Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Building a Non - Oil Based Transportation System

The basis for the proposal in the 2008 "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil" by Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl for an electrically powered transportation system is oil scarcity and peak oil.

Electricity can be created without relying upon oil.

For persons who doubt the arguments for peak oil; competition for the scarce resource of oil has caused and is causing warfare and turmoil.

A non - oil based transportation system would make troublesome countries and their people not troublesome. They would no longer be important. Making the oil in a troublesome territory unimportant should be a national goal.

While the emphasis of this blog has been to electrify and rebuild the existing railroad infrastructure from semi - speed to higher speed capability; Gilbert and Perl advocate for a non - oil based transportation for the highway mode as well. That would be accomplished with electrical grid connected vehicles (GCV) in one or another of various configurations.

Gilbert and Perl suggest that to launch the revolution for a complete non - oil based transportation requires the termination of all highway and airport expansion plans and programmes.  (The spelling of "programmes" is the English practice Gilbert and Perl adopted.)

As they explain, "The skill and effort needed to remove existing policies and dismantle established programmes is far from trivial.  Lack of focus on policy termination has undermined many efforts by leaders - across the spectrum of political orientation - to change the direction of U.S. policy. These efforts include, for example, the Carter administration's agenda of government leadership in energy conservation of the late 1970s and the Reagan administration's goal of replacing Social Security pensions with private alternatives in the 1980s. Failures to terminate existing policies have undermined the key priorities of more than these presidents. One analyst noted that the political dynamics of terminating established public policies differ fundamentally from those involved in creating new policies because '...distinctive coalitions generally form on both sides... and that termination contests are usually more bitter and harder to win than most policy adoption contests.'"

"Policy termination." What a useful phrase. It describes in two words the current conflict in the political process. Improved and / or new policy and/ or adjusted policy often requires "policy termination." Gilbert and Perl provide ideas as to how to engage in "policy termination" specific to creating a transport revolution as follows:

" A clear principle would thus be useful for justifying the end of programmes that support oil-powered mobility in the U.S. The logic is that of no loner digging once the determination to get out  of a hole has been reached. Many of the previous efforts in the U.S. to cultivate energy-efficient transport alternatives - including local public  transport  and intercity rail passenger improvements - have been undermined by simultaneous additions to road and airport capacity, usually paid for with earmarked trust funds from fuel and other taxes. Such an approach to transport development, which some portray as 'balanced' spending, is analogous to applying a car's accelerator and brake at the same time. The result undermines the performance of both systems and eventually destroys the engine. The onset of the next transport revolutions should be most noticeable for what stops happening, namely the expansion of highways and airports. A scan of the U.S. federal budget suggests the magnitude of resources that could then become available following such redeployment."

"US DOT's budget proposal anticipates spending $37 billion in 2008 to reduce the congestion of America's roads, rails and airways. Such funding would build upon decades of similar spending aimed at adding more air and road infrastructure to move ever-expanding volumes of cars and planes. Once oil depletion is recognized as a constraint on future growth of driving and flying, spending such large amounts on expanding capacity could be seen as wasteful and counterproductive, even amid the pleas against termination by those who gain great benefits from continuing such efforts."

" could expect at least $50 billion a year to be reallocated to developing  the infrastructure and accelerating the diffusion of electric traction in America's road and rail network. This could include conversion of many airports into 'travelports' (multimodal transprt hubs) that connect the remaining international and long-distance flights to electric road and rail feeders... Other airports and sections of urban highway infrastructure could be decommissioned, as much as military installations are still being decommissioned after the Cold War."

"This spending transition would create fierce opposition from interests that see themselves as economic loses from such changes. Government will have to anticipate such opposition, defusing it with incentives for change and compensation for losses. The incentives will be generated by the $50 billion in annual spending that will go into electrification and expansion of rail corridors, major road networks in metropolitan areas and massive expansion of traditional and 'advanced' public transit systems. Existing producers of electric-powered transport will reap a windfall from this bonanza, as will firms that rush to join this sector by adding traction and related technology to their product lines." (See pages 281 and 282 of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil")

Funding as recommended by  Gilbert and Perl together with a temporary, small tariff and specific investment incentives could achieve building a non - oil transportation system in record time.

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