Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back from Denver...

...I just returned from the SmartCode Workshop in Denver so Daily Sprawl posts will pick back up this coming week.

And, speaking of "picking", this interesting article discusses the best fruits and veggies to grow in terms of ease and bang for the buck.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My How Things Are Changing...

...this morning I was able to stop by Starbucks for a cup of coffee on the way into the office.

I had a few extra minutes so I grabbed a New York Times and settled in with my Pike Place blend (tall, no sugar, light cream).

As I was reading today's NYT, it struck me: the mainstream media is now sounding like Daily Sprawl. Consider these articles from Tuesday's issue:

Auto industry--how viable will it remain?

Trucking industry faces major problems

Foreclosures creating huge problems for neighborhoods

Airlines facing fuel costs that fundamentally don't work with their business model

And, these were just a few--from today alone.

The reality check? Well, its quite simple: things are changing and they are doing so much more quickly than even us Daily Sprawl types anticipated.

Be ready.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is This Mainstream Enough?

Kunstler and the Peak Energy Crisis make the Washington Post's op-ed page:
s the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What's more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Wall St. Journal...

...appears to now be a Peak Oil believer.


Because the International Energy Association is about to dramatically reassess world oil reserves:
The world's premier energy monitor is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, a shift that reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency is in the middle of its first attempt to comprehensively assess the condition of the world's top 400 oil fields. Its findings won't be released until November, but the bottom line is already clear: Future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

City Loft's A&P Project Garners More...

...national attention.

Following on the heels of its CNU Charter Award, the mixed-use project is featured in the May 2008 issue of Professional Builder:
Infill development of single-family houses presents unique design challenges, but Sahota and Lowder saw the eight houses they would build as a critical part of the multi-use project they were planning in the neighborhood, Old Cloverdale. The quaint, cottage-style design they wanted for the homes and their amenities were affected by the lot sizes, restrictions and the surrounding neighborhood.

Single-family houses allowed Sahota and Lowder to make a smooth transition between the existing neighborhood, which has only single-family houses, and the office/retail and loft spacesgoing up on the grocery store's site.

"We knew from the beginning that this location in such a historic Southern neighborhood required careful transition from mixed-use to stand alone residential," said Sahota.

A Little Gas Cost Perspective...

...from Robert Bryce at Slate:
American gasoline is also dirt-cheap compared with gas in other countries. British motorists are currently paying about $8.38 per gallon for gasoline. In Norway, a major oil exporter, drivers are paying $8.73. In 2007, out of the 32 industrialized countries surveyed by the International Energy Agency, only one (Mexico) had cheaper gasoline than the United States. Last year, drivers in Turkey were paying three times as much for their gasoline as Americans were. The IEA data also show that in India—where the per capita gross domestic product is about $2,700 (about 6 percent of the per capita GDP in the United States)—drivers have been paying more for their diesel fuel and gasoline than their American counterparts.

(Gasoline is also cheap compared with other essential fuels. A Starbucks venti latte costs the equivalent of $23 per gallon, while Budweiser beer runs $11 per gallon.)
So, I guess the moral of the story is filling your coffee cup with petroleum is much cheaper than hot coffee and milk?

Seriously though, this will be a fundamental change for most Americans. The biggest difference is that our sprawl-oriented development pattern over the last 50 years is much more endemic and extensive than those of Europe and even many parts of Asia and South America.

Meaning that this will be a much tougher pill (or shot of espresso--pick your analogy) too swallow than many other places. That's why abandoning sprawl and embracing walkable places is a much more fundamental solution than biodiesel and other gimmicks.

SmartCode Workshop Denver...

...I'll once again be presenting at the semi-annual SmartCode Workshop.

Ken Groves, Montgomery's Director of Planning and Development, and I will travel to Denver to present practical advice on how to implement and administer the SmartCode.

Registration is still open. Hope to see you there.
Hold on. Even tighter:
It may be the mother of all doom and gloom gas price predictions: $12 for a gallon of gas is “inevitable.”

Robert Hirsch, Management Information Services Senior Energy Advisor, gave a dire warning about the potential future of gas prices on CNBC’s May 20 “Squawk Box”. He told host Becky Quick there was no single thing that would solve the problem, due to the enormity of the problem.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Read this.

