Monday, July 20, 2009

DTE vs. the People

My poor cousin brought a friend of hers to my nephews birthday party a few weeks back. My cousin lived with me for while last year so she knows how overbearing i can be when it comes to shaking people out of apathy. Her poor friend though, had the unfortunate disposition to be employed by Detroit Edison, and was fully unpreprared for the discussion to follow. I won't bore you all with the details, but suffice it to say we were able to come to some agreements.

The first of which is the fundamental understanding that a few major industries in Detroit have not changed much in the past 100 years; The Auto industry (insofar as the products it produces), the construction industry (not counting efficiencies of premanufacturing), and the Energy industry (Nuclear was a game chager, but the distribution process is still the same).

The second agreement was little more than a recognition that the mentality of power companies think they need to produce energy on a massive scale in massive production plants (i've mentioned this before in the 1.0 version).

We all know that in order to survive in the coming we need to have diverse energy sources, but we never talk about scale. i.e. this latest study.

This much we know (from the article);

'What is certain is that it is all going to be very expensive – and we will be footing a big chunk of the bill, either through public subsidies or higher energy bills. The government predicts an 8% rise in household energy bills, and 17% for industry.
“None of this is going to be free,” said Garry Felgate, chief executive of the Energy Retail Association. “It’s good that the government is now being honest about it.”
Yet for all the government’s soaring aspirations, the two biggest obstacles to our green future remain money and planning.
In 2007, the top three banks lending money for renewable projects were Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and Gold-man Sachs. Lehman no longer exists, and the other two are directing their shrunken resources elsewhere.'

But what we don't see is the solution to localize energy production down to the neighborhood scale. I'm being kicked off this public computer, but feel free to comment on the challenges and opportunities of getting energy production at a scale that could handle 500 to 1,000 homes and is sustained through community lifestyle (i.e. bike machines at the local gym, crazy i know)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

'Detroit' and 'Utopia' in the same sentence?

We may have missed this little Op-Ed as it was published on the 4th o' July, but as someone that refuses to buy/lease a car until our local Auto Industry figures out how to give me the right product, i can sympathize with being a bicyclist in auto-centric city. Toby Barlow sets the record straight here, and is something that might have a bit more substance than just whims of fancy. I ran into my local alternative transportation friends the other day down at Foran's Grand Trunk Pub (soon to be Historically designated, but don't tell anyone i told you), and i couldn't help but ask what the hell was going on with the Non-Motorized Plan that City Council adopted last year. Scripted answer was, 'good question'.

The standard response for lack of progress on any type of alternative transportation plan or initiative is simply lack of funding. That's all well and good if were talking about the light rail project (keep tuned for more info on this one as i might have some good news) that needs millions of dollars of infrastructure, but for crying out loud, lane stripes were being painted the other day on my ride down Woodward and not a single biking stripe was to be found. What i'm saying is that the funding is already allocated but being misallocated because some engineer has the 1970's code book memerized and the same old specifications keep getting regurgitated down the line to the contractors. My vote is with Toby and the AIA folks that published the SDAT.

FYI, I do not want to share the road with cars. A recent Letter to the Editor in the South Oakland Eccentric (which i can't find the online version of) frustrates me more than a little as the author unapologetically criticizes cyclists for not wearing helmets, being erratic and simply not following the rules of the road. Claiming that irresponsible cyclists are easily spotted as they are the ones not wearing helmets. Coming from a guy that glibly pronounces that he takes a leisurely stroll through the suburban neighborhoods on a tandem bike with his wife every evening, i can't help but set the record straight here. First of all, cycling is not leisure to me, it is my preferred choice of transportation and BTW, it's my prerogative to wear a helmet, not a law. Second of all, and probably most important here relating back to the NY Times Op-Ed by Toby Barlow, the statement '...cyclists have a right to share the road with drivers...most drivers [are] courteous and if anything overly cautious towards cyclists' , is not even remotely an acceptable answer. I get nudged or crazy ivaned (or 'right hooked') on a daily basis and i simply say that 'I do not want to 'share' the road. I want my own damn road!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AIA SDAT Published

Everyone told me i was crazy to want to bring the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Community by Design Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) to Detroit in 2008. I've been called worse. Turns out that the timing could not have been more perfect. The recent final publication should be required reading for any Detroit City Council Candidate.