Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chicago's Shadow Governments

Most of us are hardly aware of our local Chamber of Commerce or Community Council, or any of the other business development and community advocacy organizations, and when they do intrude on our awareness, we wonder just what do they do, exactly, to justify a business allocating a few hundred scarce dollars to membership dues,and valuable time to attending meetings and events.

Well, for starters, they take taxpayer's money in order to lobby for more taxpayers' money to fund massive projects that may or may not be advantageous for their communities and are often opposed by the bulk of the citizens. These organizations are considered "delegate" organizations by the City of Chicago, and are eligible for funding by the City, as are other non-profit organizations that exist for "community" purposes. At this time, there are well over 100 such organizations, and many neighborhoods have two or three, for oftentimes, another organization will be founded by those opposing the plans and policies of the original group, and they exert an unseemly degree of control over local affairs, including major public works and community developments. Rogers Park's infamous DevCorp North, now known as the Rogers Park Business Alliance, is notorious for its involvement in and partial ownership of the disastrous Gateway Mall, which was funded by the Howard/Pauline TIF, and the Edgewater Intelligencer has detailed the role of the Edgewater Community Council in advocating for the outer drive extension and landfill, in spite of overwhelming and vehement opposition to this project by the bulk of Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Evanston voters. Additionally, the organization is promoting the construction of a large wind farm at Edgewater Beach, a massively expensive and unsightly "greenwash" boondoggle to be financed by the taxpayers, as part of their Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Plan.

They also possess power over member and non-member businesses and development alike in their respective communities, and often do not hesitate to exert themselves to obstruct and harass businesses whose owners are not in their club, and have a tendency to reserve control of their organizations to a handful of powerful members.

Worse, these organizations have a voice in decisions affecting the entire city, such as the Outer Drive extension and park landfill, that was not granted them by the citizens of this city, and is often inimical to their interests and bank accounts. I don't remember electing any of the members of the ECC nor did I deputize them to speak for me on the matter of the Outer Drive extension.I did not vote to support them and other community organizations with my taxes, nor did I vote to support their positions on other issues, such as labor laws, zoning, the proper business mix for an area, and who shall be allowed to do business in the area and who should not.

Yet the City of Chicago has granted these organizations not only a significant chunk of our tax revenues when these groups are considered together, but a considerable degree of power over their respective communities, and a significant voice in major local affairs. It is not encouraging that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to accord corporations the status of  "person", thus granting corporate organizations additional power without the accountability of a live, human person.

Should a 503(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization be permitted to lobby for legislation favorable to their members, or for anything at all? Should an organization with defined, limited membership, existing for the benefit of that membership, be permitted to rule the entire community and foist unwanted public works projects on it, and decide which businesses will live or die? 

This is not meant to disparage the many fine community organizations and Chambers of Commerce that play a major role in improving their communities and building solid, desirable businesses in them. These organizations are often very beneficial.They often beautify the community by voluntary efforts, with plantings, banners, and other small enhancements, and they often are of real assistance to businesses starting up in their area. Some even provide valuable assistance to individual members in the form of business and legal advice, and access to financing. However, no matter how positive a role in the community a particular organization may play, it exists to serve its own members or a small constituency, and it should be supported strictly by voluntary contributions.

Most of all, these organizations should not be able to wield power not granted them by the citizenry, nor claim to represent us in matters that affect the entire community. They should not be permitted to hound a harmless little business out of existence, and they should not be able to use taxpayers' funds to lobby for legislation and projects that involve the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues and the disruption of tens of thousands of lives. The members of the ECC and other community organizations are surely entitled to their personal views and are entitled to voice them, but not with our money, nor should they be given authority in these matters not granted them by the voters.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

State of Illinois Funds Coal Mining: $1.6M Grant to International Coal Group, Inc.

in fiscal year 2009, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity gave International Coal Group, Inc. (ICG, Inc.) of Williamsville, IL $1,664,250 for grant number 09-483006. According to the DCEO’s Grant Tracker website, grant number 09-483006 was part of the Coal Competitiveness Program, which “encourages communities and businesses to improve the coal extraction, transportation and utilization systems within Illinois.” This specific grant was for the construction of a new production portal.

