Monday, February 04, 2008

Can You Say Irony?

The New York Times has an article that almost caused me to cough up a lung in shock.

The story is about the future city of Masdar, which is designed to be a car free, energy self sufficient city next to the Abu Dhabi airport. Forgive my skepticism, such mega-projects tend to be experiments in self promotion and public relations as they are authentic experiments in self sufficiency. The largest reason for the failure of such efforts is that they go against nature and they go against human nature. Masdar will be built behind huge walls to protect it from the airport and the desert. If history is any guide, people tend to hate living near airports. Life under a flight path will drive people away. Other things include solar powered desalination plants. This BBC article explains the incredibly high cost of desalination but here's a sample.

"Desalinating the sea is an expensive, energy intensive and greenhouse gas emitting way to get water," said Jamie Pittock, director of WWF's global freshwater programme.

"It may have a place in the world's future freshwater supplies but regions still have cheaper, better and complementary ways to supply water that are less risky to the environment."

The report called for greater emphasis on managing existing supplies before the go-ahead was given to major water projects.

So why do such efforts get such support? In short they are sexy, they seem cool and they appeal to our desire for bling and metaphorical bling. The money spent on such efforts would be better spent on large scale efficiency improvements in existing energy footprint. But that would be as I referenced before boring.

The sad truth is boring often works, you want a more dull investor than Warren Buffet, you're probably not going to find someone more boring in style, but then again you aren't going to find someone more successful either.


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