How to live a $4 a gallon lifestyle in the coming $5 a gallon world

Interesting stuff on the No Impact Man Blog.

  1. Work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days and commute 20% less. Plus, you get a three-day weekend. Read about the benefits on Oil Drum, how Kent University offered its custodial staff a four-day work week on Yahoo, or a round-up on USA Today.
  2. Work from home one day (or more). Read about how to convince your boss to let you telecommute at Productivity 501 or at CNN. According to the Telework Coalition companies benefit from telecommuting by increased productivity, reduced staff turnover, and the fact only salaries have a higher effect on attracting top talent.
  3. Try mass transit one day a week (or more, when you find you like it). In addition to the money and gas you'll save, you'll lose weight and become more fit, not to mention other personal benefits (you could meet the man/woman of your dreams!). Hopstop gives subway and bus directions for eight major American cities. Calculate what you'll save from using public transportation here.
  4. Give carpooling a chance. Look for rides at Ride Amigos. Calculate what you'll save by carpooling here. Read about the benefits here.
  5. Quit commuting and live near your work. Read about the suburban exodus at the Wall Street Journal. Search "live near your work" alongside the name of your state on Google to find grant programs that will help pay the costs of your relocating.
  6. Best of all, there's walking and biking, if your commute will allow it. Even if you can't get all the way to work, you can still bike or walk to your transit stop. There's great primer on bike commuting here.

"The governor realizes he has a political problem on his hands."

Perry bypassed business people for transit post

State documents back accusations of political cronyism

By KELLEY SHANNON, Associated Press

AUSTIN — When Gov. Rick Perry chose his former political aide to head the Texas Transportation Commission, he bypassed prominent business people who some legislators say were better equipped for the job, state documents show.

Perry's selection of Deirdre Delisi led to claims of political cronyism. But Perry's office and Delisi herself say she has the policy expertise and legislative experience needed for the transportation hot seat.

Read the whole story HERE.


You MUST See "A Crude Awakening" Documentary. Period.

Last night I watched the "A Crude Awakening" documentary. The trailer is above. It's on Showtime on Demand and it's now out on DVD. This award winning movie masterfully illustrates what is happening with our lives right now, and what is coming in the years ahead. If you and your family don't want to be the "Boiling Frog" - see this movie now.



Red State Update: Gas Prices

CTRMA to Remove Cash Toll Booths on 183A

Only electronic toll booths will stay - forcing more drivers to buy a TaxTag (TxTag)

Critics say moving ahead right now is a slap in the face to the Legislature.

Trans-Texas Corridor moves ahead

By Patrick Driscoll, San Antonio Express-News

The Texas Transportation Commission is poised to pick a developer and authorize a contract today for the latest ire-raising route of the gargantuan Trans-Texas Corridor.

The proposed route of toll lanes, rail lines and utility paths stretches 650 miles between the Mexico and Louisiana borders and skirts within 70 miles southeast of San Antonio. It's one of a network of corridors that could crisscross Texas this century.

Two private consortiums — one led by Cintra of Spain and the other by Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure Development — competed for a contract worth up to $5 million to come up with a financial and development plan within 18 months.

Read the whole article HERE.

Drivers Drive Less As Gas Goes Up

Americans drove 22 billion fewer miles from November through April than during the same period in 2006-07, the biggest such drop since the Iranian revolution led to gasoline supply shortages in 1979-80 says USA TODAY


TxDOT Manipulates Records for Overpayments Says Source

A source inside TxDOT sent me the following information via US mail:

Manipulation of the Texas Department of Transportation records creating an overpayment on the part of the Federal Highway Administration. The act occurred in Lubbock district and was directed by the Lubbock District Engineer and Director of Transportation.

The project was designated HP428(1),referred to as the Texas Tech Parkway, off-system project designated to be funded 80% by FHWA and 20% by Texas Tech University. FHWA also provided an ancillary cap on their participation such that the University would be 100% financially responsible if said cap was exceeded. TxDOT had no financial participation. The project was let in 2003 and was completed September 2006.

