Saturday, September 10, 2005

AltWheels Transportation Festival Sept. 17-19, 2005


Americans are feeling the pinch in the wallet from soaring gas prices, in part due to the devastation unleashed by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. I expect the renewed urgency toward energy issues will help drive attendance to this weekend's AltWheels Alternative Transportation Festival at The Museum of Transportation in Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, Massachusetts.

This is my third year helping organize the event, though I have not been as involved this year due to the job search that led to my new position here at Seven Cycles. I will be moderating a panel discussion entitled, Greenways, Bikeways, and Rails-to-Trails: Simple, Sensible, Improvements for Traditional Landscapes. This will be the final panel of the weekend, a weekend filled with information on alternative fuels, land use and real estate development, and sustainable landscapes.

Over the weekend I received the Summer 2005 edition of my alma mater's magazine WPI Transformations. Lo and behold what appears on the cover but the headline "Sustainable Energy; Current Choices, Future Technologies". It's about time. Not only is this an area attracting the attention of the masses, but there are research funding decisions to be made. What technical institution can not overlook something technology based that provides an opportunity for government funding? I was reassured as a wide-eyed prospective student that WPI was not a research driven college, that professors were paid to teach and not publish. That may be true, but I am sure the college receives grant money for curriculum development and facility construction,and some research.

Articles in this issue address transportation, wind power, solar energy, and sustainable manufacturing. The major article, The Coming Energy Crisis? highlights a WPI graduate from 1968 and his career in energy and environmental technologies. What's the point? We need to invest in energy efficiency NOW and work on the clean technologies that will power the future.

The venerable New York Times also jumped on the post hurricane fervor over gasoline prices with this article, The New Prize: Alternative Fuels The author spent a good amount of time on ethanol (beware the trade propaganda!), a fuel derived from corn, to the delight of constituents in the Midwest, and already available in limited distribution around the country. This is a follow on to the article that appeared in the August 21 edition of the Times, The Breaking Point. If you want to read it, you will have to pay.

Before I go, I wanted to point out another problem with our transportation infrastructure, one that there may not be an answer for. If there is, it is not an easy one. I read the following passage in the NYTimes (I know, I need some more sources) over the weekend. The article was on the aftermath of Katrina and the failings in our Nation's response.
But the city's plan says that about 100,000 residents "do not have means of personal transportation" to evacuate, and there are few details on how they would be sheltered.
This reminds me that despite the fact that I'm paying close to $40.00 to fill the gas tank in my 1997 Toyota Camry, I can still do it. There are many people that can not.

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