Go buses!

Go buses! A Columbian friend at work explained how their buses have not just the occasional dedicated lanes, but dedicated roads that ran straight through their cities or parallel to highways. People don’t worry about timetables, but just turn up to bus stops because one will be along soon. They’re also cheap. Back home he pays no more than 50c to go anywhere, and was quite shocked at the high price of Sydney’s buses! BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) is not just in Columbia, but across 190 cities.

On roads like this, buses could easily be converted to Trolley-buses in an oil crisis or eventually to hydrogen or something else if aesthetic concerns prevent wiring up the street. But then again, in a serious oil crisis any street could be rigged up for trolley buses. A real oil crisis would see less cars and more demand for oil-free transport. Trolley buses can be something like 5 times cheaper to build than trams.

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As the World Resources Institute says:

“For example, bus rapid transit (BRT) systems are helping places like Mexico City avoid roughly 122,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and reduce traffic crashes by 20 percent. Not only has Mexico City’s Metrobús reduced citywide emissions, it has also created local benefits for citizens by boosting economic productivity and reducing traffic congestion. BRT systems like Metrobús can have a ripple effect of benefits, from greater access to jobs and education to long-term improvements in public health and road safety.”

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National’s Senator’s heart bleeds for poor fossil fuels!

The ABC’s 7:30 Report shows that Matthew Canavan’s heart bleeds for poor fossil fuel companies!  Apparently environmental groups are about to take control of Australia and put an end to all development and economic activity because they are dangerously over-funded by their tax concession status! The Greenies are coming, and Canavan’s terrified!

“MATTHEW CANAVAN: There are a large minority who are clearly engaged primarily in trying to stop fossil fuel development in Australia and I don’t think its right that Australian taxpayers, including people who work in the mining industry, are asked to fund those activities.”

But, not so fast Canavan! Do you not know? Have you not heard? Australia needs YOU, the Abbott regime, to shut down coal ASAP!

1. The irony!

Does Canavan even know how ridiculous he sounds? He’s worried about environmental groups being funded by taxpayer concessions, when the entire fossil fuel industry gets at least 100 times as much in government tax breaks and subsidies and kick-backs! He’s worried about greenies opposing fossil fuel expansion while conservative scientists are worried about that expansion in the first place! The irony here is not really funny. It’s disgusting. Australian fossil fuel companies are spoon-fed from the government gravy train to the tune of at least $4bn a year, but it could be as high as $10 billion a year, depending on what we’re counting(but including oil and coal and gas it looks like Australia’s total fossil  unsure what they’re while the Abbott government hyperventilates about tax concessions to the only groups trying to do something about our out-of-control coal overlords! This kind of money should not be put into expanding coal but into killing it! $4bn a year would soon replace all Australia’s coal fired power with clean, safe breeder reactors that would gradually gobble up the world’s nuclear waste.

2. The threats to health!

As the ABC reports:
The report entitled Coal and Health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world reveals NSW taxpayers are bearing the costs of health damages in the region worth tens of millions of dollars each year. Locals are paying with their current and future health. Further, the social costs of carbon (global damages arising from climate change) attributable to Hunter Valley coal amount to billions of dollars (estimates range from $16 billion to $66 billion) per annum.

Around 90 per cent of fossil fuel assets currently held in Australia (predominantly combusted for electricity production either here or overseas) cannot be burnt if we are to achieve emissions reductions rapidly enough to stop global warming at less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

It is clear that time is up for coal.

3. The threats to the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef’s only hope is if we can prevent catastrophic climate change. A James Cook University report says we must:

3. Address climate change

The 2014 and 2009 outlook reports identify climate change as the major long-term challenge facing the Great Barrier Reef. Despite having a vision until 2050, the draft plan is virtually silent on climate change or ocean acidification.

Of course, the Abbott government doesn’t ‘believe in’ climate change. Apparently being ‘conservative’ actually makes them want to radically change the chemical composition of our atmosphere, doubling heat-trapping gases and changing the acidity of the world’s oceans so that krill die off and undermine the entire ocean’s food web! Yep. Real ‘conservative’.

4. Global warming is mother of all bombs.

100 million refugees, rising sea levels, dropping food production, species extinction, mega-droughts, mega-floods, enough said. It’s time to shut down coal for good. Canavan sounds like a looney worrying about a few environmentalists. It’s time to worry about the govcorp entity that seems suicidally determined to drive the Titanic straight for that iceberg, regardless!

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Please sign to save the Amazon!

This is a huge deal! Colombia is already on board. Avaaz are asking for a 1 million strong petition to show we care when 3 governments get together to discuss the future of the Amazon, and specifically, an enormous new ecosystem reserve. Please sign to protect one of the world’s most important ecosystem services!

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/amazon_corridor_loc/?fytPOib&pv=229

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What do you call a nuclear-greenie?

I’ve known many of these thinkers for years, but I didn’t know that our movement had a name. Welcome to the rise of the eco-modernist!

The last few years have seen the emergence of a new environmental movement — sometimes called ecomodernism, other times eco-pragmatism — that offers a positive vision of our environmental future, rejects Romantic ideas about nature as unscientific and reactionary, and embraces advanced technologies, including taboo ones, like nuclear power and genetically modified organisms, as necessary to reducing humankind’s ecological footprint.