An audit of the FHWA reimbursements and associated documentation will affirm that several of the project change orders were, during the course of the project, determined to be Federally non-participating (additional work not previously authorized by the contract but desired by Texas Tech University officials as added features or as a result of design errors and the responsibility of the University) only to be manipulated in the TxDOT finance system to ensure FHWA paid 80% of the cost of those changes, after the project completion. These changes were carried out by the District personnel at the direction of the District Engineer, Randy Hopmann and involved the Finance Division in Austin.

Had the University been held accountable for the reimbursement of these project costs (as agreed when they signed the 3rd party change orders) there was sure to be political pressure applied by Texas Tech Officials. Mr. Hopmann and others were trying to protect their relationship with Mike Ellicot, the TTU official overseeing the project for the University. Had TxDOT not changed the coding on those contract changes TTU would have rightfully been required to pay tens of thousands more dollars to reconcile the project. But instead TxDOT ensured TTU paid little or nothing extra and FHWA, and the tax payers picked up the tab.

Texas Tech University should be held financially accountable for these costs and TxDOT officials should be called to task for their role in perpetrating this injustice.


CTRMA payments made to Grier-Bankett Consulting, Inc.

I just got a response from CTRMA on how much Grier Bankett was paid (Stacey Rhone Dukes company), sister of Rep. Dawnna Dukes from 7/04 to 11/06 as a subcontractor through HNTB. The total comes to $123,200+. This does NOT include and money from TxDOT.

See the article, "TxDOT's Executive Director is Corrupt" to see how Stacey has been meeting with TxDOT's Executive Director.

Toll Roads Mean Billions in Extra Costs for Motorists

by TheNewspaper.com

Collecting revenue with a toll road is twenty-five times less efficient than collecting the same amount in gas tax.

With the promise of federal taxpayer subsidies, many states are rushing to embrace public-private toll road partnership deals as a means of boosting existing state transportation budgets. Our analysis shows, however, that when tolls are used instead of more traditional gas tax funding sources, motorists end up paying twenty-five times more in administrative overhead costs.

Last year, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) conducted a survey to determine precisely how much it costs to collect a toll from drivers (view report, 120k PDF). The agency examined the budgets of the most high-tech toll roads in the country -- those roads that rely upon Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) for at least two-thirds of their transactions. Electronic transponders minimize the expense of hiring employees to handle cash transactions and ensure costs are kept at a minimum. WSDOT documented only the costs for the operation and maintenance of the transponder reading equipment and automated coin machines, salaries for human toll collectors and customer service staff, and the cost of toll violation processing. It did not include any costs that would have applied had the roads been open for free use by the public. On average, the roads selected for comparison by WSDOT spent $22 in collection costs for every $100 in toll revenue.

Denver, Colorado
47 miles
67% ETC
Austin, Texas
4.5 miles
73, 133, 241, 261
Orange County, CA
51 miles
70% ETC
SR91 HOT Lanes
Orange County, CA
10 miles
100% ETC
Total112.5 miles$296,473,471$65,380,02122%

This compares unfavorably with existing methods of collecting revenue for roads such as the motor vehicle fuel excise tax. Each state imposes a tax on gasoline of about 19 cents per gallon. This tax is levied not in the form of a sales tax at the gasoline station, but in bulk as the fuel leaves wholesalers -- slashing the number of transactions that must be processed on a daily basis and greatly reducing the cost of administration. California is one of the states that does apply a six percent sales tax at the pump on top of the excise tax. According to figures maintained by the Federal Highway Administration, state governments, on average, spent just 88 cents in collection costs for every $100 in revenue from the gasoline tax last year. (View data, 28k PDF)

Tax Rate
22 cents
20 cents
18 cents
All 50 States
19 cents

As the price of gasoline continues to rise, toll road proponents have suggested that gasoline taxes should be phased out and replaced with user fees based on tolls. That means that if Colorado were to switch over to tolling to raise the $600 million currently generated by the gasoline tax, motorists in the state would have to spend $700 million on tolls -- an increase of $100 million just to cover the costs of toll collection. California motorists, similarly, would pay an extra $730 million to private toll road companies just to maintain the existing level of revenue generated by the gas tax. On a nationwide basis, drivers would spend $8 billion in added collection costs if every state replaced its gas tax with tolls.

Read the whole report HERE.


