12/12/14 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ENJOY THE RIDE Houston Driver“Houston: the wonder city that showed the country how laissez-faire economics, conservative values, and lax planning lead to growth and prosperity. It turns out Houston was just benefiting from another bubble and a siphoning of wealth from the rest of the country via higher gasoline prices. The shale boom was supposedly proof that peak oil was dead and we can keep building car-dependent cities. Houston was riding into the future in its new Mercedes. It turns out that shale was only accessible at prices too high to pay to maintain strong economies around the world. When consumers cut oil demand, the shale, deepwater, and tar sands dry up. We’re on the slope downward, folks. Oil prices will likely spike again when demand returns, Houston may boom temporarily, but consumers aren’t going to be able to pay for it forever. After the spike, demand slackens, prices drop, and expensive new oil projects are cancelled. Production drops, demand outstrips supply, and we hit another price spike. Over and over it goes until we one day wonder why we can’t afford to open the oil taps as wide as we could in the 2000-2010s. The thriving economies will be the ones that depend least on oil.” [Carpetbagger, commenting on Oil Price Plunge Leads to Stock Downgrade for New Greenway Plaza Owners] Illustration: Lulu

06/11/14 10:45am

Energy Consumption of 6 Types of Cities, from Shell ReportThe folks at Shell may not have known a new campaign was about to kick off declaring Houston to be “The City of No Limits,” but a new report from the oil company on the future of cities around the world certainly helps reinforce a just-as-proud image of our 8,778-square-mile Texas spread. “New Lenses on Future Cities,” one of a series of just-released “scenario” studies sponsored by Shell in conjunction with The Centre for Liveable Cities in Singapore, classifies urban areas around the world into 6 distinct categories based on common features.

Houston, according to the researchers, is too large to be considered one of the Prosperous Communities, and hasn’t earned its way into the Developing Mega-Hubs or Urban Powerhouses clubs. (It certainly doesn’t qualify as an Underprivileged Crowded City or Underdeveloped Urban Centre either) Instead, the report says Houston is a seminal example of a Sprawling Metropolis, proudly featuring it on some accompanying infographics illustrating the archetype (see the green square above). (Other members of this distinctive group of 41 cities include Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.)


‘No Limits’ for a High Energy City
09/10/13 4:15pm

W. A. PARISH PLANT ONE OF THE WORST POLLUTERS IN THE COUNTRY, FINDS REPORT According to a new study published by Environment America, NRG Energy’s coal-firing W. A. Parish Electric Generating Plant, on Smithers Lake outside of Richmond, is really good at being dirty. Though the plant has been messing around with a way to clean itself up in the past year or so, the report, published today, still fingers it as the 5th dirtiest in the country when it comes to carbon emissions. And here, in order, are 1-4: “Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Scherer, Alabama Power Co.’s James H. Miller Jr. Plant, Luminant’s Martin Lake in Texas, [and] Ameren’s Labadie in Missouri.” [StateImpact; Environment America; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user Joe A.

06/29/12 2:22pm

A team of researchers at Rice University have created a lithium-ion battery that can be spray-painted on to any surface. The first surface they tested the 5-layer power-storing combo on was a set of bathroom tiles. Since then, flexible, glass, and steel surfaces — as well as a beer stein emblazoned with the Rice insignia — have been tested and used successfully to store small amounts of electricity. Graduate student and lead author of the team’s report Neelam Singh imagines buildings sheathed with battery-sprayed ceramic tiles that are then covered by solar cells, integrating energy gathering and storage functions on a structure’s exterior skin.