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Hey jresta:

BKM

Cyburbian
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If you can get past the profanity in the title, read the latest Kunstler rant. He is expressing doubt about the future of an economy based on transportation, rather than one based on access and "living locally" (which he believes is the wave of the future).

One of his more interesting short rants. www.kunstler.com
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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2,713
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24
It could be the wave of the future (living locally accompanied by a massive change in lifestyles), but I believe not of our own initiative.

The change is predicated on the future failure of the western capitalistic/scientific establishment to not create the capability to replace a troublesome, non-renewable resource. This is a longshot event.

I personally wouldn't take that bet.

Additionally, it is not an "american phenomena". Historicly, All peoples desire greater mobility, thus the ability to move is valued over almost all other abilities.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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13,689
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53
I read the JHK thingy and, to me, it gets a big "DUH" from me.

As Duke says, being more local would be an enormous mental shift in our culture, and would only work if it was 95% voluntary.

Since people have always desired greater mobility, we will develop a way out of oil dependence while maintianing our existing levels of mobility (hopefully, JHK is too doom and gloom for me).

I personally have decided to will live a much more pedestrian lifestyle in a place that supports such a lifestyle. I will still own a car, but I will use it much, much less than the typical person does today.

You can't change the cultural interia, but you can make personal decisions that change the way you live.

Isn't that what the present is? The outcome of an almost infinite number of small, personal decisions/choices.
 
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BKM

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Good points, Mendelman.

I am certainly a hypocrite in one big way:

I love my neighborhood for daily living-I can walk to a lot of things (not my job, though, which is 15 minutes away by car).

But, I am addicted to my crazy "urban hikes" in San Francisco and the older East Bay suburbs. I would go nuts if I couldn't get out of Vacaville on weekends. That does require a car. In the summer, I am more likely to go bicycling instead, which doesn't require a long drive unless I am doing a century.
 

jresta

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i couldn't figure out which rant it was - but i'm familiar with his writing so . . .

people, as long as they have two feet, will always have their individual mobility. I also doubt that bicycles and trains will disappear. Sure, you might not be able to cover as much ground as quickly but you're certainly not going to be stuck in one town.

But that sort of mobility, the personal kind, is what everyone seems to be stuck on and it's really not the problem in a grand economic sense. It's great that we have hybrid cars but what about the tractor trailers? ships? planes?

It's great to be able to drive to the grocery store in your electric car but when the produce shelves are empty because the sailboat from Chile is a little late this month it doesn't really help you much. What about the 99% of our rail system that is not electrified?

The issue isn't about us running out of oil in 15 years or how quickly natural gas will come on line to fill the void - it's all about the cost of those commodities and when the demand curve crosses the supply curve we're all in a lot of trouble.

If the cost of fuel rises more than marginally (i hope no one would deny that near future probability) the prices of everything transported with fuel will also have to rise and the market will respond by trying to source local goods. Everything else, in turn, will become more localized. Maybe not as drastic as kunstler mentions but it will have to happen, if only for 30 or 40 years until we figure out this great renewable source.

My bet is that any renewable source that allows energy to be created in any surplus quantity, at the household level will never be developed b/c energy companies can't make a profit on it - nor can they can make a profit on localized economies.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
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23
BKM said:

But, I am addicted to my crazy "urban hikes" in San Francisco and the older East Bay suburbs. I would go nuts if I couldn't get out of Vacaville on weekends. That does require a car. In the summer, I am more likely to go bicycling instead, which doesn't require a long drive unless I am doing a century.
But don't you think that if everyone in Vacaville was in the same boat, that leaving town took more planning and the commercial venues on the outskirts of town had to move into town - that it would be a much more happening place and maybe there would be fewer reasons to get outta dodge every weekend?

P.S. - is your town really called "cow town" or is that a joke?
 

BKM

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Of course, jresta. There would be more life if that happened.

What is always amazing about old (pre-war) photographs is how URBAN smaller cities in the United States once were. There WAS street life-not everyone was sealed into private cars driving to the big box store or the mall by the freeway. My mother showed me a postcard from the old, locally owned department store in my hometown (Fort Wayne, Indiana). It was an amazingly grand building. Change is not always progress. Today, we have a vast, ugly regional mall on the northeast side of town in the midst of an "architectural asteroid belt" (Coliseum Blvd) that kinda inspired me to go into planning, its so awful.

Of course, pre-war Vacaville was definitely a SMALL town-an agricultural center with a onion packing plant at the core of the economy (now torn down and replaced by a hideous multiplex theatre and acres of parking.)

Vacaville was axctually named after an early land grant recipient: Juan de Vaca. It is/was still, at heart, a "cowtown." But, at the old core, a very nice one (the newer parts of town are awful, imo).
 

