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"Without a sense of how materials and energy flow through an industrial economy," writes Hayes, "you miss something about the world you live in." Most of us tap into this missing world every time we flip a switch or turn on a faucet, but we don't stop to think about how or why we get the desired effect. But Hayes brings us the hows and whys: from the wind farms of Altamont Pass, east of San Francisco, to the Gulf Coast's offshore oil rigs; from strip mining to drip irrigation; and from city water and sewage-treatment plants to New Orleans' levees, pumps, and canals, Infrastructure concisely covers energy, water, agriculture, transportation, communication, waste, and more.
...And after running down the basics, problems, and potentials of every major energy source, Hayes offers his no-nonsense view on the future of our fossil-fuel society: "The prospect of running out of oil a few decades from now should not be cause for panic or despair," he concludes. "Given that the whole infrastructure of the petroleum industry was built in less than a hundred years, there should be plenty of time to create its replacement ... And if a world without gasoline seems unimaginable, look back to the 1850s, when a world without whale oil and a whaling industry must have seemed equally unlikely and forbidding."
...For those of us who try to solve environmental problems, his opus might become a classic. If knowledge is power, Infrastructure is powerful; it becomes a sort of introductory handbook for achieving sustainable technologies.
(25 October 2005)
Wal-Mart to seek savings in energy
Michael Barbaro and Felicity Barringer, NY Times BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart's chief executive is set to announce on Tuesday a set of sweeping, specific environmental goals to reduce energy use in its stores, double its trucks' fuel efficiency, minimize its use of packaging and pressure thousands of companies in its worldwide supply chain to follow its lead.
Embracing energy-conscious and environmentally conscious goals will help both the company's bottom line and its customers' needs, H. Lee Scott said in an interview Monday.
Mr. Scott's announcement signals that the nation's largest retailer is joining the nation's largest manufacturer, General Electric, in pursuing policies that set specific goals for environmental performance, while advertising those goals to shareholders and customers and the public as strategic business decisions.
G.E. faced criticism for its own environmental practices; Wal-Mart has faced criticism as well, but largely over its low wages, scant health insurance coverage and what its critics have called poor treatment of workers. Those critics responded to Wal-Mart's environmental initiative by saying that, while admirable, it is intended to divert attention from the chain's image problems.
(25 October 2005)