It's extremely thought-provoking. In fact, read it twice or more.
Headline "When Cars Compete with People for Food":
How should the three presidential candidates, in particular, address this crisis?

For starters, the United States should retreat from its heavy promotion of corn-based ethanol and allow the markets to settle. Although the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill, passed by the House and Senate last week, includes a reduction in the ethanol blending credit from 51 cents to 45 cents per gallon, the subsidy remains high and is offset by other biofuels production incentives.

President Bush plans to veto the bill, but both the House and Senate passed it with more than the majority needed to overturn a veto. Presidential candidates Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, were all absent for the vote.
Read the entire column here.

Grocery Price Inflation Update...

From the always interesting Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis:
This all started in the last 3 weeks. I have no doubt that others have experienced food shopping pain long before I have.

Bottom Line

Sales prices on a basket of food has soared in the last month, at least for me. I am still working out of the freezer but I suspect I will be stocking up at higher prices for the first time in years.
Go to the actual article and read the startling price increases he is tracking. Not good.

"Stranded in Suburbia"

If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much.

Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).
Read Krugman's entire op-ed from the NYT here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Air Travel Nearing an End?

That's what Heinberg thinks (while dealing with his own internal dilemma to boot):
I fly to educate both general audiences and policy makers about fossil fuel depletion; in fact, I’m writing this article aboard a plane en route from Boston to San Francisco. I wince at my carbon footprint, but console myself with the hope that my message helps thousands of others to change their consumption patterns. This inner conflict is about to be resolved: the decline of affordable air travel is forcing me to rethink my work. I’m already starting to do much more by video teleconference, much less by jet.

Those who live far from family will be more than inconvenienced, as will the hundreds of thousands who work for the airline industry directly or indirectly, or the millions who depend on tourism or airfreight for an income. These folks will have few options: teleconferencing can accomplish only so much.

Our species’ historically brief fling with flight has been fun, educational, and enriching on many levels to those fortunate enough to benefit from it. Saying goodbye will be difficult. But maybe as we do we can say hello to greater involvement in our local communities.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Save Energy, Save Money...

...join the "cold war"?

That's what this article argues:
According to Tide, one can save up to 80% of energy per load by washing in cold. This is based on conversion from warm/cold to cold/cold cycle and using a vertical axis machine with electric water heater set at 140ยบ F.

You might be interested in a Time Magazine piece which reports, "A recent study by Cambridge University's Institute of Manufacturing found that 60% of the energy associated with a piece of clothing is spent in washing and drying it. Over its lifetime, a T-shirt can send up to 9 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the air."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bill McKibben Op-Ed

Bill McKibben is a well-respected author who has penned such classics as The End of Nature.

Books that carefully (as opposed to hysterically) examine the trends, of whose ultimate source is our sprawl consumption system.

Well, McKibben recently wrote an op-ed for the LA Times. It is quite bleak--and if his track record holds true--very likely to be accurate.

And, that would be a big problem if so:
Even for Americans -- who are constitutionally convinced that there will always be a second act, and a third, and a do-over after that, and, if necessary, a little public repentance and forgiveness and a Brand New Start -- even for us, the world looks a little terminal right now.

It's not just the economy: We've gone through swoons before. It's that gas at $4 a gallon means we're running out, at least of the cheap stuff that built our sprawling society. It's that when we try to turn corn into gas, it helps send the price of a loaf of bread shooting upward and helps ignite food riots on three continents. It's that everything is so tied together. It's that, all of a sudden, those grim Club of Rome types who, way back in the 1970s, went on and on about the "limits to growth" suddenly seem ... how best to put it, right.

A Fascinating Set of Maps...

This website has posted a set of maps that demonstrate where the housing crisis (as measured by mortgage failures) has hit the hardest--when compared to mortgage failures from five years ago.

Wow, is all I can say.

Stories that California, Nevada, and Florida are being ravaged by this crisis appear to be dead on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another Story on...

...the sad side-effects of the sprawl mess:
The foreclosure crisis is hitting yet another American locale: the self-storage center.

As they lose their homes, people are turning to these humble cinderblock and sheet-metal boxes to store their stuff. But some people cannot keep up with their storage bills any better than they could handle their mortgage payments, and storage companies are auctioning off their property for a pittance.

