendly fire from Roselle and other activists who raise some interesting questions about how to start a green revolution without losing mainstream appeal.

Never one to mince words, Roselle’s take on the new resistance: “Deep Green Doo Doo.”

He elaborated in a Facebook post yesterday: “Not that some new thinking is not required, but I’m always sicious of people providing answers to problems which are themselves questions. They have not identified any issues that were not being discussed back in the 1960’s. I’m not a pacifist, but this sort of preaching to the choir is very damaging to the chances, however slim, of building a real movement. We can be the Muslim Brotherhood, or we can be the crowd at Tafir Square? Do we want peaceful transition, or a civil war? Its really up to us.”

CI Official Caught Offering to “Green” Arms Dealer’s Rep

The U.K. website, The Ecologist, has posted a video exposing a Conservation International official offering her group’s public relations services to a big arms dealer. According to the Ecologist story, the undercover video was shot by producers at the online magazine, Don’t Panic. They posed as Lockheed Martin executives in a meeting with a person they describe as a senior CI official. The phony corporate executives dangled a hefty donation in exchange for helping the weapons maker link its brand name with saving endangered species.

The sting is the latest in a wave of recent corporate impersonations, an activist genre pioneered by The Yes Men that usually involves spoof websites, fake corporate executives and meetings in swank surroundings. From conservative filmmaker James OKeefe, who embarrassed National Public Radio earlier this year by posing as a potential donors from the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Men’s new Yes Lab, impersonations are fashionable among guerilla activists and vidoemakers.

Of course, it’s no secret that CI and its chief rivals such as The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund get lots of funding from polluting corporations — even arms dealers. These corporate ties were a major part of my 2008 book, “Green, Inc.,” which the video producers allude to in passing.

In fact, it’s not that surprising that CI was eager to sign up Lockheed as a corporate sponsor; The Conservancy has already taken money form the arms giant. CI has funding ties to B-2 bomber maker, Northrup Grumman, and Northrup’s President and CEO, Wes Bush, sits on CI’s board of directors.