Cullen

Member
Messages
33
Points
2
James, we already have cars that run on hydrogen (that can come from the ocean) I think maybe saying that running out of oil will make us all have to walk and shift to a local focus is a bit extreme. It is possible that it could lead to just the opposite effect.

A good point was made about localization of products occuring as the oil prices rise. This is assuming though that oil is what we *must* use for transportation.

An interesting point to make is that in many respects we propably could be using alternative energy already to move ourselves around. A problem may be though that the impact on the enviroment would be so great that it might pay to hold onto the deployment of cheaper and more accesible alternative energy sources until the fossil fuel supplies run out. Development would be able to grow much more drastically if people didin't have to pay for their fuel, for example if much energy production was based on solar sytems like solar powered vehichles and hydrogen electrolysed from water using solar power processes. There could be a potential for many more roads, houses and commercial endeavors. Potentially, everything would spread out even more. In some sense, fossil fuels may be keeping sprawl in check. They obvoulsy also have their own downsides too though. Hmm.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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mendelman said:
....As Duke says, being more local would be an enormous mental shift in our culture, and would only work if it was 95% voluntary....
I think you misundersood what I was getting at (not yelling though :) ), I meant that we wont change unless forced to change. Jresta pointed that out in a nifty way I thought. Where I diverge is that we will find a new source that is affordable for our society when it is needed.

I think that people do not get hung up on the mobility issue. It is an option that people will choose over most other possibilities given a range of choices. This is what will dictate the affordability of a follow on source of energy.

As for a "home based" method of energy production, I am not inclined to believe that will ever be largly feasible. It is much more productive to produce it in regional quantities and send it to where it is needed.
 

boiker

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3,890
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26
Cullen said:
James, we already have cars that run on hydrogen (that can come from the ocean) I think maybe saying that running out of oil will make us all have to walk and shift to a local focus is a bit extreme. It is possible that it could lead to just the opposite effect.

A good point was made about localization of products occuring as the oil prices rise. This is assuming though that oil is what we *must* use for transportation.

An interesting point to make is that in many respects we propably could be using alternative energy already to move ourselves around. A problem may be though that the impact on the enviroment would be so great that it might pay to hold onto the deployment of cheaper and more accesible alternative energy sources until the fossil fuel supplies run out. Development would be able to grow much more drastically if people didin't have to pay for their fuel, for example if much energy production was based on solar sytems like solar powered vehichles and hydrogen electrolysed from water using solar power processes. There could be a potential for many more roads, houses and commercial endeavors. Potentially, everything would spread out even more. In some sense, fossil fuels may be keeping sprawl in check. They obvoulsy also have their own downsides too though. Hmm.
Abundant, cheap oil offers Americans super increased mobility and plays a great role in a high standard of living. If we do make the switch to an alternative fuel source, Americans may be faced to accept a lower standard of living due to the expense or scarcity of new fuel. This change in standard of living may cause people to think, act, and live local to retain as much as possible the standard of living we are accustomed to.
 

jresta

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i don't doubt that we'll find a "new source" but in the past it has always taken 50 years to complete a change from one primary fuel source to another. Like i've said before, up until the late 60's there were still large portions of the country not connected to the power grid.

I seriously doubt that there is 50 years of cheap oil left. It's probably more like 10 before we start to see problems.

Right now all of the research money in the US is going to figure out how to get hydrogen out of oil. So we're either going to be paying the europeans for patent rights or we're going to be tooling around for 10 years trying to figure out our own cheap way to do it.

I seriously doubt that hydrogen will come on line before our natural gas assets are fully exploited (there's a little more to the drama in the Capsian region than meets the eye.) There's way too much money to be made. Who knows, though, maybe natural gas won't be used for transportation. Maybe it will be used primarily for power plants and home heating.

If a mobile renewable source is found (I'm pretty sure BP already bought up all of those patents) and made available i doubt the distribution of it is going to change - you'll still be tethered to the pump/grid somehow. Even if you weren't i doubt that's going to change much. Americans already live everywhere. I think, in terms of personal travel, time is much more of a factor than price. And price is already nominal. Most Americans don't really care about it anyway. 16mpg anyone? If you have any sense a Honda will take you 100 miles from the nearest gas pump for less than $4.
 

boiker

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jresta said:
. Even if you weren't i doubt that's going to change much. Americans already live everywhere. I think, in terms of personal travel, time is much more of a factor than price. And price is already nominal. Most Americans don't really care about it anyway. 16mpg anyone? If you have any sense a Honda will take you 100 miles from the nearest gas pump for less than $4.
But the second it costs big SUV owners $40 or more to fill their tanks, they're up in arms. (i.e. television: top stories on gas prices). They do care about price. As long as gas remains under $2.00/gal in the US, they don't have much to argue. They've budgeted for the gas these behemoths need.

