Posted by Glenn on December 6, 2008 - 12:12pm in The Oil Drum: Local
Given the recent run-up in energy prices, subsequent spike in foreclosures resulting in a full blown credit meltdown and financial crisis, I thought it would be interesting to check in with American home buyers and see what the latest data said about their motivations to buy. Not surprisingly it's a mixed bag. There are a lot of good intentions out there for shorter commutes, energy efficient homes and other environmental features. But often these are overcome by the lure of getting more "home for the money" far away from mass transit options and having a detached home in the suburbs.
In just the last year and a half, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has begun a dramatic transformation of New York City's streets from mere utilitarian corridors into livable public spaces.
This is no happy accident. It took advocates (and bloggers!) years and years of hard work to make this possible. Only three years ago Mayor Bloomberg proudly stated that traffic was a side effect of the city's growing vitality. Now he's leading the charge on putting into place practical ideas that make the city less dependent on automobiles, more livable, more desirable and inviting to new families that would otherwise choose to live in exurban developments.
This may seem like just a feel good story about something that just increases quality of life for some people in NYC that doesn't have much implication for the rest of the country, but consider this: As the Commissioner states, NYC is planning on a million new residents over the next 20 years. Think about how many square miles of suburban/exurban development that will save for farming. Think about how many fewer cars will be produced if those million people come to NYC. What if every city across the country were a more desirable place to live, work, play, shop than its surrounding suburbs?
As we think about our future, we will need to be very conscious of how we can make low energy consumption urban areas more desirable than high energy consumption suburban areas.
This was different.
Here's a slideshow of some of the key images. I'll have more on this as information becomes available. Kudos to WNYC and ProPublica for uncovering this in a great example of investigative journalism.
As we consider how to re-design our car-centric landscape, one idea that may be taking hold across the country is to close streets to automobile traffic at times and return that space to the people as a public space to be enjoyed.
What is Sunday Parkways?
6 miles, 6 hours, zero traffic~!
A circular route of city streets open to walk, bike, run, jump & skip - without having to watch out for cars!
A 6 mile "temporary park", connecting North Portland neighborhoods and residents.
A relaxed, non-competitive, FREE event featuring a variety of activities in 4 parks and along the route.
What you see here is people having fun close to home. The places we drive dozens or hundreds of miles to visit - quiet places without cars and trucks - can exist in our own front yards if we only have the will to say no to cars. Next Stop is my hometown: New York City.
Now that $4 gas is here and looks like it might be a short stop before $5-$10 gas, Smart Growth is getting more attention as the best method to maintain a high standard of living and promote economic growth.
So let's take a look at some videos from around the country on what's happing on the Smart Growth or Transit Oriented Development front to reduce out dependence on automobiles.
The following is a guest post by Brad Lancaster on rainwater harvesting. Energy scarcity and water scarcity are closely related phenomena, especially in certain parts of the world. While rainwater harvesting is no panacea for our water or energy problems, it may be a critical component in many regions for dealing with issues of scarcity. It is also an excellent example of a scale-free tool: it can be implemented by individuals, communities, or nations.
Photo: Nigel Valdez
Food produced from rainwater on Brad Lancaster's Tucson residence
Brad Lancaster is a permaculture expert and consultant based in Tucson. His award-winning book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume I: Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into your Life and Landscape (2006, Rainsource Press) and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2: Water-Harvesting Earthworks are available on the web at www.HarvestingRainwater.com and at amazon.com. This website also contains a bounty of free information, image, video, and audio resources.
This is a guest post from Andy Hunt (solar_bud on The Oil Drum). It's an inspiring account of what can be done today with a modest property to live efficiently and maintain a degree of energy security.
Our house was built around 1900. It is an end-terrace house with 2 bedrooms, located in an inner-city area in Bury, Lancashire, UK. Our household comprises me and my partner, with no children, and we live in the property all year round. No planning restrictions are in effect in our area.
Wood burning stove with back boiler.
More long term, price induced demand destruction will take hold and people are making better decisions factoring in oil price - they are buying smaller cars and not snapping up McMansions in the hinterland, but with oil near $140/barrel right now what's the short term answer?
The secret answer to curbing high oil prices in a supply constrained world that no one seems to be talking about is for buyers to go on strike. And no, I'm not talking about a meaningless "Don't fill up on this day" but keep driving.
My back of the envelope estimate is that if there were a concerted effort by the major economies (hello G8 ministers meeting in Japan) to have demand pulled back sharply (10-15%) over the Summer, we could see oil prices go down fairly rapidly.
What prospects do people think there is of it? Would it be politically feasible? How much would demand need to decline to make a substantial impact of oil prices?
Currently, the list of academic institutions offering relevant and
up-to-date information and courses geared to confront the imminent
energy slope is awfully short. If you have ever tried to enroll in your
local university for some hands-on Peak Oil learning experience, you
may have found yourself disappointed in knowing that no such course is
offered. Even in certain high-level
economics courses that
scrape at energy depletion and natural resources, you will probably be
able to teach your professor a thing or two (if you are a keen
reader of TOD). :)