Meanwhile, the resolution to repeal the moratorium on further nuclear development has gone to the state assembly. 

Why are we subsidizing coal production while obstructing nuclear, the most efficient and powerful means of energy production on earth?

Could it be that coal is a safer and cleaner form of energy? No, because coal has killed more people both directly, as a result of mine disasters, and indirectly, by pollution-induced illness, than any other form of energy, while the 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. have not killed a single civilian in the entire history of the industry in this country. 

Could it be, instead, because the coal lobby is one of the most powerful in IL, and because we still have a substantial number of people employed in high-wage, though deadly, jobs as coal miners? 

It's time to ask why we are promoting and subsidizing the dirtiest and most lethal form of power generation while obstructing a set of technologies that could extend the fuel cycle for a thousand years by means of more elegant and efficient nuclear technologies, such as the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. And it is really time to question the wisdom of so-called "renewable" technologies that are diffuse and grid-destabilizing without the backup of fossil fuels like coal. How  clean and renewable can the "renewables" really be if they're only reliable with the "backup" of coal and gas, two forms of energy proven dirty, destructive, dangerous, and subject to depletion in the next couple of decades.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Against Nature: Can Our Freedoms Survive Peak Oil?

Many observers in the Peak Oil community are baffled and disgusted by the angry denial of our dire fuel situation and its implications for our future, not only among the general public, but among our well-educated upper-middle class, including many prominent political leaders and intellectuals. The truculence of the general public is usually attributed to stupidity, ignorance, and "selfishness", and the unwillingness to make sacrifices to serve the "common good"; and the consensus among the aware is that we will have to become a more authoritarian and regimented society, perhaps even impose military law, in order to maintain civil order and assure the equitable distribution of remaining resources. "This country needs a good father," one commentator wrote, and commented approvingly on the regimentation and authoritarianism prevalent in the early 30s, remarking that we might have to impose these conditions again to make it through the hardship and upheaval of the massive shift that is upon us. Rationing is already under discussion, and various additional controls and government-imposed rules regulating use and distribution of resources, are also being discussed, some more seriously that others- and every single one, from the CAFE standards that the auto industry has resisted tooth and claw since their inception 30 years ago, to the government-mandated phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of CFL bulbs and LEDs, is bitterly resented by the bulk of the citizenry, who feel the weight of over-reaching authority in every part of their lives.

That the authoritarianism of the environmentalist and peak oil believers, and their open contempt not only  for common 'merikuns' and their wasteful ways,but for the concept of rights and freedom, might be exactly what triggers denial on the part of so many people who ought to know better, doesn't seem to occur to the environmentalist pundits and policy makers.

It also doesn't enter the heads of the authoritarians that the trends of the past 60 years that have made this country the most wasteful consumer of resources in the world, notably the build out of suburbia, and the corresponding total dependence on autos and trucks by our population, owe not so much to "market forces" or to the democratization of auto and suburban home ownership, as to government policies created by people who thought they knew better than we do what is good for us.

And what our leaders thought was good for us in those days was government-subsidized home ownership, taxation policies that incentivized the formation of large families, and lavish incentives for auto ownership, notably  "free" highways to enable car ownership and facilitate the mass movement of the middle-income population out of the old cities to houses purchased with VA and FHA 3% down loans in new auto suburbs. Meanwhile, civic leaders across the country frantically cast about for ways to revitalize their rapidly emptying cities, and eagerly embraced the vision of urban planners and architects who wanted to demolish the unsightly slums around urban cores and warehouse the poor in high rise housing projects.

