Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Excerpt from Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next

Excerpted from "Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next" by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay, published in March 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2011.

The Sustainable Aerotropolis

If anything, a social stigma against flying has begun to settle across Europe, akin to Americans' nausea over SUVs. The EU has voted to incorporate aviation into its cap-and-trade scheme, requiring airlines to pay for 15 percent of their pollution beginning in 2012-a lot to ask from an industry barely breaking even. Three u.s. airlines are suing for an exemption, and the governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico have lobbied the United Nations for the same. "When you look at some of the taxes and fees being discussed in Europe," said an MIT researcher, "we might as well bankrupt our industry today."
It was against this grand tableau of grandstanding, stat-slinging, politicking, and weekend homes in Languedoc that a thousand Britons all of whom, incidentally, had taken trips abroad in the past year-were asked: Just how bad is flying, anyway, as a percentage of all the carbon emissions in the world?
Nearly a third were honest, confessing they had no idea. A fifth guessed 40 percent or more. Half thought it was at least 15 percent. The remainder penciled in 5 percent or less.
The answer: 2 percent. How did they overshoot the real figure so badly? Because we tend to think of our carbon footprints as the outcome of personal choices and personal virtue -"What can I do to shrink mine?" we ask. The answers, inevitably, are drive a hybrid, eat organic, and recycle. (When it comes to flying, the Japanese airline ANA discreetly asks passengers to use the terminal bathroom before boarding, in order to lighten the load and save fuel.) Seen from this perspective, boarding a transoceanic flight is maybe the single most destructive thing you could possibly choose. But underlying our individual choices are nearly invisible networks and systems of which aviation is just one, generating 2 percent of emissions. The others that make up everyday life are much worse:
Housing. The true cost of America's housing bubble is a landscape generating half of all greenhouse-gas emissions, according to estimates based on data from the U.S, Energy Information Administration. Residential buildings alone account for 21 percent of national energy consumption-a number driven by the expanding size of the average U.S. home, which today measures twenty-four hundred square feet, a 140 percent increase since 1950.
Food. As mentioned earlier, the United Nations estimates livestock's share of worldwide greenhouse gases at 18 percent, a combination of methane produced by the animals and the fossil fuels used to raise and eat them. Even a contrarian like the agricultural historian James E. McWilliams - no fan of organic labels or Michael Pollan - readily concedes meat carries too high a price for us to keep eating it.
Driving. Every form of transport known, save those powered by foot or by wind, combines to emit 13 percent of all emissions. Aviation is a fraction of that fraction-a sixth of the exhaust from cars, trucks, and anything else powered by an internal combustion engine. And that's before everyone in the developing world receives a driver's license.
But aviation is growing faster than any of these, a statistic its critics have zeroed in on. In echoes of the Jevons Paradox, it's growing fast enough to outstrip all of the industry's earnest efforts to increase fuel efficiency, whether that means younger, lighter, and fuller planes, cleaner engines, or smoother descents-although the airlines are striving to keep up. In the United States at least, their emissions actually fell for most of the last decade due to belt-tightening by 2.6 percent between 2000 and 2007, despite carrying 20 percent more passengers and cargo over that span. For similar reasons, the price of jet fuel actually peaked ten years ago, just before 9/11. But Europe's easyJet addiction will prove harder to quit, and coupled with renewed growth in the Middle East and Asia, flying's total carbon contribution will likely rise to 5 percent by 2050.
Another caveat is that commercial aircraft release their carbon in the lower reaches of the stratosphere, where greenhouse gases collect. To account for this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has raised aviation's effective contribution to 3 percent-a figure equal to a quarter of the traffic on the world's highways, or half the respiration of our homes. Even at its highest estimates, it isn't likely aviation will overtake driving as one of the most ergregious global warmers, let alone factories and electric turbines. So why don't we focus our energies on fixing them instead?
The biggest smokestack in the world is China, and this has nothing to do with its airports. Its power plants and factories consume a third of the world's coal-2.4 billion tons annually and growing, already double what it was burning a decade ago. China expects to have 130 million cars on its roads by 2020, and more than the United States by 2050 (or maybe 2040). It has overtaken the United States as the world's worst polluter, partly because of its size, but mostly because of its waste. China posted the highest six-month rise in carbon emissions of any nation in history through the winter and spring of 2010. The World Bank estimates as much as half of China's miraculous growth would vanish if the costs of rampant pollution and environmental degradation were factored in. If China's emissions continue climbing at the same rate as they have for the past thirty years, the country will emit more greenhouse gases in the next thirty than the United States has in its entire existence. For these reasons, China is going green by building the world's largest domestic market for batteries, wind, and solar energy, and then cornering our market via air.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Advance Praise for Aerotropolis:

“Thanks to the manifold effects of modern aviation, earth and sky are merging in our world faster and more thoroughly than most people know. But you won’t be most people after reading Aerotropolis. Throw out your old atlas. The new version is here.” — Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air.

