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Can Technology Reduce the Energy Cost of Sprawl?

October 2000

Citation: ELR 10829

Author: Fred Bosselman

Shades of the 1950s! People are worried about "urban sprawl."1 Shades of the 1970s! People are worried about energy prices.2 And they are even beginning to realize once again that there is a connection.3 Will we be any more successful in resolving these issues now than we were a generation or two ago? Do advances in technology give us reason for optimism?

This Article discusses how technological changes in transportation can influence land use patterns in the United States. After addressing the energy costs of transportation and "sprawl," the Article focuses on the automobile's role in current U.S. land use patterns and lists several factors that have influenced and continue to support current transportation trends. The Article, however, then addresses a number of factors that have caused growing public dissatisfaction with current land use patterns, and it highlights developments in technology that may alleviate such concerns. The Article concludes that if we are going to reduce our consumption of energy for transportation, we must either begin to reverse these development patterns or find new technological ways of traveling within the current pattern without using so much energy, or both.

Fred Bosselman is a Professor of Law at the Chicago-Kent Law School in Chicago, Illinois. This Article is based on material that will be included in Energy, Economics, and the Environment, by Fred Bosselman, Jim Rossi, and Jacqueline Lang Weaver,a casebook being published by Foundation Press in August 2000.

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