In short, it was our authoritarian welfare state that gave us the world's most wasteful and unsustainable built landscape next to Dubai, and is now shoveling the last of our wealth into sustaining and expanding it. This massive misinvestment is questioned by only a handful of our citizens, for our population was inducted by the corporatist nanny state into the passivity, consumerist ethos, and sense of entitlement that have made this country into a quagmire of towering debt and built an economy distorted by multiple layers of government subsidies and programs that reinforce the practices we need to discontinue, and disguise their true costs.

Therefore, we beg the question of just what a super-authoritarian, hyper-regimented Big Daddy regime can do for us that will produce any other outcome than further misallocation of resources in massively expensive boondoggles like the misbegotten high speed rail plan, multibillion dollar gifts to failing, obsolete industries like production home building in the far suburbs and our failing, obsolete domestic auto industry, and most of all, further intrusion into our private lives and restrictions on our personal and economic activities? Will erasing what few freedoms we have left to us and moving entire populations around like chessboard pieces according to the wisdom of a bunch of bureaucrats assure us of an orderly and peaceful transition to a lower energy regime and mollify the tens of millions of people whose expectations and hopes will be crushed but who will be expected to acquiesce to arbitrary authority in the most personal matters, with little or no explanation except for the usual crap about the "common good"?

Will the same government whose leaders have consistently lied to us for 50 years regarding the costs of the high-entropy economy its policies created and who, while knowing full well what the likely outcome would be, recklessly drove the creation of the worst financial debacle the world has ever seen, be able to lead us to any other end than the complete collapse of every system we depend upon for water, food, transportation, and every other necessity of life? And will these leaders be able to offer any other solution to the predicament of a country of 305 million people left with no resources, no means to make a living, and no way to procure food and housing and heat, but a military dictatorship with the complete cancellation of all our rights, vastly amplified state violence, and the death by mass slaughter or starvation of a substantial chunk of our population?

The coming difficult times of shortages, falling living standards, and failing systems will require all the fortitude, flexibility,skills and virtues individual citizens possess, in order to rebuild our communities into places that can sustain and shelter us and our civilized values. And the cornerstone civilized value is individual freedom, which is inseparable from personal responsibility.

Without the liberties, unprecedented in history, that we have secured at such a cost, we're headed straight back to the filth, brutality, and class tyrannies of the past, complete with the entire population enslaved in a neo-feudal society with draconian restrictions enforced by a brutal military.

And responsibility is the virtue that we have to painfully relearn, and in a large hurry, from the bottom of our society with its vast population of welfare entitlement junkies, prolific breeders, and criminal elements emboldened by our irrational justice system, through our middle classes with their passivity, complacence, sense of entitlement, and refusal to reckon costs and make necessary trade-offs, up to our financial elites that have been granted a license to steal trillions of dollars from the taxpayers, and have permitted to use their power to dictate legislation and policies that favor them, to turn this country into a low-wage cesspool, asset-strip the population by fraud and malfeasance, and sell our country to a nation ruled by a thug government ideologically opposed to the freedoms we have enjoyed and abused here.

After all, there is nothing "natural" about guaranteed personal liberty for every citizen regardless of class, color, ethnicity, or sex. The concepts of liberty and unalienable rights are the products of a highly evolved and literate civilization, which is also unnatural, a civilization with a high level of knowledge and technology, and with a broad and reasonably well-educated commonalty dedicated to preserving as much of it as possible, beginning with the philosophy that justified it and made it possible, that of freedom and rights and personal dignity. Without the will to preserve that, and the knowledge of its importance, we'll lose those values and everything that they made possible, including, most likely, our lives.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Be Afraid

The world won't end in 2012, but life as we know it just might. For those who didn't get the point embedded in the other chart I published a few posts back, here, from the Energy Information (U.S. Dept of Energy) is a more graphic depiction of the depletion of oil supplies, which are projected to "drop off the cliff" in 2012 after plateauing for a couple of years at current levels.

If oil in now at about  $85 a barrel, where will it go when we experience a 5% to 7% drawdown in production? Chevron and other oil producers aren't spending approximately $120 a barrel on risky deep-sea drills because they think they will lose money on it, people.