“Very few people realize how profoundly air transport is changing our cities, our economies, our social systems, and our systems of governance. If you want to be way ahead of the curve in understanding one of the most important drivers of change for the 21st century, read this book.” - Paul Romer, Senior Fellow Stanford Insitute for Economic Policy Research; founder of Charter Cities.

Aerotropolis redraws the world map, using air routes to trace the new connections and competition between mega-regions that will shape the geography of the Great Reset. This lively, thought-provoking book is must reading for anyone interested in how and where we will live and work in a truly global era.” - Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, University of Toronto and author of The Great Reset.

“A fascinating window into the complex emergent urban future. This book is an extremely sophisticated, often devastatingly witty and ironic, interpretation of what is possible over the next two decades. It is not science fiction. It is science and technology in action. The authors have one foot firmly planted in the possible and foreseeable.” — Saskia Sassen, Professor, Columbia University, author of Territory, Authority, Rights.

“A wheels-up, clear-eyed, as-it-happens dispatch of the world being remapped by our just-in-time, frequent-flying, what-time-is-this-place society.  An essential guide to the 21st century.” — Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).

Aerotropolis presents a radical, futuristic vision of a world where we build our cities around airports rather than the reverse. This book ties together urbanism, global economics, international relations, sociology, and insights from adventures in places that aren’t even on the map yet to present a plausible new paradigm for understanding how we relate to the skies. Perhaps the most compelling book on globalization in years.” - Parag Khanna, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation, and author of How to Run the World.

Aerotropolis comprehensively explains the enormous effects modern aviation has on cities and countries around the world. It is a unique resource.” - Frederick W. Smith, chairman and CEO, FedEx Corporation.

“The closest thing to a real-world vision to rival that of [H. G.] Wells… a mind-expanding ride that reminds us, once again, that humanity needs no apocalypse to reinvent itself and its surroundings.” - Thomas P.M. Barnett, author of Great Powers: America and the World After Bush. (Read the full review here)

“Fascinating… their case studies of failures, successes and known unknowns are music to a logistician’s ears: Why, for instance, should so much air traffic now pass through the Persian Gulf? Because the emirates are blank slates for the experiment, and, as one Abu Dhabi–based technologist says, “because we can fly nineteen hours nonstop now, we’re able to reach any city in the world from here.” The brave new world is on the way, and it’s coming in by air.” - Kirkus Reviews. (Full review available for subscribers here)

“The inevitability of an airborne future rests on economic but also human imperatives… But our increasing dependence on air travel is real enough, and this is an eye-opening picture of that trend.” - Publishers Weekly. (Read the full review here)

This thoughtful study of the aviation-centric city plan and its impact on city planning, globalization, and world trade, among other factors, should be read by business students and faculty, practitioners, and interested lay readers. Highly recommended.--Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY for Library Journal. (Read the full review here)

Greg Lindsay and I are very excited about the release of the book and hope you all will give it a read and let us know what you think.

Want your copy? Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart are offering pre-orders for the March 1, 2011 release date.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Graphing Optimism

