Re: [web-49] anyone going to, or have thoughts on, AAG in Las Vegas?

From: J. Andrew R.
Sent on: Monday, March 16, 2009 3:44 PM

On Mon, Mar 16, 2009 at 1:50 PM, diane livia <[address removed]> wrote:
I was a bit put off by the "Sustainable Las Vegas" theme and
workshops...seems a bit disingenuous.

How so? ?Las Vegas and Nevada generally (Las Vegas is where most of the population lives) is pretty far ahead of much of the rest of the US in terms of modern, sustainable infrastructure side of things. ?There are a lot of historical and circumstantial reasons for this. ?Per capita and GDP resource use in Nevada is downright miserly compared to most other places in the US, partly by design.?

For things like water the reasons are obvious. Unlike many other states, particularly in the eastern US, there are water markets and a million liters per year will often cost four figures depending on location; the public utilities grant a modest allotment per household at inexpensive rates, but then make you pay a proxy of the market rate if you exceed that level. It is quite expensive to waste water, hence the dearth of water intensive landscaping and why the building codes in most locales require very water efficient buildings. ?They have been ratcheting this to be even more miserly for years due to the local resource limits.

The transportation stuff, roads, highways, interstates, etc in Nevada are paid for solely by gas taxes and DMV fees; a lot of environmental policy wonks talk about such things, Nevada is one of the handful of states that has always done it this way. ?(It is possible to do this efficiently and inexpensively; California somehow manages to spend more than an order of magnitude more money per mile on the adjacent sections of Interstate, with worse results.) ?And if you want to eliminate commutes altogether, Nevada is the most pervasively fiber-ed state in the country. ?Most places that do not pre-date the 1980s (and the cities do not for the most part) have two unrelated fibers at the premise for random historical reasons, even out in the rural areas. This is usually unexploited though.

Electricity consumption is also atypically low in Nevada, but it is also moderately expensive which might explain part of it. ?This is somewhat ironic since they are sitting on unimaginably large quantities of cheap geothermal power, but they build coal and gas plants instead because the Federal regulators effectively barred most new geothermal power plant development in the 1990s (the environmental movement shooting itself in the foot). ?There are a number of industrial facilities that generate heat and power from onsite geothermal wells.

The notion of Las Vegas as a sustainable, environmentally efficient city, which relative to many other cities it is, should be viewed as a potential marketing coup. ?When you talk about sustainable living, most people think of an uncomfortable lifestyle living in hippie bungalows or unpleasant, hyper-regulated urban environments. ?If you can say "sustainable like Las Vegas", which is several times more environmentally efficient than most other cities in the US, that would be a *huge* improvement in fact without any connotations of being forced to live an austere lifestyle that most people will object to.

Mind you, the environmental footprint of the city could be reduced even further, but that is not really the point. I don't like Las Vegas and rarely find myself there, but people should be exploiting the apparent non-sacrifice of living in a city that is a temple to excess but which nonetheless has a substantially smaller ecological footprint than other cities in the country. ?You don't sell people on the idea of sustainable living by telling them it is going to suck, you sell them on the idea that it is possible to make real, material improvements in the eco-friendliness of their city without taking away everything they love about their lifestyle in the process.

Environmentally efficient cities should not be about the appearance of sacrifice (which is frequently nothing more than "sacrifice theater"), but about making the cities smarter and more efficient.

Hmm... okay, that was a bit long-winded. :-)


J. Andrew Rogers

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