And how many years will it take to deplete remaining reserves at this rate of depletion? 

Given the hardship and economic turmoil described in this chart, we needn't expect such considerations as the human death toll and environmental consequences of offshore drills and the production of oil from "unconventional" sources (tar sands, deep sea drills) will weigh against the far greater toll should our complex systems that keep our grocery shelves stocked, treat our municipal water supplies, and supply the vast quantities of electrical power we need to live in comfort and have access to comfortable, sanitary living conditions, advanced medical car,and rapid emergency response, never mind the cornucopia of consumer goodies we all feel entitled to.

We are not prepared, nowhere near. We do not have decent public transportation, either for local or long distance travel. We will never be able to build all the nuclear power plants we need once the costs skyrockets due to escalating fuel costs. We do not have the rapid and high speed rail we will need to replace our planes. We do not have the wherewithal either jointly or severally to replace our soon-to-be-unlivable sprawl-burbs with well-insulated housing in dense, walkable towns and cities. We do not have the sustainable agriculture developed that we will need when it becomes prohibitive to use the chemical fertilizers manufactured with oil and gas. Most of us have no savings, let alone a 6 month supply of food. And thanks to the debt debacle of the past decade, we have no capital with which to build the systems we will need to retain our comforts, nor the industries that can supply us with the goods we will need in a different world than the one we live in now.

Maybe the religionists have a point- praying is what you do when you have nothing else left, and it seems appropriate now.

However, we could try to do just a few little things that might help. Since nobody, including all the leftist "greens", seems unduly disturbed by the recent deaths caused by the production of fossil fuels, could we try not to get all hysterical at the mere thought of building another nuclear plant near Chicago, or foam at the mouth because a train loaded with spent nuclear fuel might pass through town sometime. If we can tolerate a mine disaster that kills 29 minors, or a drill rig explosion that claims 11 men and spews oil allover the Gulf, could we front the theoretical hazards involved in a form of electricity generation that has not killed a single civilian in the U.S. or Western Europe in its forty-year history?

Chicago is in the Top Twenty Cities for Foreclosures and REOs: No Shortage of Affordable Housing

Illinois is one of the top ten "scam" states for mortgage fraud and Chicago is among the top twenty cities as ranked by percentage of home sales that are "distressed" sales. Distress sales comprise more than 30% of all home sales in the Chicago area at this time. Click on chart below to blow it up.

So it looks like the rollback in house prices is not over. Rogers Park and other far north neighborhoods are extremely hard hit by foreclosures, in direct proportion to the rash of condo conversions. According to the 2008 report compiled by Lakeside Community Development in 2008, over 3, 600 Rogers Park rentals were converted to condominiums.

Many of these units, which are frankly less than luxurious, are being offered at prices below $50,000, even though financing is not available on many of them and many others are uninhabitable, or are in buildings that are vacant and in boards. Many will be purchased by investors for cash below the prices offered, and fitted for rental. Others will be sold to buyers looking for a bargain-priced dwelling they can afford to invest money and love in without living on Raman Noodles for the next five years. On the city's poverty-stricken south side, the carnage is still more widespread, with many hundreds of beautiful 6 and 8 flats standing empty and in boards, and available to cash buyers for as little as $5000 a unit?

So why are we spending as much a $400,000 a unit for publicly funded "affordable" housing? I have personally counted over 40 units on the multilist in zip codes 60640, 60660, 60659, 60626, and 60645 that are available for less than $40,000 and could easily be made habitable and comfortable for another $20,000. Moreover, I discovered that behind every unit listed lurks a "shadow inventory" or "market overhang" of about 20 units that don't appear on the multilist but sit empty and in default. I personally can't put my finger on the precise number of vacant units, but my rough calculations tell me that we have at least 300 units that are "shadow inventory" between these five areas.