TxDOT Ready to Sign TTC-69 Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA)

by David Stall, CorridorWatch.org

The Texas Transportation Commission never fails to amaze us.

Bottom line - this leopard has not changed its spots. Nothing has changed. The Commission and TxDOT are hell bent to sign deals and give away the farm before the legislature can rein them in. Rain, sleet and snow won't stop the mail; and, moratoriums, legislative intent and a sunset review won't stop TxDOT.

Just a week ago TxDOT tried to impress everyone with how responsive they could be as they announced their recommendation that TTC-69 focus on using existing facilities rather than building a new highway. The only thing that changes is where the TTC is built.

That action was a slap in the face to tens of thousands of Texans who are still in the path of TTC-35, which is still marching forward at full speed. Apparently they don't rate the same consideration as the Texans in east Texas.

Today we have discovered that TxDOT is about to slap the entire Legislature across the face. Remember the moratorium?

Last year Senate Bill 792 added section 223.210 to the Texas Transportation Code and put a moratorium on certain terms placed in Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs) of toll projects. The key limitation is that a CDA may not contain a provision permitting a private participant to operate a toll project.

The Texas Transportation Commission will meet in Austin next Thursday, June 26, 2008. Item 6a on page three of their agenda reads: "Act on the recommendation of department staff concerning: (1) the selection of the best value proposal for the planning, development, acquisition, design, construction, financing, maintenance, and operation of the element of the Trans-Texas Corridor System from Northeast Texas to the Texas/Mexico border (I-69/TTC); and (2) the execution of a comprehensive development agreement for I-69/TTC"

That's right, selecting a proposal for among other things the operation of TTC-69 and execution of a CDA. Wouldn't that be a CDA permitting the private participant to operate a toll project?

We have little doubt that TxDOT legal staff has spent plenty of hours carefully preparing a loophole that they think they can stretch wide enough to get their TTC CDA past the law. But even if they can, was the legislative intent so dim that they couldn't see that our law makers wanted them to wait another 12 months?

Read the rest of the article HERE.


HB 2006 passed 125-25 in the Texas House and 31-0 in the Texas Senate, but Perry ultimately vetoed it.

By KWTX - (Channel 10)

Statewide Survey Shows Support For Eminent Domain Reform

A statewide survey of more than a thousand city and county officials shows “overwhelming support” for an eminent domain measure that Gov. Rick Perry vetoed last year at the conclusion of the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature, the Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau said Wednesday.

The Farm Bureau, which supported the reform bill, sponsored the survey.

The results of the five-question survey show that more than 95 percent of the officials who responded “favor changes in the law that address the pillars of eminent domain reform: good faith negotiations with landowners, fairer treatment under the law for everyone involved, and a tightening of definitions under which taking of property might occur,” the Farm Bureau said in a prepared release.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Virginia: Foreign Corporation Gets US Money for Toll Road

A foreign corporation will enjoy 80 years of profit after using $1.6 billion in taxpayer funds to build toll lanes in Virginia. Read about it HERE.


TxDOT abandons plans to build TTC-69 in rural areas…Was there a political reason?

The announcement, coming the same week of the Republican Party Convention in Houston, and weeks before the Sunset Commission public meeting is no accident. Read about it HERE.

Delisi's (TxDot) Press Release Counterargument

Read a great counterargument from a citizen - against TxDOT's recent PR scam HERE.

A Round-Up Of 100% Electric Cars, Mopeds & Cycles

A Round-Up Of 100% Electric Cars found HERE and electric Scooters/Mopeds HERE. If you know of a any more recent compare articles please let me know in the comments area. Don't forget to use http://tinyurl.com/. Thanks.


Sen. Kirk Watson Paid $450 per Hour with YOUR Taxdollars!

It's Kirk Watson's world — you just live in it...
(and pay him $450 an hour).

Watson is the most dangerous person in Texas politics today. Read my full report from last year HERE.

Austin Statesman Goes Ga Ga Over Dallas Magic Money Generator (Tolls)

Read "Toll stash in Metroplex churning out dollars" here.


