While doing research for one of my recent internships, I came across an interesting page from the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center. It includes a calculator that takes in a zip code, reads out energy sources for electricity in that area (e.g. gas, coal, nuclear), and calculates the emissions of electric vehicles in that area based on the grid.
One of the arguments against electric vehicles is that since electricity is powered by non-renewable sources, these cars aren’t reducing emissions. Put a different way, is an electric car that’s receiving electricity from a coal plant any cleaner than a Hummer? According to the Department of Energy, the answer is yes.
The calculator is also a cool way to see how energy sources are used in your area. There are some obvious conclusions, such as more coal being used for my parents’ house in Pennsylvania than in my current Massachusetts area. But there are some other things I wouldn’t have predicted, such as a higher-than-average percentage of biomass in New England, and Illinois using a higher percentage of coal than Pennsylvania. Some areas have a diverse range of sources, while others are more dependent (Purdue is almost entirely coal and nuclear). Click here to visit the calculator and try your own zip code.
Back in December (it seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?), the New York Times released a set of interactive online maps representing data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009. The corresponding article points out some interesting observations about the data, including trends in foreign-born populations, ethnic segregation, and education. But it’s well worth a few minutes to look through the interactive maps, to check on your hometown(s) or some of the major cities. I took a few screenshots while I was browsing and attached them below.
Here are New York and Chicago mapped for the distribution of racial and ethnic groups. In the cities, the divides between different neighborhoods seem surprisingly clear.
Here is a view of the West of those people with master’s degrees or higher. Besides the usual concentration around the cities, there are other less obvious concentrations, like this spot in Wyoming.
This view of Albuquerque illustrates the map for change in median home value since 2000. Blue are declines while gold are increases in home value, and different parts of the city have certainly seen different market climates in the past few years.
Here’s Chicago again, this time showing household income distribution. Again, the cities and urban areas tend to show sharp divides in different levels, and there is a distinct divide between the richer North side and the rest of the Chicago area.
[ Original NYT article ] “Immigrants Make Paths to Suburbia, Not Cities” – New York Times
[ Interactive Maps ] “Mapping America, Every Block” – New York Times