And why are we subsidizing more bad mortgages through FHA mortgage guarantees? Clearly, home ownership is not for everyone, especially in a period of falling incomes and unstable employment, and the government's efforts to re-inflate the housing bubble have so far not prevented prices from falling but have produced another bumper crop of bad mortgages: FHA is now the major subprime lender and recent-vintage FHA mortgages have a combined delinquency and "serious delinquent" or loans-in-default rate of nearly 20%, a really good indication that we're headed for another monster bailout in a couple of years. Bill Zeilinski of Mortgaged Future writes;

 Once again, thousands of borrowers are getting loans they do not stand a chance of repaying. Only now, unlike in the subprime meltdown, Congress would have to bail out the lenders if the FHA cannot make good on guarantees from its existing reserves.

Given the continued high rate of default, high unemployment rates and dropping incomes, and huge inventory of unsold housing, does it make sense to force the taxpayers to back yet another wave of soon-to-default mortgages made to unqualified buyers at prices they can't afford?

And given the massive glut of unsold inventory, much of which is available for less that $40,000 a unit and could be made habitable and comfortable for less than $25,000 a unit, does it make sense to drive honest low-to-middle income homeowners, who bought their places honestly, out of their homes by confiscatory property taxes in order to divert tax money to construct more luxury condos in a glutted market and subsidized "affordable" rentals that cost $400,000 or more a unit to build? 

This is really not about the "rich" folks vs. the "poor" folks, or even the taxpayers vs everyone who wants a gift at their expense. What this is really about is the massive misallocation of resources and money that will be very scarce in the near future, as fossil fuel resources continue down the other side of the slope. The money diverted to wasteful projects designed to sustain the unsustainable, in this case an inflated housing market and tax-funded boondoggles  designed to enrich politician's cronies, is money taken away from the systems and industries we will desperately need to maintain our cities at a reasonable level of amenity and comfort, let alone safety and sanitation, and to have an economy that enable the creation of new industries and jobs. It isn't just our money or our houses at stake here,it's our lives.

The Best Urban Neighborhoods For Post-Peak Living

There is endless discussion in Peak Oil and Survivalist circles regarding the optimal living arrangement for an era in which transportation will be difficult, expensive, and perhaps widely unavailable, and in which all the necessities of life- food, fuel, potable water, medicine, and common consumer goods, will be outrageously expensive, and their availability subject to supply chain disruptions and commodity scarcity.

Many Peak Oil prognosticators are extremely pessimistic about the prospects for extremely large cities such as NYC and Chicago, where denizens tend either to live in the suburbs with their thousands of square miles of auto-dependent sprawl, or in super-dense city neighborhoods with their thickets of super-large, energy-guzzling high rise buildings, and many people predict that the most successful settlements will be the small towns and smaller cities, principally those that have been battered the most by the cheap fuel extravaganza of the past 65 years, that saw our cities decimated as their populations bought automobiles and moved to distant suburbs. I expect that as the desert cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas fail, their populations will flee eastward and repopulate and rebuild these cities along lines that better comport with shrinking resources.

We here in Chicago can expect a massive influx of suburban refugees as the outer suburbs on the fringe of Cook County, as well as the collar counties, become non-negotiable for their middle and lower-middle class denizens Most of our lower middle classes (figure incomes of $25,000 to $65,000) live in the outer suburbs and exurbs, lured by the cheap houses and decent schools, and they will not be able to afford the 50 mile-each-direction commutes and multiple car ownership necessary to live in these places when gasoline prices start to rise even incrementally above current levels. In fact, they can't afford it now, thus the immense personal household debt levels that have  become commonplace in this country in the past thirty years, and which render our population much less resilient and flexible in the face of the discontinuities we will face in the near future. These people will be hit first and the hardest as liquid fuels and all the goods and services dependent upon a ready and copious supply of them-in short, absolutely everything- become much more expensive, and this is already happening, as homes in the outer suburbs are losing value much faster than those in the cozy inner suburbs with their easy access to public transit and the city. Meanwhile, their better-off middle and upper-middle income brethren will be squeezed by much higher costs for everything, too, and they will be looking for convenience and freedom from the rising expense of the high-energy lifestyles of the recent past. However, many of the less affluent will cling to their homes because they cannot afford to take the heavy losses they will incur as these dwellings lose their utility and value. Most  likely, more affluent middle class homeowners will be the first to recognize the inevitability of the suburban unraveling, and these people are the ones who are now making the choice to settle in the city in order to escape heavy transportation expenses and be close to work and within walking distance of retail and entertainment.

