Environment

Time to Rethink This Experiment? Delusion Down Under

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The famous physicist, Albert Einstein, was noted for his powers of observation and rigorous observance of the scientific method. It was insanity, he once wrote, to repeat the same experiment over and over again, and to expect a different outcome. With that in mind, I wonder what Einstein would make of the last decade and a bit of experimentation in Queensland’s urban planning and development assessment?   read more »

Who Stands The Most To Win – And Lose – From A Second Obama Term

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As the probability of President Barack Obama’s reelection grows, state and local officials across the country are tallying up the potential ramifications of a second term. For the most part, the biggest concerns lie with energy-producing states, which fear stricter environmental regulations, and those places most dependent on military or space spending, which are both likely to decrease under a second Obama administration.  read more »

Britain Fears a Developer’s Charter

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The UK Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced that there were only 127,780 new housing completions last year in Britain. British house building activity is down to levels of after the First World War, when reliable industrial records began, and still falling. In 1921 the British population was nearly back up to 43 million following the slaughter of the First World War. In 2011 the population of England, Wales, and Scotland is approaching 61 million people. By 2031 the British population is expected to be closer to 70 million.  read more »

Urban Development: Playing Twister With The California Environmental Quality Act

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When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation.  read more »

Central Florida: On the Cusp of Recovery?

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Central Florida is poised at the cusp of a major turnaround, and its response to this condition will either propel the region forward, or drag it backward.  This cusp condition is brought about by a train and a road; neither of which have begun yet but both of which appear imminent.  Sunrail uses existing 19th century railroad tracks as a commuter spine through Orlando’s disperse, multipolar city.  The Wekiva Parkway completes a beltway around Orlando, placing it with Washington DC, Houston and other ringed cities.  Before either gets built, the region deserves some analysis  read more »

Durban, Reducing Emissions and the Dimensions of Sustainability

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The Durban climate change conference has come to an end, with the nations of the world approving the "Durban Platform," (Note 1) an agreement to agree later on binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets by 2020.  read more »

The Secret of Where Good Energy Comes From

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In the wake of Solyndra's failure, pundits have latched on to a simple, compelling narrative: government can't do energy right.

From synfuels to solar panels to "clean coal" (written, inevitably, with knowing quotation marks), demonstration projects funded by the Department of Energy are described as one failed white elephant after another. Today the DOE is the agency everyone loves to hate (and, at least in Texas Gov. Rick Perry's case, the agency to forget).  read more »

Does a Big Country Need to do Big Things? Yes. Do We Need a Big Government to do them? No.

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TV network MSNBC's left-leaning commentator Rachel Maddow has opened herself up to ridicule by the conservative blogsophere over her advert featuring the Hoover Dam. The thrust of the spot is that “we don’t do big things anymore” but that we should. But critics say the dam couldn’t be built today due to environmental opposition to exactly these kinds of projects. Indeed many in the Administration and their green allies are more likely to crusade for the destruction of current dams than for the building of new ones.

Both sides have their points.  read more »

Gas Against Wind

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Which would you rather have in the view from your house? A thing about the size of a domestic garage, or eight towers twice the height of Nelson’s column with blades noisily thrumming the air. The energy they can produce over ten years is similar: eight wind turbines of 2.5-megawatts (working at roughly 25% capacity) roughly equal the output of an average Pennsylvania shale gas well (converted to electricity at 50% efficiency) in its first ten years.  read more »

HELP WANTED: The North Dakota Boom

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The nation’s unemployment rate has been hovering at nearly nine percent since 2009. But not every state is suffering an employment crisis. In the remote, windswept state of North Dakota, job fairs often bustle with more recruiters than potential workers. The North Dakota unemployment rate hasn’t risen above five percent since 1987.  In the state's oil country, unemployment hovers at around two percent, and pretty much everyone who wants a job—as long as they are old enough and not incarcerated—is employed.  read more »