Call me an incurable optimist, but I tend to see human and economic coniditions as being on a continually upward trend. It can be somewhat difficult to hold this seemingly untenable position especially on days when the stock market tanks or oil shoots above 100 dollars per barrel, but all the same hard data show that in most every arena--the economy, demographics, the aviation sector--things are actually improving all the time. Meet a professor who puts my thoughts not only into words, but molds them into dazzling exhibitions: Dr. Hans Rosling of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Rosling’s stunning displays provide clear focus to one indisputable fact: demographically speaking, the world is getting much better. On a graph moving through time Rosling places 200 countries on a grid with one axis labeled median income and the other life expectancy and shows how these countries have developed over the course of the past 200 years...all in 4 minutes (see here). I know what you’re thinking, this kind of information overload seems about as intellectually satisfying as putting the history channel on fast forward and watching with glassy eyes, yet Rosling’s exuberance and narration bring to the forefront the important message behind this display: people the world over are living longer and getting richer and the developing world is making progress at a tremendous rate. Placed in a longer-term, macrospective environment an interesting phenomenon is illustrated here. By removing ourselves from our own day to day observations of history we are better able to see the ‘grand’ movements. Now, stop for a moment and put yourself in the place of a person living during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 or the stock market crash of 1929. From his or her perspective the world had taken a turn for the worse--perhaps a herald of a not-so-great future. Yet, in Rosling’s graph shows that these events are mere blips in the general upward progression.
Where am I going with this? In my previous post on jet fuel prices I pointed out that the trend in passenger and cargo numbers is one of substantial long-term increase, even in the face of rising cost of oil. Much as is the case with the events Rosling discusses, we lose sight of the grand scheme when looking at data for the aviation sector. One or two years in a down cycle and analysts begin predicting the end of aviation and factoring out any innovations or coping mechanisms the industry might present. The aviation industry, however, will surprise us from time to time. Take for instance $4.5 billion in profits that is expected to be posted for 2010 (source). Difficult years will happen in the future, yet aviation always innovates, and more people and products will take to the sky. Things always get better. Do not commit the fallacy of the last data point, but look to the long-term trends for strategic guidance.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tracking the Trends

Back in 1964 Bob Dylan famously sang that “times, they are a-changin’.” The 1960s were a time of momentous change in the United States, but he could have just as easily been talking about the first decade of the 21st century. The demographic makeup of the United States is always shifting, but once every ten years researchers are gifted with snapshot of the country’s makeup. I’m talking, of course, about the U.S.Census and more specifically its 2010 iteration. Much has already been made of the political ramifications of the population count with Florida and Texas siphoning six seats from New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and others (for instance this Washington Post article). While these political changes will undoubtedly have an effect on the future of the country, there are trends that will have larger, more far reaching effects.
   Today, my Kenan Institute colleague Dr. James Johnson Jr. and I released our report “Six Disruptive Trends: What Census 2010 Will Reveal.” In this report we preview some major themes that we believe the full data from the 2010 Census will corroborate--we’ve drawn our data from a variety of sources, including intercensal statistics from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other government agencies. What do we mean by disruptive trends? If left unacknowledged, these trends have the ability to weaken the competitive advantage the United States still holds in the global marketplace. On the other hand, if dealt with in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, these trends offer an opportunity to reinvigorate the U.S. workforce and create new marketplaces for consumer goods and services. By putting the spotlight on these changes we hope that business and government in America will adjust accordingly to capitalize on these trends.
    So, what have we found? While our paper tackles these trends to a much greater depth, I intend to explore each of these movements in later posts.

1) The South Continues to Rise: Over half the population growth in the United States during the past ten years has occurred in the South. This has been primarily due to the migration of people from all demographic groups and higher fertility rates among some groups, particularly Hispanics.

2) America Is Browning: nonwhites made up an estimated 85 percent of U.S. population growth.

3) Marrying Out Is So In: Marriages between people of different ethnicities has doubled since 1980 with those between Hispanics and whites accounting for 41 percent of all racially mixed marriages.

4) The Silver Tsunami Is Arriving: Nearly 80 million baby boomers will be retiring over the next 20 years. The largest generation in America will put immense pressure on social security and the healthcare system as they will also have longer lives.

5) Closing the Wage Gap?: Almost half of all jobs in the United States, 49.8 percent, are held by women. Similarly, women are more likely to attend college and hold jobs that are less likely to disappear in economic downturns. Most surprising? In some metropolitan areas, women are earning up to 20 percent more than men due to higher educational attainment!

6) Grandparents as Parents: Between 2001 and 2010 over the number of children living in grandparent-headed households increased by 26.1 percent. As this phenomenon continues to grow it will put increased financial strain on older generations

These six trends point to an increasing diversification of the American populace in several different areas--especially age and racial/ethnic makeup. A new array of products and services, tailored for age, lifestyle, and culture, will be demanded. How will businesses and communities respond? Share your opinions and comments and read the full article, available on the Kenan Institute’s website.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Detroit One Step Closer to Moving from Autocity to Aerocity

To American ears the city of Detroit is synonymous with one thing: automobiles. Many, however, would like to see an addition to that list of synonyms--aerotropolis. With the signing into law of the Next Michigan Development Act (NMDA) by departing Governor Jennifer Granholm this hope is one step closer to reality. The NMDA provides for the creation of up to five agencies, each of which is constituted by a group of linked communities with an interest in providing amiable conditions for the growth of businesses centered around transport hubs. One such agency, the Aerotropolis Development Corporation, will now be imbued with the power to dispense tax incentives to new businesses within the 60,000-acre economic zone located along the I-94 corridor between Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) and Willow Run Airport (YIP). The NMDA aims to foster an area dominated by high-tech, professional, and shipping businesses similar to those seen around Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) or Memphis International Airport (MEM). The cooperation of the Michigan government and the communities surrounding DTW and YIP point to the success of this endeavor.