TxDOT's Executive Director is Corrupt

In February a reliable source within TxDOT told me that TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz had been meeting with Stacey Dukes Rhone (sister of Toller Rep. Dawnna Dukes) and they had been “milking the system”. I’ve since learned that Amadeo Saenz was originally from the Pharr district, and his corrupt crew has plead guilty to bribes.

The source told me that Stacy Dukes-Rhone, through her company Grier-Bankett Consulting Inc. “arranged” for her sister, Rep. Dawnna Dukes, to receive a subcontract to provide the "field office" for the MLK Feasibility Study headed by TxDOT. Some believe the field office wasn't needed for the project.

According to the MLK Feasibility Study web site, the field office location was 3218 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd (see photo from Feb. 2008 above). Travis County tax records confirms that this building is owned by D M DUKES & ASSOCIATES, which is Rep. Dawnna Dukes company, which is actually listed as an approved TxDOT contractor HERE.

I asked myself, “Why would an Executive Director, one of highest ranking officials in the TxDOT (see the TxDOT organizational chart above), EVER need to meet directly with a contractor?”.

And don’t forget, this contractor, Stacey Dukes Rhone, has received NO BID CONTRACTSone of the no bid contracts was given to Rhone the morning after her sister State Representative Dawnna Dukes voted for toll roads.

I then wondered if any of the meetings happened to be part of the public record.

My request for public documents revealed that Saenz and Rhone definitely met twice, once on June 8th, 2007 and November 27th, 2007. At least twice that we know of, they could have met outside of TxDOT’s office, or had meetings over the phone as well.

I also asked for the sign in sheets.

The meeting in June lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes. And get this, TxDOT claims it has lost the sign in sheets for November 27thAs well as the whole last quarter of 2007, including November 2007. Who is covering up what at TxDOT?

Another source told me about Executive Director Amadeo Saenz being involved with the “Garth Brooks Tickets” investigation, in which TxDOT investigated it’s own employees getting Garth Brooks Tickets as illegal free gifts.

The TxDOT investigative report I received was an absolute joke.

It was thinner than you would ever believe at 1.5 pages, and it didn’t include one actual name! I smelled a cover up, so I asked for the sworn affidavits that were taken for the so called “audit”.

TxDOT has appealed my request for the affidavits with the Attorney General’s office. TxDOT auditors have purposely overlooked and have covered up while defending officials.

Your tax dollars at work folks! - more to come.

Other must read articles:

TxDOT Executive Director, With Ties to Indicted, To Resign Within the Year, Says Source.


YOU can help Keep AustinTollParty.com and TexasTollParty.com Alive!

In Austin alone, we've killed many coming double tax toll roads.
See for yourself, just compare the maps above!
We can't do it alone, we need your help.

Since I founded Austin Toll Party in 2004 and Texas Toll Party in 2005, together we've been able to stop hundreds of millions of dollars of double tax tolls.
But, it takes a little money to keep everyone informed. I've given 1,000's of hours of my own time, and fund raised my ass off (frankly, I hate raising funds). Over the past months, I've not had the time or the will to raise funds.

To keep our AustinTollParty.com and TexasTollparty.com alive and online, to continue to educate other Texans and join our group (Texans still join daily with these important websites!) I need to raise $400 now to pay for past due monthly hosting, future hosting and the cost of sending out mass emails to our growing group in the coming weeks. Remember, we have the public Sunset Review hearing coming up July 15th, and I need to send out emails to inform thousands of our members across Texas who don't visit this blog.

Your help can keep us alive and growing. So, if you could, please donate $10, $25 or $50 right now, or be a monthly sustainer - to help reach our goal of $400 to keep us alive and online for the next year.

Two easy ways to send your not-for-profit contribution TODAY:
  1. By credit card using PayPal (click a button below): PayPal is the most widely used Internet payment service with a reputation for safety and security. By clicking on one of the PayPal buttons below you can pay using a credit card or from your PayPal account.
  2. By Check: (please include your occupation in the memo line on check)
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*one time donation*


As Gas Cost Rises, Toll Road Use Sinks

By TheNewsPaper.com

"The Spanish toll road operator Cintra Concesiones announced this week that traffic on the Indiana Toll Road fell 10.2 percent in May compared to May 2007 while traffic fell 13 percent on the Chicago Skyway."

