Now that you've been to Paris, you will have a first-hand comparison between
Paris and Houston (or any other (mostly) Western North American city). You
will have noticed that Paris was designed before the advent of the motor car
and that, consequently, it's not exactly a driver-friendly city. Seems to
me that the only reasonable direction we, North Americans, can take is to
design our cities like Paris, where, within the Peripherique, one is within
six blocks of "le Metro," an efficient people hauler if there ever was one!
The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are not going to be the answer. I've
seen an Insight "in the flesh" and it's not a "people hauler." The Prius is
supposed to be a bit roomier. BTW, you are correct in that the Prius relies
on oil/gasoline, but the Prius does not use a fuel cell. Its
gasoline-powered engine produces electricity that is used to charge a
battery and both the internal combustion engine and the battery supply power
as needed. The beauty of these hybrid cars is that their batteries don't
have to be recharged by plugging them into an electrical outlet. This gives
them a range that is determined by a network of gas stations. The Honda
Insight reportedly gets 70 mpg on the highway and 60 mpg in the city; the
Prius supposedly 66 mpg. Anyway, even if we all traded our cars in for
Prii, we would only reduce our fuel consumption by a factor of three, based
on an average fuel consumption of 20 mpg.
The answers, IMHO, is to reserve the oil and gas for transportation where
electrical power is impractical. Electrification of the railroads in North
America is one way to replace oil. We also have to move towards mass
transit, and that means building compact cities like Paris. Nuclear should
be used to generate base load electricity, with the waste heat used to heat
buildings and greenhouses.
There are some simple things we can do to reduce our energy consumption.
For example, we could legislate that drivers shut their engines off when
waiting at traffic lights. This is already the practice in countries like
Switzerland. We can form car pools.
You are, no doubt, correct in predicting social upheaval when the pumps
start to run dry. My guess is that social upheaval will be more severe the
longer we wait to address the problems. As Christians and stewards of God's
creation, we need to set an example and show the way to go.
> From: email@example.com[SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Saturday September 23, 2000 2:03 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: What happens when the oil runs out.
> A few months ago, I posted a note on the need for the world to change its
> primary energy source before the end of this century.
> http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200007/0167.htm I noted that 65% of the
> world's energy today is derived from oil or natural gas. Failure to find
> this replacement will result in much societal unrest and upheaval. The
> events in the UK last week illustrate the problem effectively.
> The UK, while self-sufficient in oil, has the highest taxes on
> gasoline of any of the western industrialized nations. As a comparison to
> those in the states who complain about high prices, this morning I filled
> my car up with approximately 12 gallons of gas. It cost approximately $60
> dollars US. Seventy-five percent of this is taxes and this is the issue
> that seemed to irritate the UK truckers. On the way home from work on
> Monday 11, I heard that a few truckers were blocking a refinery. I
> thought it was a localized affair. Still being a bit new here, my access
> to news has been kind of spotty at best and I didn't pay much attention.
> My wife and I decided to go to dinner and on the way, we noticed that
> every single petrol station had long lines of cars. We weren't sure what
> was happening but figured that they had made an announcement that the cost
> of petrol would be rising the next day. We didn't realize that it was a
> blockade of all the refineries in the UK. Since I had a rental car that
> was due to be returned the next day so I didn't see any reason to fill it
> The next day the lines were every bit as long as the day before and
> filling stations were running out of oil. The government put the health
> services on alert as noncrucial operations were postponed. Panic buying
> set in as people began to realize that with no petrol, food trucks
> wouldn't run and that it wouldn't take long for the grocery stores to run
> out of food. Some customers went into stores and bought 50 loaves of
> bread without a thought that other people might need some of that food. A
> picture in the London Times showed a long supermarket shelf with nothing
> but empty shelves. Schools began to close as the buses ceased running and
> some people began to run out of gas couldn't get their children to school.
> TV's began to run coverage on which gas stations had gas, which of course,
> meant that people flocked to them and quickly drained them of every last
> drop. Eventually people were advised to call the gas station before
> burning their precious petrol by driving there. Had this happened in
> winter, businesses heated by heating oil would have run short. Thankfully,
> Scotland is largely heated by natural gas.
> My wife and I went to Paris during part of this time and when we
> were coming back seriously considered whether we ought to bring a bag of
> groceries with us. Having just moved into our house the week before, we
> really didn't have many supplies.
> In the factories, production lines ground to a halt because
> inventories which were built up couldn't leave the factory and new
> supplies couldn't come in. Building sites were abandoned for a few days
> because of the same problems. Those sites which are built with a 'just in
> time' supply situation, quickly found that nothing could be delivered just
> in time. What is almost funny is that the tabloids over here strongly
> supported the strikes until Wednesday when they suddenly woke up and
> realized that with no gas, there would be no way to distribute the papers
> and they too would start losing money. That was when their headlines
> cried 'Enough!'. It is easy to support someone when you don't feel the
> Economic activity in the UK was ceasing very rapidly. In just four
> days, the government estimated that the UK economy lost 1 billion
> pounds-40 pounds per household. If the drivers had not ceased when they
> did, the entire economy would have stopped with the losses going up
> exponentially. The stock market took out its wrath on many companies with
> stock prices falling. One transportation group saw a 32 million pound (48
> million dollar) wiped off its value in just 4 days. Who can make money
> when the trucks aren't hauling anything? Even department stores saw sharp
> declines in their sales. People were not driving into town to go shopping
> there. John Lewis, a major department store chain here said that they lost
> 2 million pounds (3 million dollars in sales in that week). Airlines had
> to use empty passenger airplanes which were full of fuel to supply some of
> the airports.
> The Sunday Telegraph Sept 17, page 22 gave the account of a reporter
> who was scheduled to review Toyota's new Prius automobile which is a
> hybrid that can run on electricity or petrol. It has a fuel cell, which I
> have heard some people cite as the wave of the future and the replacement
> for gasoline. It was interesting that the reporter was supposed to get
> this car delivered on Friday the 15th, but he got a call on Wednesday from
> the manager of Toyota's press fleet in Surrey saying that the lack of
> gasoline made it impossible to deliver the car! It seems that without
> gasoline, the Prius really can't go anywhere. It uses gasoline to create
> the hydrogen for the fuel cell. No petrol, no hydrogen, no car!
> Sometime within this century(most likely within the next 20
> years), world oil production will begin its long slide just as the US oil
> production began its long slide in 1971. Whenever that peak occurs, it
> will mean several things. First, we will have used half of all the oil
> reserves on earth. Second, it will change our lives by making oil scarcer.
> And third social upheaval as was seen in the UK last week will be on the
> rise. All in all, it was an interesting peak into a future I hope we can
> avoid. The plain fact is that the world is hooked on oil with nothing
> being seriously looked at as alternatives, yet now is the time such
> planning should be done. Nuclear and coal are the two most likely near
> term replacements. The highly touted fuel cell simply is not a primary
> source of energy. Some other energy source must be used to split the
> hydrogen from the oxygen (or carbon) where it resides. In the case of the
> Prius, it is gasoline that is used as the primary energy source. Oil is
> still king.
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