Cities

Waiting for a techno miracle: not the fastest way to cut emissions

Government-financed construction plus carbon pricing is the key

With NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof's seeming endorsement of Roger Pielke Jr.'s ideas about mitigating global warming, it seems that we have two main arguments developing: the "breakthrough" argument, which says we must have technology breakthroughs in order to solve the problem, and, as articulated (for instance) by Joseph Romm, the "just do it" argument that we have the technologies now to minimize global warming. Most of my posts have been an attempt to show how current technologies can move us toward a "zero emissions" society. The "breakthrough" people do raise an interesting question, but then they veer off into the wrong answer. They ask, effectively, Is there something the government can do to solve global warming, besides carbon pricing? Their answer: Spend $30 billion a year on energy R&D, hoping for a breakthrough. I will argue in this post that the answer to their question is, Yes, the government can do something beyond carbon pricing -- governments at all levels can, first, provide some of the finance capital to the private sector to build renewable energy systems, and second, governments can build the necessary transportation systems and in some cases the energy systems. And by doing so, support for and the effectiveness of carbon pricing policies will be improved. In order to make this argument, let's back up a little and ask, "What kind of society are the authors of the various plans for global warming mitigation envisioning?" I think that, at their core, most global warming initiatives embed a conception of what is practical, considering both political and cultural constraints.

Fortune Brainstorm Green: breaking news

Think all-electric vehicles coming to the U.S.

Ray Lane, the managing partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is about to announce some news. (He’s up on stage with Jan-Olaf Willums, CEO of Think Global AS, and Wilber James, managing general partner of RockPort Capital Partners.) Ah. He’s launching Think North America — bringing Think vehicles to the U.S. Hundreds of the cars will reach the states this year, mainly for use in fleets. After that they’ll be offered to consumers, first in California. (They’re in talks with utilities, too — they’re cagey about the details, but it sounds quite intriguing.) The car game is changing.

Oil hysteria

Let’s rebuild our national rail network instead of repealing the gas tax

At the rate things are going, any money that would be available for global warming mitigation is going to go into subsidizing the oil used by airplanes, trucks, cars, and heating oil so that most Americans do not become hysterical -- or am I being hysterical? From Michael T. Klare's latest article:

Don't celebrate this holiday

We need to be freed from gas, not the gas tax

John McCain’s proposal to institute a gas tax “holiday” during the summer driving season is as clear an example of a pander as one is likely to see during election season, but its inclusion in a major economic policy speech suggests that this is no easily ignorable one-off. As Joseph Romm notes, any hope progressives might have had that the maverick, straight-talking conservative could bring some principle to the table on climate and energy issues has now gone out the window. How badly does the tax holiday plan fail? Let us count the ways. First, it will offer consumers little …

Big urban parks sprouting across the U.S.

Four major cities are poised to create urban parks several times bigger than New York’s iconic Central Park, itself a not-at-all-shabby 843 acres. In Orange County, Calif., a portion of a former air station will become a 1,347-acre park; in Memphis, a 4,500-acre former prison farm has been snatched from developers by a conservation easement; Atlanta is trying to add enough parkland to attach nearly every neighborhood to green space; and a Staten Island landfill will become a giant park with amenities to attract bikers, boaters, and fishers. (No word on whether the Staten Island park will maintain the unsettling …

Sidewalks are sexy!

and other things I learned at Hahvahd

I just spent a couple of days at a journalists’ forum at Harvard whose topic was climate change and cities. The basic premise being that — as our Mayor Nickels and his climate-fighting compatriots well know — cities contribute a hell of a lot of carbon to the world, but are also in the best position to slow our handbasket voyage. Over the two days (which could easily have been two weeks), we heard from planners and architects working in places like New York, New Orleans, D.C., Phoenix, London, Latin America, and Seattle, as well as from smart-growth advocates and …

Green buildings wise up

Linking green buildings and the smart grid will spawn a green energy ecosystem

A new energy ecosystem is emerging that connects smart, green buildings with a smart, green grid to optimize energy flows. Since commercial and industrial buildings represent around 40 percent of U.S. energy use, and homes another 30 percent, this represents the most significant opportunity for energy efficiency and mass-scale renewable generation. But creating this new green energy ecosystem means linking what are today heavily "stovepiped" separate systems within buildings and between buildings and the grid. It also means expanding the definition of green buildings to include the digital smarts that connect diverse systems. The Green Intelligent Buildings Conference in Baltimore on April 2-3 focused on ways to cut through "stovepipes" and build those new linkages. "We need to find ways to make the grid smarter, to make buildings smarter, and to have these smarts communicate with each other," keynoter Jeffrey Harris of the Alliance to Save Energy told attendees. This will require new technologies and partnerships that cross traditional boundaries, said the ASE vice president for programs. "We need not just utilities but private industry to be involved." One key area where new partnerships are needed is within the building industry itself, between green builders and building intelligence providers.

Curbside treecycling

High-end use for urban trees saves landfill space

A company in North Carolina is making some good things from urban trees which have to be cut down for one reason or another: high-end lumber from what was once considered good only for firewood or mulch. They process 15,000 to 20,000 board feet a year of local urban lumber from private land for use in homes, sheds, barns, farms, or woodworking projects. It's estimated that 2 million board feet of lumber is wasted annually in the local landfills in the Charlotte metro area due to storms, land clearing, maintenance, or disease. I'm sure much the same can be said for other cities. Anyone doing good things with unwanted wood in your neighborhood?

Fashion before function

The automotive equivalent of high heels

Was looking for an electric vehicle and this came up. Seriously -- six batteries? And a suicide trunk? Part of me kind of wants it.

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.

×