Read the whole article HERE.

“Why should we believe TxDOT now?"

By Harvey Kronberg, The Quorum Report

Choice of existing routes along
TTC-69 met with skepticism

Agency officials say choice of route was based on public feedback, not pressures from lawmakers or the Sunset Commission.

The Texas Department of Transportation can’t catch a break.

Even today’s announcement that TxDOT would narrow its study area on I-69 TTC and use existing highway facilities whenever possible along the route between East Texas and the Texas-Mexico border was met with suspicion from Trans-Texas Corridor critics.

David Stall of the CorridorWatch issued a bulletin last night and called the decision a public relations move that lacked sincerity from TxDOT.

“Faced with pressure from state and federal officials, an unhappy Sunset Advisory Commission, and pending report from the State Auditor, it was time for TxDOT to find something they could give up,” Stall wrote. “Hello, TTC-69.”

Terri Hall of Texans United For Reform and Freedom was scornful.

“Why should we believe TxDOT now? The public has lost all trust in this agency that even the Sunset Committee calls ‘out of control,’” Hall said. “Certain landowners will no longer be affected and can breathe a sigh of relief, this project is still ill-conceived. This corridor was promised as a FREE interstate highway for decades, now they’ll convert existing freeways like Hwy 59 into privately controlled toll roads. Somehow we feel in no mood to celebrate.”

Still, TxDOT has decided to use existing roadways for I-69/TTC. That means long stretches of US Highway 59, along with segments of US Highways 77 and 281 in South Texas; State Highway 44 in the Coastal Bend; and US Highways 84 in East Texas out to Texarkana. Such a configuration would give access points to the highway on the south out of the Valley and Laredo -- possibly a TTC-69E and TTC-69W like IH-35E and IH-35W -- plus north-end access to both Texarkana and Shreveport, Louisiana.

Executive Director Amadeo Saenz, who was in Lufkin for today’s press conference with Phil Russell, said the choice came out of feedback up and down the corridor. Asked by media in Houston why the agency had changed its mind, Saenz said the agency rolled out its initial draft environmental impact statement with both existing and new alignments. Comments out of the communities stated existing roads as the preferred route.

Russell added the choice of a preferred route came when it should have, at the point where the agency sent its environmental impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration. Once that’s approved next spring, the agency will do another round of hearings to narrow down the route further and consider some of the initial options on routing through the metropolitan areas of Corpus Christi, Houston and Texarkana.

“You asked why this is so late,” Russell told the reporters from Houston. “My response is that we did not anticipate this sort of decision. That is what shows the public involvement has worked. It has taken a couple of years, but, ultimately, I think that the process of gathering public comments and doing additional analysis worked. This is exactly the right time to make the decision.”

The TTC-69 route will serve a number of purposes. While much of the initial publicity on the 600-mile route focused on Mexico-Texas commerce, Deputy Director Steve Simmons, in Austin on today’s teleconference call with Turnpike Director Mark Tomlinson, said there is still plenty of activity and new business on the north end of the I-69 highway project to make predicting the phasing of the project difficult. Construction phasing along the route could start on the north end as easily as the south end, depending on traffic, Simmons said.

Simmons said TxDOT intends to secure a consultant contract on TTC-69, just as they did with Cintra Zachry on TTC-35. That partner will work with TxDOT to plan the route; determine the phasing based on demands and traffic; and explore financing options.

Financing is still a question mark on TTC-69. Simmons said the agency would pursue any and every financial option available to the agency to build the road, from gas taxes to bonds and tolling. In addition to the main route, the agency also will consider access connections to regions of the state that want to be connected to TTC-69 through other routes, such as Bryan-College Station. Connections to the ports at Corpus Christi, Houston and Beaumont also are on the table. Funding for those connections could come from public or private funding, as well as state and local options.

In any scenario, tolling will be part of the financing solution for TTC-69, Saenz agreed, but that tolling will be limited to new capacity on the project. This is not a privately tolled road. Lanes that were free before expansion will be free after TTC-69 is complete, Saenz said. If there were four free lanes before construction, there will be four or more free lanes after the construction of TTC-69 is complete.

Read the rest of the report HERE.


Sources say TTC-69 is Dead.

