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A few more thoughts about transportation and the looming challenges we’ll face in the years ahead as our fossil fuel supplies become more challenging to develop and distribute.

The final and most promising mitigation option is to weaken the link between economic growth and liquid fuel demand. This will require major changes in the transport sector which accounts for half of global consumption and nearly two-thirds of OECD consumption. Passenger cars are responsible for approximately half of this, but substantial reductions can be achieved through improving vehicle efficiency, increasing average occupancy, accelerating the diffusion of alternative vehicle technologies, shifting to different transport modes or simply reducing the overall demand for mobility. Given the potential of all these alternatives and the necessity to move rapidly towards low carbon transport systems, they deserve to be given the highest priority….But the core issue is the rate at which this transition can be achieved and the extent to which it can offset the rapidly growing and potentially huge demand for car-based mobility in emerging economies and the developing world. For example, with over one hundred million cars, China is now the largest car market in the world, but per capita levels of car ownership remain comparable to that in the USA in 1920. [1]

For all the ongoing chatter about increased efficiencies and reduced travel miles and/or auto usage here in America, there is still a great big world out there with a whole lotta people who like the lifestyles we enjoy here and who wouldn’t mind a taste of it themselves. Not many of those improvements will or can happen without energy—fossil fuels, specifically. Given transportation’s vital role in almost every measure of progress, how transportation needs can be met in the years ahead does indeed merit a rise on the list of priorities.

That’s not to suggest that China, India, and other rapidly-advancing nations will emulate us overnight, but none of those nations have any plans to go back in time. While none may have the means or desire to model our technological advancements in full, any substantial enhancements means more energy demands on their part. Transportation will play an important and large role for them as it did for us.

Finite resources being what they are (and with oil exporting nations wanting at least a piece of the American-lifestyle pie for themselves as well), more needs to be filled by those others will mean less energy available for the rest of the planet’s population—including we exceptional, deserve-it-just-because Americans. That’s a thought more of us need to consider.

The talk about impending energy independence sounds like a fabulous solution to any of those or similar concerns, and it is up until the moment facts and geology and the realities of oil production challenges (financial and otherwise) intrude into that happy place. Nothing approximating that ideal can or will happen fast enough to avoid some unpleasant bumps in the road.

A moment’s pause to consider the practical realities of billions of others looking to improve their lifestyles on any scale by which we measure our own progress and achievements should realize immediately that a finite set of ever-more-challenging-to-acquire energy supplies needed to power those advances can only be spread so thin.

The choice: plunge recklessly ahead on the same paths without much concern for what happens to all of those others as long as we get ours; or perhaps a recognition that that’s not an option after all. Cooperative discussions, disclosure of more information than is currently the norm, and drawing up a plan or two for transition and adaptation might also be worth some of our time

NOTE: I’m taking a break; back sometime next week. Enjoy the holiday!

~ My Photo: the original [70 yr old]  Turcotte family summer home, Peru MA – 06.18.13

 

* I invite you to enjoy my two new books [here and here], and to view my other work at richardturcotte.com :
 

       * Life Will Answer

Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name]

 

       * The Middle Age Follies

A column offering a slightly skewed look at life for those of us on the north side of 50.

 

Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas,
Envisioning Better Tomorrows

Peak Oil Matters is dedicated to informing others about the significance and impact of Peak Oil—while adding observations about politics, ideology, transportation, and smart growth.

 

Sources:

[1] http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/2006/20130179.full; The future of oil supply by Richard G. Miller and Steven R. Sorrell – 12.03.13 [Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 13 January 2014 vol. 372 no. 2006 20130179]