The New York Times on Europe's pollution permits Amidst a sagging European economy, Stanley Reed and Mark Scott investigate the promise (and reality) of European Union Allowances, the basis of the EU's cap-and-trade scheme. "When the emissions trading system was started in 2005, the goal was to create a global model for raising the costs of emitting greenhouse gases and for prodding industrial polluters to switch from burning fossil fuels to using clean-energy alternatives like wind and solar." But prices have fallen dramatically, revealing structural blunders. "The reality has been far different because of serious flaws in the design of the system. To win over companies and skeptical countries like Poland, which burn a lot of coal, far too many credits have been handed out."
Scientific American on the rise of car ownership How do car companies persuade Americans to purchase cars? Krystal D'Costa investigates that question by studying the way cars have been advertised as tokens of human agency. "Car ads today work to capture these themes of choice, control, and freedom: In a random survey of Men’s Health magazine, the auto spreads on the back pages showed automobiles helping people reconnect with nature ..., or overcoming challenging weather by highlighting their safety features ... or conveying a sense of luxury. ... The automobile doesn’t need to mechanically justify itself. Instead, advertisers work to convince consumers that the automobile can be a partner."
NBC News on how Earth Day's founder constructs a building John Roach talks to Earth Day founder and Seattleite Denis Hayes about Bullitt Center, which seeks to be the "greenest commercial building in the world," and the limits of sustainable architecture. "Even if self-sustainable architecture really takes off, it can't solve all the environmental issues, Hayes noted. In particular, [Hayes] worries about food security, at a time when rising prosperity around the world means a shift to more meat-heavy diets." Global worries Hayes, too — even promising ventures like a joint statement, published in early April, between the United States and China to contain climate change. "Only time will tell if the statement is truly the beginning of something focused and concrete that puts the world on the path to tackling the biggest environmental issues of today and tomorrow."
Politico on fracking in California Talia Buford weighs the conflicts facing California leaders as they decide how to govern hydraulic fracturing in the largely blue state. "The stakes for industry are big: California is home to the oil-rich Monterey Shale, which by some estimates may hold enough oil to displace five years of petroleum imports to the U.S.," she writes. Whether the state will allow the practice to flourish will indicate whether the Democratic Party wants to make peace with it. "The outcome in California 'really will show where the Democratic Party is going on the issue of fracking,' argued Matt Dempsey, an Energy in Depth spokesman who until recently was an aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)."
The New Yorker on China's response to earthquakes Jianyang Fan considers the Chinese government's response to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the country's Sichuan province on Friday evening: "The earthquake strikes at a particularly vulnerable moment in the country’s sense of its own public safety; that unrest is increasingly reflected online, as the majority of China’s 1.35 billion residents now have Internet access." A lack of information has spurred rumors of widespread environmental disaster, too. "Just two days prior, 'how to prevent catching the bird virus' held a steady spot in lists of the top ten searches online ... people have been speculating about its relationship to sixteen thousand dead pigs found in the Huangpu river, near Shanghai."