TTC-69 TxDOT will announce they will axe TTC-69 this week says the Houston Chronicle.

Isn't it amazing how a Sunset Review can get an agency's attention?

UPDATE: I've also heard that new Fed regulations would force them to jump through hoops they can't jump through. Isn't it might "white" of them to kill something they just can't build?

Opportunist politicos
far and wide have already put out early press releases, in hopes that they could be seen as the dragon slayer. Man, I hate politics. Pathetic and expected every single time.

It's to late for TxDOT, they can't chew enough limbs off to get out of the trap they got themselves into. Lawmakers and the public smell blood for the upcoming Sunset Review. Everyone needs to go to the public hearing July 15th. TxDOT, Gov. Perry and Sen. Watson still plan to toll Austin freeways using diverted tax dollars. More to come.


Nine Texas Lawmakers Say Remove I-69 From TTC

U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady lead a group of nine Texas lawmakers on Friday, from both political parties, in urging the Texas Department of Transportation to remove the Interstate 69 project from the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor and return it to its original route which brings existing highways U.S. 59, U.S. 281 and U.S 77 up to interstate standards, as reported by KBTX news.

Highland Park nixes proposal to toll Mockingbird Lane

Amid widespread criticism, Highland Park has put the brakes on a proposal to toll Mockingbird Lane says Dallas News.

Sen. Kirk Watson's Latest Big Back Room Deal Worth Billions!

JP Morgan is now working with the CTRMA to create phase II of the toll tax debt scheme, which will be worth many Billions of dollars in profits, as they shift Austin's freeways to tollways, reports Austin Business Journal. It's a win-win for all the elites involved! (Except for you and yours, who will pay more daily)

Sen. Kirk Watson's loves back room deals. This time it looks like it will cost all Austin drivers $1,000's of dollars a year, as nearly $1 million tax dollars will be diverted to shift Austin freeways (71W, 71E, 290E, 290W and 183) to tollways. Without this massive tax subsidy the scheme will not work finacially.

If you remember, TxDOT offered nearly $1 million before the Oct. 2007 CAMPO toll vote, but after the vote they told Watson they would no longer give the $1 million and that Watson would need to find the $1 million from local funds.

After months of behind closed door meetings, it looks like Watson made a deal to get all or most of those diverted tax dollars for NOT opposing Delisi's appointment.

Paul Burka reports on Watson's deal:

"I have to give Delisi good marks for her first meeting. Not only did she say the right things, but she also seconded a motion to approve projects in Austin, the home of state senator Kirk Watson, who could have killed her appointment by invoking senatorial courtesy. Watson was criticized for allowing the appointment to go through, but his opinion was that Delisi was smart, and that if he busted her, the next person might not be, and he’d rather have a smart Perry loyalist as chairman than a puppet."
From the Statesman :

Work on six projects can go on Engineering work on six toll road projects, which the Texas Department of Transportation's money crunches shelved for six months, can move forward after a 4-1 vote Thursday by the Texas Transportation Commission.

The commission's nod essentially puts the projects — adding managed lanes to MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1); expanding portions of U.S. 290 East, U.S. 183, Texas 71 and the "Y" at Oak Hill as toll roads; and building one new road, Texas 45 Southwest — in the hands of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

Other articles of interest:

"Not Politically Motivated"

The state fire marshal says the arson that destroyed most of the Texas Governor's Mansion was "not politically motivated", but didn't say anything beyond that, says Elise Hu of KVUE news.


Day of Reckoning.

As a designer, my mind naturally works to solve problems. If you have not noticed, I am obsessed with what is (and what's not) efficient.

Rising gas prices, rising electricity costs (16% hike in KWh since December for me) means the cost of food and everything else goes way up. It should make everyone think about how they live.

I first watched a movie about one type of sustainable home builder called "Garbage Warrior" on the Sundance channel a few months ago. I was entranced.

Since then I've been reading up about passive sustainable Homes, Zero Energy Homes and Electric Vehicles (EV) — all of which use smart efficient building techniques and the sun's energy in one way or another.

