Friday, February 20, 2009

Google Earth pollution maps

(Image from LA Times)

Has it really been two weeks since my latest post? Fortunately a couple of interesting tidbits today caught my eye. First, I subscribe to the Google Lat Long blog, and it had a post today about a new layer in Google Earth. The new map layer shows pollution levels courtesy of The Vulcan Project at Purdue University. The LA Times also had a tidbit about it. The data isn't super duper recent (circa 2002), and from my quick perusal it seems to be only carbon dioxide (with a super sarcastic emphasis on the word 'only' - I applaud them for having so much nationwide data available in the first place).

What I found especially interesting about this article, however, was another article I read today that Obama says he will NOT tax vehicle miles traveled, instead saying that he intends to keep taxing gasoline consumption. This is a quandry: VMT more accurately tracks individual riders, which is a good for incentivizing things like paying for roads and bridges, but not necessarily good for incentivizing paying for cleaning up the environment. Essentially, auto efficiency (i.e. miles per gallon) is ignored. Taxing gasoline consumption is almost the opposite effect: it does a good job of incentivizing payment for lowering air pollution, but a poor job of incentivizing paying for projects based on mileage. I think the ultimate solution is a combination of both, but that's probably a topic for the guys over at the Freakonomics Blog at the NY Times.

(Which, by the way, is totally effing sweet).

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