So we here in Chicago will very likely be dealing with floods of new arrivals, while we will be having problems of our own. We can be thankful that we have many people running our systems, such as our water treatment facilities and our electrical power, who have better brains than either our politicians or the Peak Oil prognosticators, and these people are aware of the challenges of maintaining essential services as basic maintenance and replacement become prohibitively expensive, which will happen as we descend the slope. Our major challenges will be to arrange things so that we can accommodate many more residents in comfort and offer access to public transit and retail, and to make sure that our public money is spent renewing our aged water and sewer infrastructure as quickly as possible, before high fuel prices drive the cost of construction and replacement out of our reach. This means that we need to immediately re-order our priorities, and stop the diversion of money towards unnecessary projects and allocate it to necessary repair and replace. Many neighborhoods that were badly beaten up in the cheap fuel years will experience rapid revivals, while others that have been extremely successful, such as our downtown areas with their dense concentrations of mega-high rise condo and apartment towers, will become extremely difficult to manage.

Therefore, I offer my personal, non-scientific assessment of a sampling of Chicago neighborhoods that I believe are the most advantageous locations for post-peak living:

1. Rogers Park/West Ridge/West Rogers Park- I don't name this neighborhood just because I happen to live in it and love it. Rogers Park has almost everything you need to live a low-energy lifestyle. For one thing, we have easy access to Lake Michigan,one of the world's largest sources of fresh water.That is is really handy should we experience problems with our water treatment facilities. Residents might want to equip themselves with home water treatment kits in order to take advantage of this priceless resource. Additionally, Rogers Park is within easy reach of 24-hour public transit, abundant retail for necessities, and most of all has an abundance of back yards, courtyards, parkways, parks, and vacant lots on which food could be grown should it become necessary. The housing is mostly 3-7 story multifamily buildings of 18-60 units, the new urban ideal, which provides support for local retail and public transit, while the area is not overburdened with high rise buildings. On the negative side, the area is burdened with elevated crime rates and a sizable pocket of deep poverty. However, the neighborhood's poorer denizens might be more amenable to the difficult adjustments and deprivations entailed in energy scarcity than their more affluent neighbors, and more willing participants in community agricultural projects.

2. Jefferson Park/Sauganash Park, ranging from well-paid blue collar to extremely affluant- this quiet safe- area in the northwest corner of the city is ideal for families who desire a single family home, yet also contains a full array of housing types, from 2-flats to large 3 and 4 story buildings. There is reliable public transit that runs 24 hours a day (Blue Line el and a couple of bus lines), and abundant retail. Transportation is difficult for many pockets of single family homes, but this is offset by an abundance of great homes at reasonable prices, and a high level of public safety.

3. Lincoln Square/Ravenswood/Albany Park- medium-to-high density, easy access to retail and public transit, many different types of housing from cheap apartments to large, beautiful single family homes. Access to the Chicago River. High level of public safety

3. Old Irving Park- an area of fine, large old homes on large lots big enough to farm,with access to the Blue Line, and short distance to retail.

4. Belmont-Cragin- high density area with access to public transit and dense retail. Medium to high density with many cheap apartments and small, inexpensive homes.

5. Wicker Park/Bucktown/Logan Square- Medium density area close to urban core with 24 hour transit nearby and dense retail.