Across the country, they are building compete neighborhoods of Zero Energy Homes (some of the solar panels even look like roof tiles). It's the first time in my life that I wish I was a developer. I'd be creating Zero Energy Home neighborhoods. Imagine owning a home that used little or no energy, created it's own power from the sun (and maybe wind). Even your transportation could be powered by the energy we collect from our solar panels on our homes.

There is a company that says they have created the next generation of solar panel, which will concentrate how much energy can be pulled from the sun in a square foot. Actually, there are many companies that say they are close. This would reduce the price of solar dramatically.

SUNRGI's "concentrated photovoltaic" system relies on lenses to magnify sunlight 2,000 times, letting it produce as much electricity as standard panels with a far smaller system. Read about it HERE.

It's hard to say if they are really 1 year away from production, or if they have created a story to get a flood of investor dollars. It sure looks like something.

Bottom line is — the days of waisting all the cheep energy are coming to an end. The standard of living in the USA peaked out a few years ago, and will continue to decline for some time. Americans (who have been the worsts wasters of energy in the world) are going to get a taste of what has been going on in the rest of the world for the last 25 years.

Gasoline prices impact driving

There is a new report out from the Congressional Budget Office on how gasoline prices impact driving http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/88xx/doc8893/01-14-GasolinePrices.pdf


Mr. 39%'s Mansion Goes Up in Flames

While most of us were sleeping, the pre-Civil War Texas Governor's Mansion was destroyed by fire. Read about it HERE


Worst. Political. Direct Mailer. Ever.

I just got a piece of negative direct mail from Cid Galindo (City of Austin council member candidate). It's the worst political direct mail I've ever seen! It's so bad, I think it will make you laugh. See the "Anorexic Burglar" direct mailer HERE (and don't forget to vote for Morrison).

Record Oil Hits $139. Higher Gas Prices Coming!

Oil hit $139 a barrel for the first time yesterday, a surge of more than $10 in one day! Experts say oil could hit $200 a barrel by 2010. Compare that to $28 a barrel in 2004!

Skyrocketing oil prices means YOUR gas prices will be even higher in the weeks and months to come. Some experts say gas prices will hit $8.00 a gallon, as we look ahead.

Got a gas gobbling SUV that costs you $100 or more to fill up the tank? You guessed it, it's now worthless.

Growing high gas prices and new freeway tolling schemes will cripple your pocketbook, if you want to drive anywhere.

Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. Kirk Watson (D) want your family to pay even more of a toll - up to $1.00 a mile for a toll tax - to drive on freeways you've already paid for! Read about it HERE.

Ready for an electric car?


Transportation Transformation Group 'T2' is composed of those who would profit from P3's (Public Private Parnerships)

By Gary Martin, San Antonio Express-News

A member of the Texas Transportation Commission is heading a national coalition proposing public-private funding, including tolls, to raise new revenue to improve and expand federal highways.

Ned Holmes of Houston announced the formation of the Transportation Transformation Group, or T2, at a National Press Club news conference on Thursday.

Read the whole article HERE.

Study Looks at Tolling Downtown Austin Bridges

A UT Department of Civil Engineering study takes a close look at the revenue generation rewards of toll taxing a number of existing downtown Austin bridges — including the popular Congress bridge and others. As stated in the study:

"The bridges identified for tolling are those at Redbud Trail, Loop 1, Lamar Boulevard, Congress Avenue, and South First Street, henceforth referred as “Bridge Toll Candidates”..."
Professor Kara M. Kockelman, Ph.D., P.E., is noted as a corresponding author in the study (find other toll studies in the last link). The UT department receives funding directly from TxDOT and looks at several ways (including fixed and congestion pricing) to collect a hefty toll tax from existing downtown Austin bridges.:
"Fixed tolls ranging from $1 to $5 were applied between 7:15 am and 6:15 pm on all links entering the cordon"
Congestion pricing is simple.

When the toll is high at peak driving times, some people are forced out of their cars, so there are less cars jamming up traffic. Congestion pricing is an unaccountable tax that unfairly punishes the non-elite.

Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Kirk Watson and other elites/tollers will tell you and your family to just take the bus.


TEXAS: Officials contemplate tolling neighborhood streets

Tyler Duvall, the top policymaker at the Department of Transportation, thinks we should start a toll tax on neighborhood roads.


