Are Cities Ready for Renewable Skyscrapers?

Every so often a product comes along that presents itself as a “sustainable” innovation, yet has compelling appeal even if sustainability isn’t someone’s top priority. Of course, sustainability has become something of an overused buzzword, but it generally refers to a production process that doesn’t deplete natural resources or damage the environment.

So called “mass timber” is an example of such an innovation. Able to replace reinforced concrete as a building material, it is economically competitive and aesthetically superior. It is perhaps the most profound innovation in building materials since the invention of reinforced concrete over 150 years ago – and it has the power to transform urban development.

By every measure of sustainability, mass timber beats concrete. As a forest product, it is genuinely renewable. Since smaller trees can be used for mass timber than for conventional lumber, more comprehensive forest thinning and fire prevention operations are commercially viable and larger trees can remain untouched.

For those who prioritize these variables, it is also an excellent way to permanently sequester carbon. Manufacturing concrete, by contrast, is a far more energy intensive process, and each year utilizes millions of tons of sand which is – surprisingly – a dwindling and non-renewable resource.

Laminated veneer, commonly known as plywood, has been around for decades. Mass timber (also referred to by the more descriptive term “cross laminated timber”) is where strips of wood are pressed together into large beams and panels, with each layer […] Read More

California Per Capita Spending Doubles – Where Is It Going?

California’s state government is spending twice as much as it did a decade ago, and by every metric that matters to ordinary Californians, things have only gotten worse.

Even without further analysis, this is an incredible fact. California’s state government, in constant dollars, is spending nearly twice as much per resident as it did a decade ago, and what do they have to show for it? Are the schools better? Are the roads improved? Is crime and homelessness down? The answer to these and similar questions is no.

According to reports downloaded from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), and after adjusting for inflation and for population growth, the state’s general fund budget is up 84 percent compared to just ten years ago. Put another way, the state’s per capita general fund spending in the current fiscal year is just under $6,000 per California resident, and ten years ago — in 2022 dollars — it was just over $3,000 per resident.

Digging into what drove this tremendous increase doesn’t reveal much, because the increase is across the board. As the table below indicates, the seven departments that logged the biggest dollar increases in spending were, in most cases, increasing their budget by a lower percentage than the 84 percent by which overall spending increased. Still, some of these multibillion dollar increases bear examination.

The state prison system, for example, increased spending (all figures are in 2022 dollars) by $3.4 billion over the last ten years, a […] Read More

Gavin Newsom’s “Freedom State”

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. – George Orwell, 1984

With his eyes firmly set on the Democratic nomination for president, Gavin Newsom on January 6 was sworn into the California governor’s office for another four-year term. In his second inaugural speech, Newsom highlighted the theme he evidently believes will carry him into the White House, “freedom.” But his perverse definition of freedom is as extreme as the right-wing caricatures he claims he’s protecting us from—and far more likely to be realized.

One of the centerpieces of Newsom’s “freedom” agenda is the right to an abortion. But Newsom isn’t merely defending the principles of Roe v. Wade, which tied the legality of abortion to the viability of the fetus. Nor is Newsom advocating the abortion policies enforced in almost every European nation, where abortion is illegal after 12 weeks.

When it comes to abortion rights, Newsom is pandering to extremists—some would call them murderers—who won’t rest until abortion is legal right up until the moment of birth. As it is, California’s “pregnant people” have the freedom to abort up to 24 weeks. “Viable” or not, here’s a photo of a 24-week-old fetus. Killing this beautiful, obviously sentient human being is “freedom,” according to Gavin Newsom.

Also central to Newsom’s freedom agenda is making California a sanctuary for “transgender youth seeking medical care.” Newsom, again pandering to extremists, is willing to allow confused teens and preteens the “freedom” to permanently alter […] Read More

The Environmentalist Assault on Civilization

No reasonable person should deny the importance of protecting the environment. The accomplishments of the environmental movement over the past 50 years are undeniable; cleaner air and water, protected wildernesses, more efficient use of resources; the list is endless and illustrious. Environmentalist values are an integral part of any responsible public policy agenda. But the pendulum has swung too far.

Environmentalism, which once challenged corporate power, is now its useful puppet. And “climate change,” once a peripheral concern, is now a “climate crisis;” the self-proclaimed unassailable foundation of all environmentalism. Put another way, sixty years ago environmentalism once was a mostly good and courageous movement, but slowly transitioned until now it is wholly a front for plutocrats, relying on a big lie to sustain its momentum.

In an illuminating video posted earlier this month, Jordan Peterson interviewed Dr. Richard Lindzen on the topic of climate science. Lindzen, whose credentials on the topic of climate science are almost ridiculously germane and comprehensive, offered a withering perspective on contemporary environmentalism. He explained that in the 1960s there was a lot of hunting around for an issue that would give environmentalists power over the energy industry. In the 1960s environmentalists started tracking atmospheric CO2 and determined it was increasing.

These CO2 measurements, initially begun out of mere scientific curiosity, gave environmentalists the issue they’d been looking for. As Lindzen put it, “If you wanted to control the energy sector, CO2 was the one pollutant that no matter how clean you make […] Read More

Voters Approve Over $3.0 Billion Per Year in New Local Taxes

When state ballot initiatives propose new taxes, it’s big news. This past November, voters rejected Proposition 30, which would have added another 1.75 percent tax on personal income above $2.0 million. The arguments for and against Prop. 30 were litigated in saturation level television campaigns waged by both sides; total expenditures were nearly $70 million.

But while every election features a handful of state tax and bond proposals that get statewide attention, additional hundreds of local state and bond proposals fly under the radar. Fortunately, after each election cycle and once all the votes are certified – something that in California doesn’t occur until 30 days after election day – the California Taxpayers Association puts out a report that shows the outcome of every local tax and bond proposal.

