Smart Cities

Not the usual suspects

Cities with the most energy efficient buildings: L.A., Houston, Detroit, Dallas

It’s that time of year, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency releases its list of the top 10 American cities [PDF] with the most energy efficient buildings. In this case, that means commercial buildings that have earned an Energy Star rating that signifies they consume 35 percent less energy and release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than average buildings. For the third year running, Los Angeles, generally not considered a paragon of restraint, snagged the No. 1 spot in 2010 with 510 Energy Star buildings, up from 293 buildings in the previous year. That 75 percent …

the kids are all right

Actor/activist Mark Ruffalo will follow you on Twitter if you donate to Japan relief

Last seen agitating for a ban on fracking, actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo is now using Twitter as a platform to raise money for relief efforts in Japan. Dude is following and retweeting the sh*t out of anyone with good news about the island nation, and/or anyone who pledges to donate. Go Mark go!

Stepping up

The world’s top 10 walking cities [SLIDESHOW]

Photo: Miss KA great city is a great walking city. So which is the greatest of them all? Travel book publisher Lonely Planet just surveyed its readers and asked them to pick the best walking cities in the world from a list of 186. Take a stroll through the top 10, counting down to the city that readers rated No. 1, and see if your favorite made the cut. Venice “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”                                           – Truman Capote          

Keeping it clean

This year’s Cleantech Forum: Less sexy, more efficient

Looking for new ways to get in the cleantech game.Photo: emilydickinsonridesabmxIt’s a rite of spring, the annual Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. Venture capitalists, startup entrepreneurs, and various hangers-on gather at an upscale hotel to network, pitch, and hopefully clinch some deals. There are scores of these green biz conferences, of course, and after awhile they all tend to blend together in a mashup of hype and prognosticating. Still, the Cleantech Forum is one I make an effort to attend, and not just because it’s a short BART ride from Berkeley. Over the years, I’ve found the confab to be …

not in my subaru outback

Liberal NIMBYism: the most despicable form of hypocrisy?

Prospect Park’s new bike lane is worse than airborne weaponized AIDSPhoto: shannonvsimmsIn staunchly liberal enclaves all over the country, citizens who profess to progressive environmentalism in the abstract are thwarting local efforts to increase the sustainability of their immediate environment. Whether it’s suing over bike lanes in Park Slope, Brooklyn, or blocking a bus rapid transit system in Berkeley, Calif., the children of the summer of love appear to have grown up, grown old, and grown immune to the needs of their descendants. Ryan Avent, online economics editor for The Economist, says that there is something even more damaging to the environment …

Country cousins and city cousins

It’s the ‘burbs, stupid: on the Ezra Klein/Tom Vilsack dustup

Carried away: Ezra Klein and Tom Vilsack ride an imaginary “raft of subsidies.” This week, an interesting — and, I think, bizarre — argument broke out between Washington Post political blogger Ezra Klein and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The topic was whether rural residents deserve what Klein called a “raft of subsidies,” when in fact, “we still need cities.” Klein’s contributions to the debate were widely hailed as “brilliant” and Vilsack’s were widely deplored (see here and here); but I was left wondering what precisely the two were arguing about — and whether either one of them actually knew what …

Counterintelligence

Are ‘smart cities’ not as smart as they think they are?

Smart cities like Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, are all the rage. But are they intelligent in the right way?Photo: Trevor PattCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Intelligent cities” and “smart cities” are all the rage right now, especially in corporate image advertising related to emerging technology. But is there a downside? I think there may be, insofar as those phrases are used to describe tech-based panaceas for urban problems whose roots lie not in a lack of sophisticated information flow, but in a half-century or more of dumb growth patterns, central-city disinvestment, and poor neighborhood design.    Just a …

Soft machine

If Watson can win Jeopardy, can IBM make cities smarter?

Photo: Rodrigo SennaIBM has generated a lot of buzz lately for Watson, its game-show-playing supercomputer that recently bested a couple of skin jobs on “Jeopardy.” Less high profile is the expansion of Big Blue’s computer and software systems designed to monitor and control municipal water, energy, and transportation systems. Developed under the umbrella of IBM’s Smarter Planet effort, such systems are designed to cut water and energy consumption and save cities money. On Monday, IBM announced a series of projects showing that in the future, public works may be just as much about sensors and cloud computing as pipes and …

over a barrel

SYMPATHY RAGE: Watch Henry Blodget yell about this country’s complete lack of an energy plan

Feeling angry that America’s economy is about to fall apart because oil and gas industries have a stranglehold on our political landscape, sprawl rules your city and no one seems willing to move toward a more rational energy and transportation future? You’re welcome.