Highland Park's solution to unclogging traffic congestion on Mockingbird Lane: Make Dallas drivers pay for it.

Since most of the 18,000 drivers on the road each day cut through the town, officials are exploring a proposal to toll the road. Most local drivers would not be charged.

A plan is far from developed, but if it comes to pass, transportation experts say the stretch of Mockingbird between Hillcrest Avenue and Dallas North Tollway could become the first tolled surface street in the country. The concept, known as congestion pricing, was among dozens of ideas in an application last year in which Dallas Area Rapid Transit led a team of North Texas officials seeking part of a $1 billion federal grant program. It was aimed at finding innovative fixes for traffic-clogged streets in big cities.

Read the rest of the story HERE.



Red State Update: Waiting For Hillary To Concede

Sunset Report: Kill the Texas Transportation Commission

By MICHAEL LINDENBERGER, The Dallas Morning News

Sunset Report:
Kill the Texas Transportation Commission

The five-member commission that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation should be abolished and replaced with a single commissioner accountable to the governor and lawmakers, according to a 157-page report by the staff of the Sunset Advisory Commission, the panel created by the Legislature to regularly assess state agencies.

Read the rest of the article HERE


Majority of Texans driving less, survey shows

More than half of Texans recently surveyed say they've significantly cut back on driving to deal with high gas prices. Read the whole report by SA Express.


Dear Recipient:

The Sunset Staff Report on the Texas Department of Transportation, as submitted to the Sunset Advisory Commission, is available for your review on our website, www.sunset.state.tx.us. To request a hard copy of this report, contact our office. The Sunset C ommission has scheduled a public hearing on this report for July 15, 2008. At that time public testimony will be taken. An agenda specifying the meeting time and location will be available on our website as soon as the meeting has been posted.

If you would like to comment on this report, the Sunset Commission would appreciate hearing from you. Please provide your written response to the recommendations in the staff report, indicating your support or opposition, as well as suggesting any modifications you feel would improve the recommendations. In addition, you may raise other issues or provide any additional information you would like the Sunset Commission to consider. If you return your response by Tuesday, June 24, we can provide this information to the Sunset Commission members before the public hearing. As a public record, your response will also be posted on the Sunset website. Thank you for your assistance with the Sunset review process.

Sunset Advisory Commission
PO Box 13066
Austin, TX 78711
Phone: (512) 463-1300
Fax: (512) 463-0705
e-mail address: sunset@sunset.state.tx.us

Joey Longley
Sunset Advisory Commission


Upcoming Sunset report cites "distrust and frustration" with TxDOT

by Peggy Fikac, Houston Chronicle

Saying there's an atmosphere of "distrust and frustration" surrounding the Texas Department of Transportation, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff is poised to recommend big changes at the agency.

The report won't be released until tomorrow, but according to a bound copy shared by a source close to the process, among proposals are:

  • Replace the five-member commission with one appointed commissioner, who would get a two-year term instead of the current six-year term.
  • Establish a Transportation Legislative Oversight Committee including House members and senators.
  • Establish a "transparent, well-defined, and understandable system of project programming within TxDOT that integrates project milestones, forecasts and priorities."
  • Require TxDOT, with input from transportation partners and policymakers, to develop a system to measure and report on progress in meeting transportation goals and milestones.
  • Require TxDOT to develop and implement a public involvement policy that guides and encourages more meaningful public involvement efforts agency-wide.
  • Continue TxDOT for only another four years before the agency again undergoes comprehensive sunset review. The normal period between reviews is 12 years.

"The Sunset review of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) occurred against a backdrop of distrust and frustration with the Department and the demand for more transparency, accountability, and responsiveness. Many expressed concerns that TxDOT was 'out of control,' advancing its own agenda against objections of both the Legislature and the public," said the report.

Read the rest of the article HERE

Read my formal letter to the Sunset Review called, "WHY TXDOT, AN AGENCY GONE ROGUE, SHOULD BE ABOLISHED" (sent in months ago) HERE.

Highway commission’s actions on toll roads called ‘meaningless’

David Stall: "The Texas Transportation Commission’s action is as binding as flashy political campaign material.” Read about it HERE.