Unsustainable solutions in the name of sustainability


The other day when I was riding my bike in Minneapolis crossing I-94 near Riverside I encountered a small townhome project built during the first (failed) green era under the Carter administration. It was built to showcase the future. One thing I've learned over the years building my own green homes is to not listen blindly to the experts who parrot others' ideas without thinking of the ramifications.

The world's first solar and earth-berm grass-roof townhome projects look like this today:  read more »

Jerry Brown’s Insufferable Green Piety


At the site of real and immediate tragedy, an old man comes, wielding not a sword to protect civilization from ghastly present threats but to preach the sanctity of California’s green religion. The Paris Climate Change Conference offers a moment of triumph for the 77-year-old Jerry Brown, the apogee of his odd public odyssey.  read more »

The Green Urbanization Myth


Once a fringe idea, the notion of using technology to allow humanity to “decouple” from nature is winning new attention, as a central element of what the Breakthrough Institute calls “ecomodernism.” The origins of the decoupling idea can be found in 20th century science fiction visions of domed or underground, climate-controlled, recycling-based cities separated by forests or deserts.  read more »

Gas Tax Still a Tax

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Governor Jerry Brown recently released a plan to find funds to fix California’s roads. Infrastructure funding is one of the essential roles of government, so it’s refreshing to hear that our otherwise dysfunctional state government is taking action on this front. But who will be paying for it? Those who use the roads most, that is, California’s drivers, who disproportionately tend to be members of the middle and working classes.  read more »

Latino Politicians Putting Climate Change Ahead of Constituents


Racial and economic inequality may be key issues facing America today, but the steps often pushed by progressives, including minority politicians, seem more likely to exacerbate these divisions than repair them. In a broad arc of policies affecting everything from housing to employment, the agenda being adopted serves to stunt upward mobility, self-sufficiency and property ownership.

This great betrayal has many causes, but perhaps the largest one has been the abandonment of broad-based economic growth traditionally embraced by Democrats. Instead, they have opted for a policy agenda that stresses environmental puritanism and notions of racial redress, financed in large part by the windfall profits of Silicon Valley and California’s highly taxed upper-middle class.  read more »

Building a New California

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The Golden State has historically led the United States and the world in technology, quality of life, social innovation, entertainment, and public policy. But in recent decades its lead has ebbed. The reasons for this are various. But there is one area of decay whose story is a parable for California’s other plights—that area is infrastructure.  read more »

Behind the Driving Increase

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The Federal Highway Administration reported that driving increased 1.7 percent between 2013 and 2014 in the United States. This compares to virtually no increase over the period from 2004 to 2013. The 2014 increase will come as a disappointment to those who have perceived that the flat driving volumes of recent years signaled a shift in preferences away from driving.  read more »

Peak Oil, Yes and No


I have an Australian friend who works on an oil drilling platform off the coast of Tasmania. He sent these photos from his phone. Pretty cool, huh? These photos got me thinking about the Peak Oil meme. For the uninitiated there are two camps on the subject.  read more »

The Inevitability of Tradeoffs, or Understanding New England’s Sky High Energy Costs


People advance two main sorts of arguments in favor of things for which they advocate: the moral argument (it’s the right thing to do) and the utilitarian one (it will make us better off). As it happens, in practice most people tend to implicitly suggest there’s a 100% overlap between the two categories. That is, if we do what’s right, it will always make us better off too with no down sides at all.

But is that true?  read more »

Time to Bring Back the Truman Democrats


Once giants walked this earth, and some of them were Democrats. In sharp contrast to the thin gruel that passes for leadership today, the old party of the people, with all its flaws, shaped much of the modern world, and usually for the better. Think of Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or California’s Pat Brown, politicians who believed in American greatness, economic growth, and upward mobility.  read more »