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Getting to 2100

Energy Management Archive

The Cost of Fossil Fuels and some light ahead

Two articles in today’s NY Times highlight the challenge and promise of changing our energy mix.

China is in the midst of its worst air pollution crisis, with images reminiscent of 1950s Pittsburgh, when the noontime sun disappeared regularly in the dark cloud of smog.

While in the US, the tax credit for alternative energy being restored in January has led to a resurgence in wind energy projects. The US still lags most of the industrial world in its percentage of energy produced with non-carbon sources but a recent report done in New York state lays out a viable path for virtually 100% renewable energy there by 2050. The study authors noted:

“We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming,” said study co-author Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor of ecology and environmental biology. “The economics of this plan make sense,” said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell engineering professor and a co-author of the study. “Now it is up to the political sphere.”

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Can Renewable Energy Fill the Gap?

WindmillsOne of the big questions hurled by the defenders of the fossil fuel age is that low-carbon energy technologies just can’t be ramped up to meet the burgeoning need of growing economies worldwide. And, of course, they shed alligator tears at this point over their concern for the billions of poor people yearning for refrigerators and cars who, they contend, would be left in poverty by the heartless “climate alarmists.” But it is a great question. Can we produce the energy for a vibrant, equitable economy without fossil fuels?

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The climate is changing, but how should we?

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While we wait for the “big boys” to act (or not) at their annual conferences in far flung locales, there is much we can be doing on the local level to reduce carbon emissions and address the changes wrought by a changing climate. But what should we do first?

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My AMPO acceptance speech

(In September, 2012, I was acclaimed 2012’s Most Effective Elected Official in Transportation by the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. I gave this acceptance speech on the subject of regional planning (so needed in our megapolitan regions!) and basing transportation investments on our shared human values.)

Thank you very much for this incredible honor. And thanks to my colleagues at Metro who nominated me, and did a very good job of keeping this a secret!

I see this as an award for asking awkward questions, and for knowing when to clear the way, and for knowing when to get out of the way.

My habit of asking awkward questions (why, daddy, but, why?) led to study and work in the sciences, then to neighborhood and civic activism and on into a political career. Somewhere along the way I learned the important lesson of leadership—its not enough just to question but one must create a vision, learn to communicate this vision clearly and compellingly and to ask others for help.

My agency, Metro in Portland, Oregon, has a reputation for innovation, leadership and controversy. Yet, despite spearheading regional land use planning, comprehensive recycling and light rail, until I got elected we pretty much planned and put together our RTPs and MTIPs like everyone else—collect a list, collate and print it then divvy up the dough. And heaven help anyone who got between a mayor and his pet project! Not everyone was happy but it was a comfortable groove.

Enter this asker of awkward questions. Being a community activist and not a professional planner or administrator I didn’t know that it was enough to have a world-class model (designed by rocket scientists at Los Alamos, no less!). So I asked why. Why do we spend our money the way we do when we are getting results we don’t like? Like growing traffic congestion, sprawl and collapsing rates of kids walking and biking to school.?

So, I asked why. And, because I was now able to open some doors (and some budget amendments) we went to the public and asked them directly: We collectively spend over $700 Million of your money every year on transportation: are you getting what you want?

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Climate change means regional opportunity

Take a little Rorschach test for me: What do the words, climate change, peak oil and energy conservation mean to you?

If you think like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the alarm bells of regulation, taxation and invading greenies go off in your head. But, if you are like the leading businesses in Europe, it’s visions of Pounds, Kroner and Euros dancing in your mind. What many here see as a threat to America’s economic future is an economic as well as environmental imperative in Europe…

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About Gettingto2100

Why Getting to 2100? The next century will be a test: can humans use their intelligence and foresight to successfully transition from our consumption-fueled economy to one that balances the needs of humans with the Earth’s available resources. Getting to 2100 aims to be a forum for sharing of good ideas and good works. Got a good example or a new idea? Share it with the world!

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