Articles from 2011
The Road Less Traveled
- Published: 01 January 2011
Well worth reading is this on Peak Transport. Like Peak Oil and Peak Energy, the idea that we are stuck inexorably into a pattern of permanently increasing carbon and cash consumption doesn't have to go on to the Malthusian conclusion of societal collapse -or unavoidable increases in oil costs.
For those who see $100 and more oil going off into the far off future, an alternative view based not on what if, but on what is:
A study of eight industrialized countries, including the United States, shows that seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving — came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices. It could be a sign, researchers said, that the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point.
“With talk of ‘peak oil,’ why not the possibility of ‘peak travel’ when a clear plateau has been reached?” asked co-author Lee Schipper, who shares his time between Global Metro Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University.
My recent interest in pointing out that we have basically solved the energy crisis through shale doesn't mean I've forgotten about a few other trends. One is that Peak Oil is rubbish,a theory now non-controversial but back in 2008, PO was a foundation of accepted wisdom. That also means Peak Energy (in the OECD), which occurred in 2004-06 depending on which country and which commodity you choose. Peak Light is something that is glaringly obvious as we see the incandescent age of peak light pushing off lots of heat replaced by the LED era. So to me the idea that we've decided that we don't have to live miles away from each other makes sense. But then statements like this is like light to a bug.
“A major factor behind increasing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions since the 1970s has ceased its rise, at least for the time being,” Schipper said. “If it is a truly permanent change, then future projections of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel demand should be scaled back.”
The peak travel study runs counter to government models predicting steady growth in travel demand well beyond 2030. Schipper and Millard-Ball say that their own findings are “suggestive rather than conclusive.” They speculate that highway gridlock, parking problems, high prices at the gas pump and an aging population that doesn’t commute may be contributing to peak travel. People already spend an average 1.1 hours per day traveling from one place to another, and driving speeds can’t get much faster.
“You can’t pronounce one single factor for the slowdown in travel,” Schipper said. “The most important thing will be to see what happens as the economy recovers. Everybody expects oil prices to go up. But with new fuel economy standards, more hybrids and higher oil prices competing against a recovery in which people buy old-fashioned gas-guzzlers, the question is, what is going to win?”
The study notes that the trend started in the US in 2000, which makes me think that this isn't to do with prices. If gasoline were half the price, a big house an hour away might be more attractive than an apartment 30 minutes closer. But far fewer would choose to commute two hours instead of one for an even bigger one.
Not to mention the impact of the internet on those who don't commute at all.