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Could rising gas prices kill the suburbs?

Marilyn Lewis, MSN Real Estate
When a high-cost commute reaches the point of no-return, home buyers will start finding houses closer to work. In fact, some already are.
Rising fuel costs are being blamed for everything from soaring utility costs to lower retail sales and higher airline tickets. And now, experts say high gas prices could reshape U.S. cities.

“Most analysts believe that crude oil prices in the $50s and $60s will be with us for some time,” says Stuart Gabriel, director of the Lusk Center, a think tank at the University of Southern California devoted to studying real estate forces and trends. There’s even talk of crude hitting $100 per barrel — or 10 times what it sold for in the summer of 2005.

Once the realization soaks into the American consciousness that high-cost gas is here to stay, Gabriel predicts, those high commute prices will pull more homeowners — even young families — to live in central cities and create a push for more public transportation.

Gabriel already sees change in car-centric Los Angeles, where the commuter culture has for years pushed mile upon mile of city sprawl into neighboring towns and farmland. But now Gabriel says KB Home is leading the way to a new type of neighborhood.
(no date, probably Aug 2006)

Sick cities: fast life, slow death
(multi-media website)
Sydney Morning Herald
The way we live is killing us. We’re crammed into cities working longer hours and busier lives, commuting more and exercising less, eating more takeaways and less fresh food.

And our modern lifestyle is taking its toll. This generation of children may die younger than their parents as a result of their weight gain.

It’s an urban disease being felt around the world.

Our physical health is starting to degrade. The body, overfed and under-exercised, stacks on weight. The extra kilos unlock diabetes, kidney disease and cancers.
(no date, probably Aug 2006)

It’s Getting Easier to Be Green (building green in NYC)

William Neuman, NY Times
THEY are not yet as ubiquitous as the Toyota Prius, the hybrid car popular among the ecologically minded, but “green” apartment buildings have begun popping up around Manhattan. At least six large buildings designed to meet elevated standards for energy efficiency and for the use of environmentally friendly materials have opened in the last three years, and several more are under construction or being planned.

The green designation is conferred on buildings that incorporate recycled or renewable materials and that slash energy use and water consumption with features like photovoltaic cells, internal sewage treatment systems and roofs covered in soil and vegetation.

Developers say they are building green because they believe in it, but they also expect to gain a competitive edge. If faced with the choice of renting or buying two similar apartments, the developers say, consumers increasingly will opt for the one with green features, even if it comes at a higher price.
(13 Aug 2006)

I think that I shall never see
A greenhouse gas reduction strategy as lovely as a tree

(Original: “Shades of a global warming fix”)
Stuart Leavenworth, Sacramento Bee
To hear techies tell it, the solution to global warming rests in fancy gizmos. That’s why some venture capitalists are getting very excited about wind turbines, photovoltaic batteries, methane recovery systems and hydrogen-powered cars.

That’s all fine, yet there’s a more low-tech way to combat global warming — by planting trees. Millions of ’em.

Trees not only sequester carbon dioxide, but if you plant enough in strategic locations, their leafy shade significantly reduces the power needed to cool homes and offices in the summer. Less electricity means fewer greenhouse gases spewing from power plants and a cooler planet for everyone.

How much energy could trees save? Consider these numbers:

According to the Center for Urban Forest Research, a Davis-based institute affiliated with the U.S. Forest Service, the planting of 50 million new trees in strategic locations — two on the west side and one on the east side of homes — could save about 12,500 gigawatt hours of electricity in California each year once those trees reach their 15th birthday. That’s equivalent to the juice generated by seven new large power plants or what is consumed by 683,000 homes each year.

Although it costs money to plant, water and maintain 50 million new trees, the payoff would be immense. Utilities could save $462 million in wholesale electricity purchases each year, and residents would save $1 billion in annual retail costs, according to the Forest Service. Peak-load demand on the grid would decrease 9 percent and air pollution would also be reduced, since utilities wouldn’t need to run belching “peaker plants” to keep the power flowing.

…Our stately trees are more lovely than a poem, but they also provide an environmental payoff we are just beginning to appreciate. As Joyce Kilmer might have written:

I think that I shall never see
A greenhouse gas reduction strategy as lovely as a tree.
(14 Aug 2006)