Restore the Cities

We have the technology right now to generate electricity without fossil fuels if we really wanted to. Nuclear power is old tech. Thorium breeder reactors offer virtually unlimited nuclear power without the long term waste or countries with stable governments and reasonable security. Solar power is now good enough for the sunnier parts of the world – which happens to include most of the unstable nations with bad security.

But if we want to really cut our carbon emissions and/or bankrupt our enemies, we need to cut petroleum use for transportation as well. This is a bigger challenge. Nuclear power is no good except for large, well guarded, ships. Batteries still have far less energy density than liquid fuels (and a convenience store gas pump transfers useful energy at about the rate of a megawatt electric cord). Hydrogen fuel is just plain idiotic. They say we can squeeze another 50% in efficiency with lightweight materials, turbochargers, better aerodynamics, etc. I might talk about ideas along these lines in a future series. Here, I want to explore something considerably more low tech: Drive less.

We have a very old technology designed to allow people to live and work without driving tens of miles a day. Many people find this technology to be quite pleasant. The device in question is called “A City.” The United States still has quite a few of them. Many are underutilized these days. Many are in serious need of repairs. Given that defending our long commute habit costs us trillions of dollars of military interventions, fixing up our core cities starts to look pretty good.

Not only do cities have the potential to reduce gasoline wasting (and family life ruining) long commutes, cities pack more people into a smaller space. This leaves more room for fields, forests, wildlife habitat,…and me. Bwahahaha!

Not a Call for Smart Growth Mandates

I have a confession to make: I like my elbow room. I am a country gentleman at heart. I have a big yard and don’t intend to give it up. I would be a hyper hypocrite were I to advocate growth boundaries, mandatory micro villages or any of the other eco-fascist aspects of the Smart Growth movement.

I don’t need to. Millions of people who live out in the sprawl would love city life. They commute in from the far suburbs because:

  1. City life can be expensive for the middle class.
  2. Most U.S. core cities aren’t as family friendly as they could be.

These problems can be fixed. In the chapters that follow I’ll show you how. While not strictly libertarian, most of the proposals to follow do involve less active government than what we have today. Republicans take note.

A Special Note to Republicans

The Republican Party has largely lost the core cities of this nation. This is not good. When cities become one-party dictatorships, corruption follows. Maybe we need a new political party to give the Democrats some real competition in the core cities. Or maybe you Republicans in the audience could pick up some ideas from the chapters which follow. You won’t like all of the ideas, but you will like some.

Hungry for More?

This is just an intro. Do you find this subject interesting? Leave some comments below to that effect and I’ll focus on fleshing out this series. If I hear crickets chirping, I’ll focus my energies on other books first.