I love listening to my uncle-in-laws or father in law talk about how horrible their trucks gas mileage is. They all have pickup trucks, all average 12-16 mpg and all complain about how much gas costs. They all rarely use their trucks, as trucks, for anything other than towing a fishing boat 4-6 times a year in the summer. Their full-size truck is their car otherwise.

It appears to me that cheap, plentiful fuel has allowed this development pattern, social system, and current high QOL to exist. It all changes when the fuel is scarce or pricey.

I was young during the late 70s/early 80s and can't comment first hand on it, but when gas prices outpaced budget amounts, cars got smaller and more fuel-efficient. Of course, the implied QOL or standard of living was also degraded because the option to purchase the large vehicle (which I assume was psychologically tied to QOL and achievement) was impractical.

In the 90s, wages increased, fuel was cheap, big cars became more common.

I think as planners, we need to plan to accommodate many modes of transportation, so that in an event when planes are grounded or airports shut down, the train is still accessible and running. When the train can’t run, cars or plains are available, when fuel is short or streets are closed or don’t get plowed, you can walk to get at least basic necessities.

Btw, if any of my assumptions or logic paths are wrong, please correct me. :)
 

jresta

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I remember in 1985 stopping at a gas station with my dad, we both did a double take at the pump - $.64 a gallon. He filled up and then went home to get my mom's car. That's the cheapest i've ever seen gas.

but anyway my point (i don't think we're really disagreeing) with gas mileage is that having to pay a lot for fuel is an option. If I buy a Honda Civic, it costs me $15 to fill up and I can drive the 500 miles to NC on one tank. Even if you have a 30 mile commute with a fair amount of city driving you'll still only go through a tank a week (unless you do a lot of leisure driving too)

If i choose to buy a truck that gets 15mpg, i know what i'm getting when i pick it up. It's pasted to the driver's side window. It's a choice. When the gas pinch comes around again people will make the same choices they did in the 70's.

and i wholeheartedly agree that we need to plan for all modes.
 

Cullen

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2
I think as planners, we need to plan to accommodate many modes of transportation, so that in an event when planes are grounded or airports shut down, the train is still accessible and running. When the train can’t run, cars or plains are available, when fuel is short or streets are closed or don’t get plowed, you can walk to get at least basic necessities.
This is a very important point and I believe that you are very correct. Transportation systems are constantly evolving and it is a planners duty to make sure there is enough versatility in the system to withstand hardships of any type, regardless of whether people see it as a popular or unpoular form of transportation.

I do think, about the oil prices, that people do like to complain, but this doesn't neccesarily effect their purchasing behaviors until the prices are so high that the opportunity costs of gasoline get to be so much that it becomes a significant drain on the household resources. but for now, the prices are low enough for them to still want those large vehicles pretty often. In terms of oil supply, I'm sure there a lot of people saying a lot of things, but there is still a lot of it. The prices may go up, but I think the supply will be pretty strong for awhile, this is just my opinion.

cost calculations:

if 15 mpg = $2 then
15,000 miles/year = $2,000

and

if 30 mpg = $2 then
15,000 miles/year = $1,000

granted this difference could be the cost of a vaction, but I think it is also less than the cost of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, something that can be ruled as a lifestyle decision (like owning an SUV).

BUT...

if 15 mpg = $4 then
15,000 miles/year = $4,000

and

if 30 mpg = $4 then
15,000 miles/year = $2,000

now the difference gets to be greater, for a $50,000 per year family this gasoline cost becomes 8% of annual income instead of 4% - wheras the difference at the lower price was 4% for the less effecient vehicle and 2 % for the more effiecent vehicle. As you can see the percentage of earings will rise exponentially with the arithmatic change in oil prices. Still, it will take a lot for the gasoline prices to rise to $4 per gallon. Hmm.
 

jresta

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the way i like to think about is:

$1.40 /15mpg = $0.93

$1.40 / 30mpg = $.046 per mile

i'm assuming that mpg will improve as gas becomes more expensive

$3.00 / 40mpg = $.075 per mile

$4.00 / 50 mpg = $.08 per mile

mpg is going to have to stay leaps and bounds ahead of the price per gallon for the overall cost to remain stable - my big question is:

"at what price per mile does the average joe ask - 'is there a cheaper way to get to work.' "

It's already costing the average American $.42 per mile to drive, @ 15,000 miles that's $6300 a year. People are already volunteering to waive their right to sue in exchange for cheaper insurance. I see that as a sign that the system is breaking down and many people recognizing that the cost is "too much money for the return"
 

Cullen

Member
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33
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2
"at what price per mile does the average joe ask - 'is there a cheaper way to get to work.' "
That's a very good question to ask. I would tend to think that this price is pretty high, people demand a lot of convenince and comfort when it comes to their transportation.
 
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