Cecil, thanks for putting the Texans in their place. In fact, bigger is considered better in the Lone Star State, and they’re not above a little exaggeration.
While you point to Chicago’s superior mass-transit system (there’s a phrase you don’t hear too often), I think there are a couple of other energy-environmental factors that will keep Chicago ahead of Houston. One is that Houston’s economy is still tied to oil companies–although they have diversified quite a bit, the local economy still seems to follow the fate of Big Oil. To the extent that we reduce our oil consumption over the next 20 years, Houston’s job growth may be limited.
Impacts of global warming are tricky to predict, but it’s safe to say that a general warming trend would be more beneficial to Chicago that Houston. Also an increase in the frequency and power of hurricanes could be a real headache for Houston – the city’s evacuation for Hurricane Rita in 2005 revealed the problem of having only two interstates leading out of town. Houston is close to sea level, with the downtown elevation at 50 feet and the highest point at 125 feet, whereas Chicago’s average elevation is 579 feet.
The biggest environmental factor down the road may be fresh water supply. Most of the Sunbelt cities, Houston included, see problems ahead due to population growth, dwindling water supply and no new sources. The Texas state comptroller said the state will lose more than $450 million in revenue next year due to water shortages. Chicago, of course, sits next to the world’s largest fresh water supply.