Ideas. Cities. Social Innovation.
This chart, courtesy of The Atlantic, shows how rapidly natural gas has grown as a share of the United States’ energy system.

This chart, courtesy of The Atlantic, shows how rapidly natural gas has grown as a share of the United States’ energy system.

Love this idea:

Until now. Honest Buildings, which launches today in beta, aims to fill that gap and simultaneously encourage building owners to make greener choices. Search an address in one of 5,570 cities, and ratings on the building’s walkability, energy use, and LEED compliance shed light on its green performance. Join the network, and you can review, comment on, or add photos of a building. Members who design, build, and repair buildings can showcase particular projects and link them to the building’s profile page. 

Cool idea:

SOLarchitect, a New Orleans-based startup, has proposed a potential solution to the problem, creating an online service to let people easily design their own solar system for free and figure out how much energy they’ll be able to produce. “Assessing your home’s solar potential now becomes as easy as ordering a pizza online,” says co-founder Alex Landau, an architect at a local solar company who started the project on the side. The service will allow users to look at an image of their home (for example, the Playboy Mansion above), drag and drop solar panels onto the roof, and determine the tax credit and potential energy savings based on the home’s location. When the estimate is completed, SOLArchitect will bring in bids from up to three contractors in the area (for a commission) who could install the system. 

I’m wary, and have concerns about the environmental impacts of fracking and other methods, but this would be quite a remarkable story if it happened:

"This is really the classic success of American entrepreneurs," he says. "These were people who saw this coming, managed to assemble the capital and go ahead."

Small energy companies using such controversial techniques as hydraulic fracturing, along with horizontal drilling, are unlocking vast oil and natural gas deposits trapped in shale in places like Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Texas. North Dakota, for instance, now produces a half-million barrels a day of crude oil, and production is rising.

Much of what McClendon says is misleading – wind power is as cheap as gas in some places and falling fast, and cutting back on gas doesn’t have to mean burning more coal. But his plan is clear. He’s not going to back off until every last square foot of shale rock in America is drilled and fracked and sucked clean of gas. McClendon may rely on sophisticated new drilling technologies, but at heart, he’s driven by the same dream of endless extraction that has gripped oil barons and coal companies since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In the end, all his talk of energy independence and a cleaner, brighter future boils down to a single demand, as simple as it is disastrous: Drill, baby, drill.

“We’ll look back on 2012,” Byron King goes on, “as the best year for the energy business in Pennsylvania since Col. Drake drilled his first well before the Civil War.”

Full disclosure: We’re still skeptical about some of the big claims Byron makes. Can a domestic energy boom really overcome decades of debt racked up at the local, state and federal levels? As with any functioning relationship, we keep an open mind.

Examine the evidence.  After 20 years of sinking deeper and deeper into dependence on foreign oil, the United States reversed that trend last year.