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Progressive energy policy in Bayou City?

Carl Pope talks market failures with energy execs at Houston energy conference

Today's second panel -- Carl's, on "conservation and the environment" -- opened with remarks from Houston Mayor Bill White. Despite my earlier comments about the road-crazy Bayou City, Mayor White laid out some items from what appears to be a truly progressive energy agenda for Houston, including making it an international leader in green buildings. Some of his more interesting comments came when White told the story of being one of the staffers that helped write the Energy Policy & Conservation Act of 1975, the original fuel economy law. He spoke of the doubling in fuel economy occasioned by the …

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The greenest neighborhood?

Sustainable, carbon-neutral community built in Oregon

Last week the Center for American Progress began a series called "It's Easy Being Green," meant to recognize the steps communities, individuals, and organizations are taking to transform our country's energy use. Last week's column featured a new kind of neighborhood: Pringle Creek Community in Salem, Ore., named the 2007 Green Land Development of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders, may be the greenest neighborhood in the country. It uses 35 sustainable goals to guide planning and construction, including building an entire neighborhood of carbon neutral homes, encouraging contractors to use biodiesel, and creating a community garden. …

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Governors drink the Kool-Aid

State govs embrace the range of ‘alternative fuels,’ from nukes to clean coal to biofuels

The National Governors Association has linked up with "a team of Wal-Mart energy experts" to "green the capitols." That's fantastic -- and I'm sure it will draw well-deserved huzzahs in certain green circles. (It's touching to see Wal-Mart giving back some of what it has been siphoning off in state taxes!) But read a little deeper into the press release, and you see what the National Governors Association means by "green." Turns out that when it comes to energy, the govs love some pretty dubious stuff. I'll let Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell take it from here: [I]t's clear that charting …

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No country for thirsty men

In North Carolina’s Triangle, a severe drought has leaders stumped

North Carolina's Triangle -- Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh -- counts as the state's economic, educational, and political engine. It's also very quickly running out of water, parched by a severe drought. Are the area's leaders doing anything constructive to respond to the situation? So far, the signs aren't encouraging. I've been following the story in the excellent daily Raleigh News & Observer. On Monday, the N&O reported that Raleigh has exactly one agreement with another local entity to buy water in case of an emergency. The agreement is with Durham -- and there's a problem: Durham's is perhaps the …

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Percentage of 16-year-olds licensed to drive has dropped

The percentage of 16-year-olds with a U.S. driver's license has decreased sharply in the last decade, from 43.8 percent in 1998 to 29.8 percent in 2006. Rising insurance costs, expensive driver education, and an increase in indoor pastimes are more likely to be driving the trend than environmental awareness -- and sure, most yoots still get around in four-wheeled transportation, chaffeured by parents and friends. But at the very least, we suspect that fewer kids with a license means fewer cars idling for hours while teens grope in the back.

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Public investment: the counterargument

Geek humor

Volker Weber provides a strong counterargument to my posts favoring public investment (very funny, if you are a certain kind of geek):

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Protests arise over British government’s “eco-town” plans

The British government is preparing a shortlist of sites for high-density, carbon-neutral eco-towns, but is coming under consistent protest from villagers who don't want 'em nearby. Many residents living near the proposed sites have concerns that, eco or not, new development will take over agricultural land, increase traffic, and burden local infrastructure. Says Mark Sullivan of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, "[Eco-towns] will never be self-sustaining, effective communities if they are sited in the wrong places."

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Deep thought of the day

As rising energy prices and better urban planning push the affluent back to city centers, the poor and working class will be pushed out to the suburbs. Soon, we'll see blight, crime, the drug trade, and other social pathologies where we have been accustomed to seeing the American Dream. "Inner city" and "outer suburb" will flip their cultural connotations. It will be confusing.

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Cities worldwide will turn off lights for Earth Hour

Mark your calendar for March 29, when cities around the world will switch off non-critical lights at 8:00 p.m. for an awareness-raising Earth Hour. At present, 24 cities -- with a total population of some 30 million people -- plan to participate in the energy-saving symbolism, from Toronto to Tel Aviv, Bangkok to Brisbane, Canberra to Copenhagen, and first Earth Hour participant Sydney to copycat event holder San Francisco. Thousands of individuals and businesses have also signed on to come to the dark side.

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