Living in Denial

That's where Airbus is apparently entrenched:
Airbus’s Global Market Forecast (GMF) for 2007 through 2026 expects world passenger traffic to increase by 4.9% per annum and the number of frequencies offered on passenger routes to more than double. This growth is buoyed by the continuing growth of emerging economic nations.

Accordingly, Airbus projects that the world’s commercial aircraft fleet, including both passenger (from 100 seats to very large aircraft, VLA) and freighter aircraft, will grow from 14,980 at the end of 2006 to nearly 33,000 by 2026. While passenger traffic demand will nearly triple, airlines will more than double their fleets of passenger aircraft (with more than 100 seats) from 13,284 in 2006 to 28,534 in 2026.
Yes, we understand that companies like Airbus and Boeing (and GM and Chrysler and...) can't just throw in the towel. But, really.

The idea that thousands of new airplanes will be needed to fly people who will in no way be able to afford the cost of flying because that cost is so inextricably tied to the cost of petroleum is, well, just blatantly uninformed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Prediction #4

Okay, back for another fearless Daily Sprawl prediction--this one #4.

Visit Las Vegas soon because within 10 years (if not sooner), it will cease to exist as a viable destination for most visitors.
Where to start? The city's viability is inextricably tied to airfare and car travel (did you realize that Amtrak does not serve the city anymore?).

Almost 100% of its food and beverages must be shipped into the city from more than 250 miles away--with much of being shipped by gas-intensive semi-trucks.

It's water source is being rapidly depleted (that's what happens when you build over 10,000 hotel rooms with big pools, hundreds of restaurants, and many other water-consuming features in a desert).

End game? Bad news for a desert city whose viability model is tied to cheap oil.

Now, I'll admit that I enjoy Las Vegas and its unique spectacle. It's so visually bizarre that its curiously interesting.

However, all those neon lights, wave pools, dancing fountains, and daily flights can't be powered by non-petroleum sources for long.

Nope, Sin City is indelibly wed to cheap energy.

Unfortunately, it'll be a tough divorce soon so get there while the opportunity remains.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Foreclosures and Health Concerns...

Isn't it strange how seemingly distinct concerns (like home foreclosures and the spread of disease) end up intersecting in unanticipated ways:
It's a sign that the subprime contagion could bite back in a deadly way.

Hundreds of foreclosed homes are raising concerns about a potential public health issue because their abandoned pools can be a nesting ground for mosquitoes. One Silicon Valley county is taking a high-tech approach to the problem. Stacey Delo reports.
With 1 in 78 homes in California falling into foreclosure, officials in Santa Clara County, California on Tuesday took to the skies out of concern that the high number of potentially abandoned homes could provide the perfect breeding ground for virus-carrying mosquitoes: backyard pools.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Movies that Seem to Matter...

Radiant City.

Just watched this well-produced documentary last night (if you are local, then its available in the Jones School of Law library as part of our growing smart growth resource collection). The focus is on why and how sprawl growth happened and whether it will be salvageable.

It's less technical than some others like Crude Awakening or End of Suburbia, but is very entertaining and funny in some places (try and guess whether the main characters are actors or real people).

It's also available on NetFlix and Amazon.

All in all, The Radiant City is a movie that really seems to matter.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Must Read Article...

Gasoline at $7.50 a gallon is something nobody should go into denial over because there are going to be big problems from prices at levels I've suggested, including:

Will there be any U.S.-based auto manufacturers left? The answer depends entirely on how fast they can transform their product lines. Chrysler is in deep trouble already. That probably means more stress for the Midwest.

Will there be any domestic airlines left? The so-called legacy airlines (American, United, Northwest, Delta and Continental) would either try to combine into one big carrier or simply disappear. They're having serious troubles surviving as it is. This means big troubles for cities where these airlines operate hubs that generate thousands of jobs like Atlanta, Cleveland, Newark, Houston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Memphis and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

How will big convention cities survive? Places like Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Houston have thriving convention industries, all built around the capacity of airlines to transport conventioneers to and from the destinations relatively cheaply. Emphasis on the word "cheaply."

How will tourist destinations like Florida or Hawaii cope? Add to that places like, say, Williamstown, Mass., whose Williamstown Theater Festival is a big draw, or Ashland, Ore., home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They're not close to major cities.
Click here for the entire Money Central column.

