Articles by Jon Rynn
Jon Rynn is the author of Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the Middle Class, from Praeger Press. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science and lives with his wonderful wife and amazing two boys, car-less, in New York City.
Recently I tracked down an article on the annual electricity use of the New York City subway system: 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh). To put that in perspective, the entire U.S. economy uses about 4,000 billion kwh annually. According to the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, there were 1.499 billion trips made on the subway in 2006. So it takes a little over 1 kwh to move one person on trips, of varying length, in New York City.
That's 4.1 million riders per day, on average. So if 200 million trips a day are required in the U.S. for everybody, and if everybody rode a subway, we would need about 90 billion kwh for personal transportation -- about 2 percent of our current electricity use.
For comparison, let's use Gar Lipow's estimation that a super-duper plug-in hybrid would travel 65 miles using 8 kwh. If the average trip was 8 miles, we would also have 1 kwh per trip. Something to strive for?
It may seem strange that the emirate of Abu Dhabi, one of the planet's largest suppliers of oil, is planning to build the world's first carbon-neutral city.
But in fact, it makes a lot of financial sense. The 3.7-square-mile city, called Masdar, will cut its electricity bill by harnessing wind, solar, and geothermal energy, while a total ban on cars within city walls should reduce the long-term health costs associated with smog.
Masdar will be filled with shaded streets to encourage walking. A solar-powered transit system will take you to the airport.
Masdar is still on the drawing board -- construction begins in January, with a very tentative completion date of 2009 -- but the result will be watched closely around the world.
Maybe they read Car Free Cities by J.H. Crawford.
This phrase was the punchline to Ronald Reagan's cruel joke about the nine most dangerous words in the English language. Well, maybe it's getting to the point that those words can be used in a positive way. Paul Waldman, in an online article at The American Prospect, writes:
As hard as it may be for many progressives to accept it, scarred as they are by years of GOP abuse and the tepid, apologetic stance of their own allies, the time has finally come for them to defend, without reservation, the idea of a vigorous, engaged government. They can finally say, without fear of disastrous political consequences, that sometimes government is not the problem, it's the solution.
On the other hand, Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune, writing in the New York Times op-ed page on August 6, seems to want us to not think about solutions:
Economic power lies with central bankers, global corporations and high-rolling masters of the universe. Military power is constrained by mutually assured destruction and the 24-hour news cycle. What remains are image, perception and identity.
That is, just watch the political fun and games, and strutting, and symbolism; don't worry about global warming, the end of cheap oil, mass extinction, the dying oceans, rivers, and lakes, and the deforested landscapes. The "central bankers, global corporations and high-rolling masters of the universe" will be sure to keep business-as-usual going, and there's nothing we can do about it.
Since 1998, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has been publishing an "infrastructure report card" detailing the sorry state of the various parts of our infrastructure. Unfortunately, national attention on the physical infrastructure only rises when something catastrophic happens, as it did in New Orleans in 2005, in Minneapolis on Wednesday after the collapse of a large bridge, or during an electrical blackout.
Like our ecosystems, the physical infrastructure is an essential part of the economy; the economy literally rests on the foundation of ecosystems and the infrastructure. Like the various ecosystems, such as forests and grasslands, lakes and rivers, the infrastructure has increasingly been treated like an asset that can be milked for all its worth, without investment. Like our ecosystems, the neglect of our infrastructure is the result of maximizing income in the short term; instead of insuring that there is some slack in a bridge or a forest, the economy has become nonresilient.