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TRC Burack Lectures: Dr. John Landis & Dr. Jonathan Rubin
- By Ben Carlson
The TRC was fortunate to host two excellent speakers from the Burack President's Distinguished Lecture Series during the Spring 2013 semester. This is a lecture series funded by a donation by Dan and Carole Burack to bring distinguished speakers to campus. Dr. John Landis spoke on urban growth and modeling, while Dr. Jonathan Rubin discussed reducing transportation emissions.
In his lecture, Dr. Landis highlighted the complexity of determining the type of growth model a city or region should use based on what their growth strategy is, ranging from providing more affordable housing, to more public space, to more transit options, etc. He explained that every city is different in that they all have a unique set of goals. Once you understand what the goals are, then you can choose the best growth model for that city. He also discussed the policies that shape this growth, such as zoning, growth boundaries, and fees or incentives.
Dr. Landis followed this discussion with some statistics about how cities have been growing across the country, highlighting that suburban growth far outpaced core city growth in the 1990’s. Some metros, however, did increase average density during this time, such as New York, Phoenix-Mesa, and Las Vegas. After this overview, Dr. Landis went into detail about the different types of models that are used for growth modeling. He used Vermont’s Chittenden County as an example to show how growth may occur using the various models and assuming certain growth strategies for the region.
Forty years after the oil embargo, Jonathan Rubin delivered a lecture on his approach to reduce petroleum dependence and carbon emissions in the transportation sector. He believes this is a critical task, not only for the bipartisan goal of energy security, but also to prevent the economic costs of high fuel prices. Rubin’s solution does not pick a certain fuel to replace oil. “We’ve been searching for a magic technology for a long time”, he notes, citing the options that held the most promise at certain points over the years, such as hydrogen, ethanol, and natural gas.
Rubin instead proposes a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCSFS) to gradually lower the emissions and fuel consumption by setting a gradually decreasing cap on carbon intensity. With this process, transportation emissions could be reduced 10 percent by 2030, reaching a cost of $.37 per gallon. He proposes this LCFS approach rather than a tax, which he notes would be ineffective due to inelastic demand. In other words, people would continue to drive even with the price increase from a tax, as seen already with the large variations in gas prices. While cars have gotten more efficient, Rubin noted, fuels have increased in emissions, due to energy intensive processes such as mining oil sands and deep water drilling. As Dr. Rubin noted grimly, the concern should not be that fossil fuels are running out, but that they are still in large supply as technology increases access, thus making switching to alternatives more difficult. Low Carbon Fuel Standard, however, may be an effective step in the path to wide adoption of alternative fuel vehicles in transportation.