Fed Support for a Bad Idea...

First, Rep. Barney Frank proposed government intervention into reducing the actual principal balances of some home loans. Now, the Fed Chairman is touting a somewhat similar idea.

Ultimately, this is a dangerous legal and regulatory spiral to enter into. After all, how do you decide who gets this benefit. And, what about the millions and millions who responsibly took out mortgages that they could afford and continue to repay:
It wasn't the first time Bernanke called for lenders to accept steep cuts in loan repayment or for government to step in to slow the pace of foreclosures. He first broached both ideas in a speech in March.

But coming just as Congress was about to take up the foreclosure issue, the central banker's remarks appeared designed to answer critics of intervention who argue that the two steps run the risk of rewarding financial bad behavior by borrowers and would involve trampling the legal sanctity of contracts.
Read the whole LA Times article here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Headline: "Frustrated owners try to unload their guzzlers":
Americans are turning away from the boxy, four-wheel-drive vehicles that have for years dominated the nation's highways. Sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks - symbols of Americans' obsession with horsepower, size, and status - are falling out of favor as consumers rich and poor encounter sticker shock at the pump, paying upward of $80 to fill gas tanks.
Uh, yeah. But, simply getting a car that gets 32 mpg instead of 20 mpg is, at best, a cosmetic change. Weaning oneself from the car addiction is the ultimate strategy.

The Costs of Sprawl...

...continue to cripple domestic air travel:
Nightmare Scenario #1: You've got your briefcase in hand, boarding pass in pocket, and your carry-on rolling behind you. You head to the airport with confidence. Except — there are no planes there.

Sound crazy? Keep reading.

Nightmare Scenario #2: You jump in a cab, heading to the airport; you know your airline is there, so no worries about any missing planes. The only problem is, your cab ride to the nearest airport with flights takes four hours.

Impossible? Well, in today's environment, it could happen. Airlines are bailing out of certain cities and routes. Your city could be next.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Headline: "$4 gas will change lifestyles":
In fact, if you recently passed up that ribeye steak at the grocery because of its $10-a-pound pricetag, the price of gas has already changed your diet. Food is now a petroleum-based product, and as oil costs soar, so does the cost of food.

Thanks to misbegotten government fuel subsidies, for example, vast acreages of farmland are being diverted to raising corn for ethanol production, and that’s corn that the cows aren’t eating. In addition, most of the pesticides and herbicides used to grow our food are petroleum-based, as are many fertilizers. Fertilizers heavy in ammonia, for example, are critical in grain production. They’re created from natural gas, and since the price of natural gas has almost quadrupled in the past 10 years, the price of fertilizer, and thus grain, has soared as well.

Until now, cheap energy also has helped to shape our living arrangements. In places such as metro Atlanta, where the urban core no longer serves as the center of gravity, development has sprawled into suburbs and exurbs. People in search of cheaper housing or more space could just keep driving farther and farther from their job sites until they found housing that met their needs.

But $4-a-gallon gasoline puts a tether around their necks, pulling them closer to the core. With gas prices so high, someone who drives 30 miles to work each morning in a 20-mpg vehicle will have to spend $12 a day just on gasoline.
Read the whole AJC article here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

An Sad and Alarming...

...article if I've ever seen one:
Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates.
Story continues below

To meet higher gas, food and prescription drug bills, they are selling off grandmother's dishes and their own belongings. Some of the household purging has been extremely painful — families forced to part with heirlooms.

"This is not about downsizing. It's about needing gas money," said Nancy Baughman, founder of eBizAuctions, an online auction service she runs out of her garage in Raleigh, N.C.
Headline: "Ethanol v. food debate growing":
Before milk prices started spiraling, before gas prices passed $3.50 and before food riots broke out in several countries, ethanol was the darling of energy alternatives. It gave jobs to rural communities and offered an alternative to foreign oil.

Now, ethanol is a source of bitter controversy, as rising consumer prices have led to new questions about whether corn can serve as both food and fuel without dramatically upsetting the foundations of America's economy.

Echoing across the world this week is a significant, emotional debate about the future of food as fuel, with corporate leaders, farmers, the White House and the United Nations acknowledging the consequences of record food prices, a phenomenon that follows the diversion of corn into ethanol.
Read the whole story here.