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When the US government subsidizes green technology, that is considered a good thing for the environment. But when a foreign government does it, that is considered anti-competitive:

The Commerce Department on Tuesday imposed steep duties on importers of Chinese solar panels made from certain components, asserting that the manufacturers had benefited from unfair subsidies.

The duties will range from 18.56 to 35.21 percent, the department said.

The decision, in a long-simmering trade dispute, addresses one of the main charges in a petition brought by the manufacturer SolarWorld Industries America. While it is preliminary, the ruling means that the United States will begin collecting the tariffs in advance of the final decision, expected later this year.

It is hard to see how this tariff will save jobs. Solar panel installations had been one of the bright spots of the economy — particularly in places like California’s Central Valley where there is high unemployment and high electricity bills.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the new House Majority Leader, is apparently an avid bicyclist:

McCarthy pulls on some ratty gym clothes, descends three flights of stairs and exits the building, where, when the weather is agreeable, he meets up with about a half-dozen other GOP members on their mountain bikes. Together they cruise along the Mall, past the Lincoln Memorial, across a bridge and along the Potomac River.

This will surely mean more bike funding from the Republican Congress, right?

 

In December 2012, Dr. Fred Rivara gave an alarming TED Talk about the spread of bikeshare programs across the nation. This was a big problem, he argued, because bikeshare riders generally do not wear helmets. He predicted mass carnage as a result, and published a paper that purported to show a 14% increased risk of head injuries as a result of bikeshare.

But when the data in the paper was examined, it was clear that bikeshare had the opposite effect. Cities with bikeshare programs saw a substantial reduction in head injuries.

It is not the first time Dr. Rivara has cried wolf.

Beginning in 1989, he published a series of papers claiming that bike helmets reduce the risk of head injury by a whopping 85%. He is the original bike helmet alarmist. And while his papers were heavily criticized for their methods and conclusions, that did not prevent legislators from passing mandatory helmet laws.

But following passage of the helmet laws, a funny thing happened: There was no change in the rate of bicyclist injuries or fatalities. For example, a study of Canadian helmet legislation in the BMJ states: “we were unable to detect an independent effect of legislation on the rate of hospital admissions for cycling related head injuries.” A study of Australia helmet legislation (“No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets”) made the same conclusion. Australia, by the way, is the most perfect laboratory for bike helmet effectiveness, because the entire country overnight instituted strict helmet laws. The fact that no effect was detected is astonishing, given Rivara’s claim that helmets are 65% effective against motor vehicle collisions.

When real world experimental data fails to validate a theoretical model, it means the model is wrong. Twice now, Dr. Rivara’s theory has failed in dramatic fashion. The fact that he refuses to give up his theory means he is nothing more than a crackpot.

 

NPR and many other news outlets are reporting that brain injury rates have increased in cities with bike-share programs. The implication is that these bikeshare riders are not riding with helmets, and getting brained. That is the conclusion of a paper published by Dr. Janessa Graves  of Washington State University.

And yet the data in the paper showed the exact opposite. Total number of head injuries in cities with bikeshare declined significantly — despite an increasing number of bicyclists. All that changed was that there was a marginal increase in the proportion of injuries that were head related. However, the paper can’t ascertain whether those head injuries had anything to do with bikeshare, or even whether those injured were wearing helmets.

This is the worst kind of junk science. While it is understandable that journalists could be fooled by this bullshit, how did this paper ever pass peer review?

 

 

Over at Railway Age, Frank Wilner has some scathing criticism of the FRA’s proposed two-person crew mandate. According to Wilner, there is no factual basis for two-man crews, which leads to the suspicion that the purpose is union featherbedding:

In 2009, the FRA said it had “no factual evidence to support [a] prohibition against one-person crew operations.” The California Public Utilities Commission concluded a two-person crew “could aggravate engineer distraction,” while the National Transportation Safety Board does not oppose phasing out two-person crews as other safety enhancements, such as PTC, are implemented.

Yet in April, the FRA, at the urging of labor, said it would promulgate a rule requiring two-person crews. Privately, some at FRA disparage the agency’s effort as “the Book of Mormon,” saying FRA lacks data, and its arguments are ubiquitous with the term, “we believe.”

Regulatory actions should be data driven. Yet when a carrier official suggested a data-driven approach, an FRA official responded—according to FRA-prepared meeting minutes—“What would be the objective of this exercise?” That the FRA administrator is a former union officer legitimately adds to anxieties.

Congressional oversight may soon probe what really is going on, and surely if the FRA proceeds, a federal court challenge, accompanied by extensive pre-trial discovery, will focus sunlight. Clearly not the FRA’s finest hour, this may well be its nadir.

The FRA has never been data-driven. It is all hocus pocus and pseudo-science.

San Jose’s Diridon Station Area Plan will build a Sea of Parking around the new BART and HSR stations. And you don’t have to take my word for it — even Rod Diridon agrees. So you might expect the Greenbelet Alliance to come out against the plan….or not:

The plan also calls for creating a dynamic world-class community next to the station that’s designed around people, rather than cars, to create an attractive urban village in the heart of San Jose.

The Diridon Plan provides one of San Jose’s best opportunities to carry out many of the goals from its Envision 2040 General Plan, especially increasing walking, biking and transit trips. Now the hard part: Making the vision a reality. This will require strong leadership and cross-jurisdictional collaboration. The San Jose City Council should start by approving the Diridon Plan.

pavilion

Does Hollywood really need $400 million in tax credits for producing its crappy blockbuster movies? That is the argument being put forth by the industry group Film-LA:

In a study released today on feature film production in California in 2013, FilmL.A. has added its voice to the chorus wanting an increase to the entertainment industry tax incentives the Golden State offers. While the opinion is nothing new for the nonprofit local-permitting organization, the basis of its latest argument is: We need more blockbusters.

According to FilmL.A.’s 6-months-in-the-making report, California is tied for second place with the entire country of Canada for the location where most feature films released last year were made. Introduced in 2009, California’s current $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit program does not allow pics with budgets of more than $75 million to be eligible for its annual lottery. “For a program intended to help reverse runaway production, California’s incentive entirely ignores film projects carrying the greatest economic value with the greatest propensity to run away: big‐budget features,” says the 2013 Feature Film Production Report.

Surely there are more important programs to fund than Hollywood blockbuster movies. For example, the $400 million film credit dwarfs the $100 million annual spending for the state’s bike/ped program. I make that comparison because Film-LA recently had a green bike lane removed from Spring Street.

But what about all the Teamsters Local 399 jobs that might be lost to places like Toronto or Vancouver? Think about it: tax credits are being used to subsidize the production of crappy Hollywood blockbusters, when that money could be spent hiring workers to develop new infrastructure, green technology, housing, etc. You know, things that have an actual social benefit for Californians.

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