For your light reading, items from various news sources, some of which appear believable and serious, others not so much:

Cambridge, Mass., home to Harvard University, has adopted an ordinance to require the placement of stickers warning of the climate emergency on fuel pumps at gas stations.

The bright yellow stickers are the brainchild of a group called “Beyond the Pump” and read; “Continuing to burn gasoline (or diesel) worsens the climate emergency, with major projected impacts on your health increasing over time.”

A spokesperson from the group indicates, “The gas pump stickers will remind drivers to think about climate change and hopefully consider non-polluting options. The labels are designed to create a feeling like someone has broken a rule or violated a law. This feeling, along with increased social pressure, like smoking labels, can translate to a collapse in trust for the current system, thereby increasing the public appetite for alternatives.”

Cambridge is the first to implement this new strategy. Will others follow?

A California city has taken the gas station issue to another level. The city of Petaluma is also looking to be the first in the nation on a gas-station-related issue. The city council voted to ban all new gas stations and to prohibit existing ones from expanding or relocating.

Lest a reader thinks this was done willy-nilly, the Petaluma Argus-Courier article points out that the ban is the culmination of a two-year moratorium with research finding that everyone in the town of 60,000 is within a five-minute drive of a gas station, so who needs another one? The city council also streamlined the process for establishing electric-vehicle-charging stations and, potentially, also hydrogen fueling.

Interestingly, at least to me, the ban evolved out of a lawsuit by the citizens’ group Save Petaluma against Safeway building a gas station at one of its stores. This should sound familiar to Sacramentans, Curtis Park residents specifically, who had a similar tussle with a developer wanting to include a gas station with a proposed Safeway grocery store.

I suppose, if carmakers are really serious about ending the production of fossil-fuel vehicles, at some point gas stations are going to have to come up with a different business model or go out of business.

In any case, Petaluma recently moved up its goal for carbon neutrality from 2045 to 2030 and this is one of the actions they’re relying on to get them there.

Speaking of changing business models, friend and neighbor Don recently sent me “38 Predictions” related to the coming of the electric vehicle. Here are a couple.

Auto shops will disappear. I’m not sure about this one. The article claims electric car motors only have 20 parts compared to 20,000 for a gas or diesel engine, so what is there to work on? Take it to what resembles a car wash, settle in with a cup of coffee, your car will be towed through the “shop,” robots will find and fix your problem and 20 minutes later you’ll have a new or fixed motor.

Another: A baby born in 2021 will have to go to a museum to see a “personal” car. People won’t own them; you can go ahead and convert your garage to a gym, workshop, sewing room, “granny flat” or whatever. Vehicles will be autonomous, guided by artificial intelligence. If you need a car, or truck or van you just summon it, use it, let it go, and summon another for a return trip. A continuously circulating taxi service, so to speak.

Sounds pretty crazy, but the pace of change is crazy. Most college students today were born before there were smartphones or the omniscient internet. “Disruption” used to be a word used for things like disrupting a classroom discussion. Now it is a primary element of business strategy for startups, in particular, looking to completely change the way a technology is used or a business is operated.

A good example is photography. Way back in 2000, you took a picture on a camera, took the film to a place like Long’s Drugs, who sent it to Kodak for processing. You waited a week or so to pick up the pictures, took them home and put them in a photo album.

The nearly 200,000 employees of Kodak, who sold and processed all that film would see their industry “disrupted” and their employer bankrupted in a few short years. For that matter, who knew that a phone and a camera would be one and the same thing?

Lastly for today, in the “believe-it-or-not” category is the effort currently underway to build floating nuclear power plants. The idea stems from the perception of some that many small and developing (and coastal) countries could use some help producing electricity, and a barge with a nuclear power plant on it moored off the coast is just the thing. A Danish company says it will start taking orders in 2022 for nuclear barges to be delivered in 2025.

And, lest this be perceived as a far-fetched and impractical idea, the company has one now, operating since 2019, supplying electricity to the Russian port of Pevek on the East Siberian Sea.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis. This column appears the first and third Wednesday of each month. Please send comments to

Published online on March 17, 2021 | Printed in the March 17, 2021 edition on page A6.