Most impressive about the efforts surrounding the Detroit aerotropolis project is the level of cohesion with which the communities, state, and developers are acting in an effort to grow the proper conditions for a major economic hub. It is certain that with a major passenger airport like DTW, a Delta/Northwest hub, and YIP, a major center of air cargo, an aerotropolis of some sort will develop--the major unknown is what shape that entity will take. Without significant, cross-jurisdictional planning an aerotropolis will not live up to its economic potential. Yet, the agreements in place among the communities surrounding these two airports show a willingness to plan in ways to better leverage overall aerotropolis productivity, aesthetics, and sustainability. I look forward to watching the growth of the Detroit Aerotropolis and think it a propitious opportunity to provide a solid economic foundation for a region hard-hit by the recent economic cycle. Congratulations to all those involved in the project.
For more about the Detroit Aerotropolis Corporation click here.
For more about the signing of the Next Michigan Development Act click here and here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are Rising Jet Fuel Prices Leading to the End of Aviation?

In June 2008 The New Republic published an article by Bradford Plumer with the startling title “The End of Aviation.” While the article mentioned me and my ideas about the aerotropolis model, it turned the majority of its attention to the short-sighted theory that the aviation industry was doomed for a variety of reasons. The reason in vogue at that time was the rising cost of jet fuel. When Plumer’s article was penned, oil prices were approaching $130 per barrel, fueling a panic among many that the rising cost of fuel would stymie the economy as a whole but especially the aviation sector. The data I’ve seen, however, suggests the opposite: the aviation sector is dynamic and constantly adapts to fluctuations in costs of oil to create an ever growing industry.  
While oil prices, of course, dropped from their record highs in 2008, fears have again begun to arise as a barrel of crude approaches the $90 mark. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article even hinted prices could reach $100 per barrel by the second half of next year. According to many of the opinions featured in “The End of Aviation,” we should once again begin preparing for the aeronautical apocalypse. A simplification of those arguments goes thus: oil prices increase, airlines must increase their prices for both passengers and cargo, numbers of passengers flying decrease along with the amount of cargo being flown.
I was curious about this scenario and the validity of its assumptions and thus decided to plot annual global air passenger and air cargo data against annual average jet fuel prices from 1987 through 2008. Contrary to some of the arguments put forward in “The End of Aviation,” I found there to be no negative correlation between jet fuel prices and passenger/cargo volume--as opposed to what has been argued! 
Quite the contrary, it was strongly positive (r=+.79 for passengers) (r=+.70 for cargo). As can be seen in the charts below, higher jet fuel prices and greater volumes of passengers and cargo have moved along together.
While this is a simple computation and there is no doubt that there are additional factors such as the state of the economy that simultaneously affect jet fuel prices and passenger/cargo figures, the point is that there is no evidence to date that over longer periods of time jet fuel price increases result in reductions in air passengers or air cargo volumes. Airlines adapt, businesses adapt, and people adapt, so aviation continues to march upward long-term despite its periodic short-term dips.
Take a look at our short data table we put together below. We’ll update the data to 2009 when final figures are available to us. I look forward to hearing what you think.

Jet Fuel Prices to Passengers Comparison 1987-2008
Jet Fuel Prices to Cargo Comparison 1987-2008

Friday, December 17, 2010


Welcome to my new blog! As you can see from my profile my name is John D. Kasarda, and I’m the Director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In my upcoming blog posts I will explore and share my thoughts about a variety of topics. Expect posts about aviation and infrastructure, economic development, demography, the Aerotropolis, and many other subjects.

Additionally, in March of 2011, Greg Lindsay’s and my new book, Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next is being published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. I’ll be posting more information about the book on this blog and writing about many of the concepts that appear in the book. Please take a look at the Aerotropolis website for reviews, blurbs, and more information my other publications and research.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy discussing the concepts. I encourage you to leave comments about my ideas or your own ideas, and I’ll attempt to answer your questions as best I can. I look forward to our future discussions!