The impact of these hundreds of bids to raise taxes and increase borrowing, as documented by CalTax, in sum can exceed the amounts of the statewide initiatives.

We saw this demonstrated yet again this past November, when 131 bond proposals were placed on local ballots up and down the state, along with 234 local tax proposals. Of the proposed local bonds, 86 percent of them were approved by voters, dumping another $23.2 billion in debt onto Californians. In terms of budget impact, based on a 5 percent interest rate and a 30 year term, this new borrowing is going to cost taxpayers another $1.5 billion per year in principal and interest payments.

The fate of local tax […] Read More

California Flooding Continues, But We’re Still in a Drought

AUDIO: As one storm after another pounds California, and millions of acre feet of floodwater run out to sea, officials still proclaim the state to be in a drought. Edward Ring with Kara McKinney on OANN’s Tipping Point.

California’s Mega Water Wasters

Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

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California’s Mega Water Wasters

It’s illegal to serve drinking water in a California restaurant unless the customer asks for it. Billboards sponsored by the state urge residents to put a bucket in their shower to capture water for their gardens. These symbolic pittances, along with escalating restrictions on water use by farmers and households that are anything but trivial, are the products of a deeply flawed mentality governing water policy in California.

At the same time as government bureaucrats commit to ongoing water rationing, ferocious winter storms lash the state with hundreds of millions of acre-feet of precipitation. If this storm runoff were captured and stored, there would never be water scarcity again. But instead, it merely causes flooding and havoc, then runs into the vast Pacific Ocean. This is the story of California’s mega water wasters, one of the most delusional, self-righteous, destructive cults in the history of civilization.

In California, when it rains, it pours. So far in 2023, up and down the state, rain and snow are pouring down, one storm after another. Rainfall totals in the San Francisco Bay Area are an astonishing 600 percent of normal for this time of year. In almost every watershed throughout the state, total rainfall is well above normal, and in the Sierras, the all-important snowpack is now sitting at exactly 200 percent of normal.

With all this rain and snow, it might seem like California’s multiyear, devastating drought has come to a welcome and very wet end. But according […] Read More

Future Cities Could Be Beacons of Innovation and Hope

Futurist imaginings of what sort of world awaits humanity often embrace extreme scenarios, ranging from George Jetson’s utopia to George Orwell’s nightmare. They also tend to be wildly inaccurate. But cities throughout history, at least in hindsight, can be seen as the logical expressions of the culture, resources, and technology available to the people at each time and place. With that in mind, and with a resolve not to stray too far into the territory of unrealistic optimism or pessimism, it is possible to speculate on what urbanization may look like in the second half of this century.

To begin with, starting around 2050, urban development will enter a phase of refinement rather than expansion. By that time, human population is projected to have leveled off at around 10 billion, and also by that time, migration to cities may peak at around 80 percent of the population. Between now and 2050, urban areas will grow from housing 4.5 billion people to housing roughly 8 billion people. Navigating that expansion is one of the fundamental challenges of our time.

The news is mostly good, however, because it isn’t immutable resource constraints that can derail the expansion and improvement of cities over the next thirty years, only the political choices we make. Understanding that the availability of resources and the demands of civilization may line up favorably may make wise political choices more likely. Chief among them are how adequate land, water, energy and raw materials will be ensured. […] Read More

Harvesting the Deluge is an Opportunity for Californians

It doesn’t take a hydrologist to know Californians are getting an unusual amount of rain. Totals in the San Francisco Bay Area are an astonishing 600 percent of normal for this time of year. In almost every watershed throughout the state, total rainfall is well above normal, and in the Sierras, the all important snowpack is now sitting at exactly 200 percent of normal.

With this quantity of water already delivered from the sky, with so much more on the way, one might think that drought restrictions could be lifted. But not so fast. Despite predicting for years that Californians were going to need to rely less on a diminishing snowpack and more on harvesting water from storm runoff, the state has done little to take advantage of the new normal. When the rain stops and the snow melts prematurely, Californians will likely face another year of drought restrictions.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2014 voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a water bond that would have funded the sort of water storage projects that we could use right now. But that was over 8 years ago, and not one project has started construction. The proposed Sites Reservoir, an offstream facility originally planned to hold two million acre feet, remains tied up in litigation, endless planning, and only half-hearted and belated efforts by the state to secure matching federal funds. The proposed Temperance Flat Reservoir, which would have held 1.5 million acre feet […] Read More

How Individuals Can Realign America

King Theoden: What can men do against such reckless hate? Lord Aragorn: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them. – Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, 2002

We live in tumultuous and often troubling times, but that does not make them unique. The ordeals and challenges we face are as old as our species: war, famine, disease, poverty, hate, mass psychosis, greed, brutality, tyranny. Nature is often cruel, and the human capacity to inflict harm on other humans is bottomless.

What is perhaps unique about today, however, is the pace of change and the global scale of its impact. In less than a generation, a communications and information revolution has transformed the lives of 8 billion people. We now stand on the threshold of conquering disease, eliminating poverty, exploiting the resources of outer space, extending our lifespans, and all the while, everyone on earth is witnessing this progress and wanting their share.

This is the truly novel and mostly hopeful context of the age in which we live. But as incredible new wealth and new ways to wield power are created and growing in exponential increments, like moths to a flame, ambitious souls are trying to grab as much of that wealth and power they can. Some hope this competition will naturally evolve for the greater good of everyone. Others, true to the darker side of human nature, just want to use it for themselves.

How do we face the challenges of our time? How do […] Read More