Mayor of Austin "Feels My Pain"

Not this one, but this one, the man with the best imaginable name for a politician, Will Wynn.

Wynn has been giving a talk remarkably like Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth talk, with a bit of Texas interest thrown into the mix. I hate to fault him for that, and he did a reasonable job of it. He asserted, correctly, that “clammit santiss” like me are pretty much unanimous about many global warming questions that still generate far too much debate in the press and among the public. He also had a lot of interesting initiatives, including making the institution of city government carbon neutral, which is a very sensible way to help create necessary markets.

(In fact he goes out of his way to make Texas look even worse than it is on this issue, since the energy cost of energy production is split into our per capita emissions on his slides: those should be charged to the consumers not the producers… Texas is by far the worst per capita emitter among the states but it is an energy provider. Also I’m not at all sure that driving to the farmers’ market to buy a tomato is all that much more efficient than buying a mass market tomato at HEB.)

And as you can see from his homepage, he really is pushing very hard to be recognized as an especially climate-aware mayor.

So I’m afraid I messed up his public presentation last Sunday evening at the Alamo (the Austin Alamo, the beer and movies one) because I got to ask the first question, which was, as a new Austinite and former resident of Madison WI, I am absolutely apalled by the conditions in this town for a bicyclist. I acknowledged that the city was not designed around any transportation mode other than cars, but I suggested that ought to change. Being Lance Armstrong’s hometown, there is immense interest in recreational bicycling around here. That combined with the mayor’s ambition to be a leader in urban efficiency, you’d think, would be enough to argue for a little bit of leeway for the overweight middle-aged climate scientist trying to get to work and get a little exercise at the same time.

The audience applauded my point. The mayor cringed and (literally, I swear this) said the words “I feel your pain”. Bah. I cannot bicycle to work, the bus takes an hour, the car takes 12 minutes. I would happily switch to zero emissions if I weren’t risking my life to ride that last no-choices mile up Burnet (“burn it durn it“) Road. Do you think that the energy research complex of the great university in the great green boomtown of the sunbelt might deign to put in so much as a shoulder or a sidewalk by its energy research campus for its energy researchers to, um, save some energy?

No, but Will Wynn deeply sympathizes. What am I to make of this? Burn it, durn it, and to hell with the clammit, dammit?