The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (

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Saturday, September 21, 2002
Energy and Environment: Case Study on Net Zero Fossil Fuel Home. A recent study the National Association of Homebuilders Research Center that was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy has published a report showing that homes of traditional design are capable of generating as much power as they consume. The goal of the project was to demonstrate homes that attained net-zero fossil fuel use with power coming from renewable energy sources such as solar energy. The final models used rooftop photovoltaic cells for electricity and a number of technologies to reduce heating and cooling energy requirements. The final version required a 500 square foot photovoltaic system to provide for all electricity needs in the home. The full report is available online at: (155)

Friday, September 20, 2002
Public Services: e-Government. Minnesota's Ranking Drop in e-Government Makes Airwaves. The September 20, 2002 segment of Future Tense on Minnesota Public Radio centered on how and why Minnesota had dropped from being a leader to 32nd last year to 37th this year in usefulness of the state government website. The author of the Harvard report previously cited in Pulse 151 cited lack of investment relative to other states. The audio clip is available for a limited time from September 21, 2002 on at: (154).

Thursday, September 19, 2002
Energy and Environment. Hy-Wire Hydrogen Fueled US Prototype Auto Unveiled. The hydrogen fueled auto received another boost with General Motors unveiling of the Hy-Wire prototype car that uses a hydrogen fuel system and an advanced "drive by wire" mechanical system. Japanese automakers will have hydrogen fueled cars in test runs on US streets in the next twelve months. The full article is at: (153).

Transportation and Public Transit. Twin Cities Commute Rises Three Minutes in 20 Years. The headline over Laurie Blake's Star Tribune article says that "It's Taking Longer to Get to Work" but the fine print says that the average work trip has grown from 20 minutes in 1980 to 21 minutes in 1990 to 23 minutes in 2000. At this rate the average commute would reach the length of a sitcom on television by 2050. "It looks like people are choosing where they want to live and accepting a slightly longer commute," said Mark Filipi, transportation forecast analyst for the Metropolitan Council. It will take more than the inconvenience of an average of a three minute commute increase to provide incentives for public transit and more compact communities. Much more needs to be done to build on work such as the Metropolitan Livable Communities act that stimulates new thinking about more compact communities. The full story is at: (152).

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Public Services: e-Government. Minnesota keeps dropping. Previous postings on "The Pulse" have cited reports ranking Minnesota's e-government system in the mid-twenties and low-thirties against the other 49 states. A recent report conducted by Brown University ranked Minnesota at 37th, keep in mind that the same report last year ranked Minnesota at 32nd. At this rate, in two years Minnesota will have the worst e-government system among the 50 states. Should this become a strong focus of the next administration and legislature? Looks like the voters will decide in November. (151)

Transportation and Transit. Minneapolis-St. Paul airport planning to push shuttle, van passengers into skyways. In the "they do not get it" department, MSP will push passengers arriving in vans and shuttles into an inconvenient location requiring changing levels and using a skyway but allowing individual cars (and many, many very large SUVs) priority. How about reversing the scenario entirely forcing individual cars into a less desirable location. Yet again, a strong signal that in the Twin Cities we talk transit and shared vehicles but on the ground advance individual auto use over transit. Dan Wascoe, Jr's story in the Star Tribune is at: (150)

Politics and Government. Governor's Election Guide Online. Governing magazine has a guide to all 50 Governor's races online for those who would like to follow one or more of the elections. The site is at: (149)

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Public Services and Infrastructure. Broadband Pricing Holding Back Take Up. Many innovative approaches are being taken in communities, developers and by communications providers around the US to get broadband to the home. With Hong Kong at 66% broadband use at home and a dozen countries above the US rate of 10% of households with broadband, many are asking why? The article by Martin J. Moylan in the September 17, 2002 Pioneer Press cites a major reason: every ten dollar decrease in monthly cost doubled increase in DSL to the home, one form of broadband. The article describes the first housing development in the Twin Cities metropolitan area -- Evermoor in Rosemount, Dakota County -- to put fiber optic lines directly to the home. Business Week in a September 17, 2002 special report goes into more detail on barriers to broadband take up in the US. The answer is price. Business models to make money, finding what consumers want and how much they are willing to pay is still very much in flux in the US with it being very unlikely that we will follow Hong Kong or Korean models to high broadband penetration rates. The full report is online at: (148)

Monday, September 16, 2002
Taxation and Public Finance. Minnesota State Government Spending Analysis on Web. The Property Tax Study Project and the Minnesota Budget Project have released a report entitled: "Trends in Minnesota Spending." The report covers a ten-year period for state and local spending. The report cited three: primary findings: (1) from 1987 to 1997 two-thirds of growth in state and local government spending was necessary to keep up with inflation and population growth' (2) as a percentage of personal income, total state and local expenditures fell slightly from 1987 to 1997; and (3) government spending in Minnesota grew less than the national average during this period. The full report is online at: (147)

Sunday, September 15, 2002
Energy and Environment. California Governor Gray Davis Signs Ambitious Renewable Energy Bill. SB 1078 by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford) requires the state's private utilities to increase the share of electricity they sell to customers that comes from renewable sources by 1% a year. The goal is to reach 20% by 2017.Davis called the bill "the most ambitious" renewable energy standard in the nation. Consumer and environmental groups hailed the new law, saying that even though electricity production by sun, wind or underground steam costs more than burning natural gas, it helps reduce air pollution and buffers the state from gas price spikes. Under SB 1078 and a companion bill, SB 1038, also by Sher and also signed by Davis, state regulators will set a benchmark price based on the long-term market cost of electricity. Renewable power sellers will then offer contracts of at least 10 years to the utilities. Any gap between the benchmark price and the price at which companies offer to sell can be bridged with a $135-million subsidy from a charge on customers' monthly utility bills. That charge--$2 a month for the average residential customer--was imposed in 1998 to help foster renewable energy and conservation and to assist poor people. A law passed last year extends the charge--which is less than half a cent per kilowatt-hour--until 2012.
Several aspects of the new law worry energy producers. That includes a requirement that in order to qualify for the subsidy they must pay workers prevailing wages, which are typically tied to union scales. Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, which both support the bill, now get 12% to 15% of their electricity from renewable sources. San Diego Gas & Electric, a much smaller utility, gets roughly 1% of its power from renewable sources. The full story is at: (May require free registration). (146).