As we can see from the sampling above, Chicago by and large is, by virtue of the way it is built, designed for much lower energy use than current levels and it and other Midwestern cities will have many instrinsic advantages in the post peak era. This city, like most older Northern cities that were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries and its original arrangements- clusters of high density housing and industry close to the city core- were those necessary for a pre-technological society. It was located on a major water body for access to water transportation and fresh water supplies, in an area of the country that contains the world's finest farmland and gets generous rainfall. It is well above sea level (about 500 feet), and enjoys close proximity to other Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic cities. However, many neighborhoods will be severely challenged, mainly because they are built to be reliant upon copious quantities of extremely cheap energy. I'm thinking mostly of the inner city neighborhoods that are densely packed with thickets of mega-scrapers of 30 stories or more. These buildings have much higher internal energy loads per square foot because of their reliance on elevators, water pumps, and need for large numbers of personnel to keep the buildings running properly. These neigbhorhoods include:

1. Downtown/Near North/Streeterville/South Loop- Thankfully, these neighborhoods are mostly inhabited by high-income people with large amounts of disposable money. They're going to need a lot of money  to keep their super-high buildings functioning properly, for this area contains more really large (40 stories or more) high rise condo and apartment towers than any other in the city. These neighborhoods are advantageously located in the midst of dense retail and have access to better pubic transportation than any other part of the city. However, there is no possibility of growing edibles there. Worse, a massive percentage of its denizens are "yuppies" who rely for their high incomes on the very types of jobs- advertising, FIRE, law- that will see drastic attrition in a shrinking economy, and these middle income people will not have the wherewithal to meet rapidly rising energy costs in massive buildings into which most of them are shoehorned. While the True Rich, those who have ample fortunes and live in the best buildings in that area, will most likely be able to cope with escalating costs, many people in this area will lose their incomes just as their buildings become outrageously expensive to operate, and the end result is likely to be many empty and half-empty high rise rentals falling into decrepitude, and vastly compromised public safety and comfort.

2. Lincoln Park/Lakeview- These neighborhoods are a lot like downtown, with way too many really large residential buildings. Offsets are excellent transportation and a lot of retail. But their support base, like that of downtown neighborhoods, is due to erode rapidly as the economy shifts to lower energy consumption and occupations that were dependent upon a high-consumption economy disappear. This is another area with no possibilities for local food production beyond a few tomato plants on balconies.

3. Uptown-  This area has an immense concentration of low-income housing, including CHA high rises and "flophouse" single room occupancy hotels, along with more non-profits serving challenged populations than almost any other neighborhood on the north side. While the alderman, Helen Schiller might be more amenable to projects that enhance the area's sustainability (i.e. fish farms), her progressive stance is more than offset by her willingness to tolerate disorderly populations and criminal activity. The large Asian population is a plus, for these people are often recent immigrants who live much more frugally than most Americans and are more likely to be involved in running local sustainable business. For example, the large garden at the corner of Kenmore and Ainslie is owned by a private individual who supplies many local restaurants with produce grown there. So this area is a very mixed bag.

4. Edgewater- I love Edgewater and it is probably my favorite North Coast neighborhood all around. However, this neighborhood has a number of liabilities when viewed in terms of sustainability. Most of these liabilities line Sheridan Road and are at least 25 stories high, and inhabited mostly by moderate-to-middle income people, including many extremely elderly folk, who could find the cost of keeping these buildings with their prodigious energy demands functional ratcheting out of reach as fuel costs escalate. On the plus side, the neighborhood has easy beach access, excellent 24 hour public transportation, and prolific retail featuring the necessities of life. Additionally, local zoning authorities have established a height limit of 7 stories for new buildings. Edgewater high rise dwellers need to think about how they will run their elevators in times of power outages and hyper-expensive electricity, and whether the proposed windfarm off Edgewater Beach will be capable of carrying their energy-intensive buildings in the possible absence of reliable baseline power generation.

I've only discussed some of the north side neighborhoods. The south side of the city, which contains half the population of the north side but twice the land area, presents a whole different array of problems and possibilities. While the area is beset with widespread poverty and joblessness, it is also the site of many promising experiments with local agriculture and boasts a number of large community agricultural stations and community gardens.