The most famous ecomodernists are Whole Earth Catalogue creator Stewart Brand, The Rockefeller University’s Jesse H. Ausubel, The Nature Conservancy Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva, former Nature writer Emma Marris, and pro-GMO UK green Mark Lynas, all of whom have written foundational books or essays in recent years.

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How are China’s “Ghost Cities” doing?

Next Big Future reports:-
Those “Ghost cities” in China? They’re gradually filling up. Gotta give them a chance: who would want to be the first to move to a brand new city that didn’t have a bakery or shopping centre or mechanic or doctor just around the corner? It takes time. But many that were at 10% occupancy a few years ago are already at 50 to 70%. The problem? We just don’t hear about it in the media. Town planning that eventually works isn’t so sexy.

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Challenges to my view of robot cars

I used to think robot cars would fill the gaps in any public transport system of our future ecocities. I used to think that they would give families the confidence to move from 2 cars to only owning 1 car, or from 1 to make the break from owning a car all together. I used to think that this was a vital piece of ecocity technology. Now I’m not so sure.

The Breakthrough Institute’s Michael Lind writes, “The Green Urbanization Myth”. I’m going to have to ponder this for a few days. The question is, what happens as our food systems become more efficient? Say we learn to grow most of our food in the deserts or in algaeculture, or even in unlikely food towers? What happens if we don’t need as much farmland? Will it return to wilderness, to great meadows and millions of bison roaming the plains?  Or will the rich buy it all for enormous weekend playgrounds? As Michael says:

The rise of robocars may accelerate metro area decentralization. Congestion will be reduced, and the greater safety of driverless cars may permit higher speeds on metro area beltways and cross-town freeways. Once taxi drivers are replaced by robot taxis, the cost of taxis will plummet and the greater convenience of point-to-point personal travel anywhere in a sprawling metro area will make rail-based mass transit obsolete except in places like airports and tourist-haven downtowns.  As in the past, most working-class families with children will probably prefer a combination of a longer commute with a bigger single-family house and yard to a shorter commute and life in a cramped apartment or condo. 

The rest of his article is quite compelling. I’m going to have to visit The Breakthrough Institute and read more about decoupling, as I’m wondering what I’ve missed if they think there is a realistic chance of radically reducing agricultural requirements?

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How ya going to do that without oil?

I’ve been having a chat with arch-doomer Mike Stasse. We were discussing a nuclear powered Electric Vehicle economy, and I shared how America buys something around 12 million cars a year, and so that’s probably something like 24 Gigafactories. At 500,000 EV’s per gigafactory per year, it’s grossly simplified because I haven’t estimated the number of trucks included in that figure (that might work best on an alternative synthetic fuel like hydrogen or ‘rechargeable’ boron), and the Gigafactories are only about supplying the batteries: not building the whole EV. But this is about mass-producing the batteries to cut the battery cost by 30%!

I’m just trying to make the point that replacing oil for domestic driving is not impossible. I also had to include a disclaimer that I don’t necessarily agree with Americans buying 12 million cars a year. I wish it were at least a quarter of that because I wish Americans had better New Urban planning! I read many studies that conclude places like Portland and Manhattan are actually becoming more desirable. But this is a conversation about getting rid of oil, fast, and I’m happy to overlook the trucks and ecocities just to make a point! So assuming all those cars are EV’s, and assuming America doesn’t learn from Portland and Manhattan, they can still replace ALL 12 million Internal Combustion Engines by building 24 Gigafactories. Elon Musk is already building his first.

Then the premise of this typical doomer question got to me, and I just couldn’t stand it any more. It’s not my best writing, but here it is.

The other thing that strikes me as disingenuous about your typical “How are you going to do that without oil?” schtick is that it’s just so untrue to peak oil theory. The oil’s not going to run out overnight. It’s going to become more expensive. For *decades*. Like thumb screws that are slowly and gradually wound up tighter and tighter, the quest for alternatives to oil will gradually become more and more urgent. There’s time.

It’s also self-regulating. When high oil prices hit the economy, the economy slows down a bit and people don’t consume as much oil. Just look at the GFC. Americans stopped consuming 25% of their oil without a single bit of oil-saving legislation being passed! Note that they’re not a quarter of the way back to the stone age. Europeans use half the oil per capita than America. They’re not half the way back to the stone age. Economies can and will function on less oil, and when alternatives take over they can and will function with NO OIL!

So don’t trot out the entirely anti-science, anti-geology, anti-peak oil “How ya gonna do it without oil, huh?” meme at me when we have decades and decades of oil left, including all those disgusting brown-tech options ROEOZ always said would never amount to anything. Boy, you guys got that wrong didn’t you?
http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/03/us-crude-oil-production-hits-new-post.html

I guess I should have added that the best thing about this oil is that it is going to be more and more expensive. The whole reason we have cheap oil again is that Saudi Arabia didn’t like the threat from America’s non-conventional oil, and opened up her taps a bit more to bring the price down to bankrupt the dirtier brown-tech non-conventional oils that rely on a higher price. This kind of action will ricochet around the American economy well before the effects of declining oil hit. Maybe they’ll wake up before becoming addicted to brown-tech oil? Elon’s already building the Gigafactory which will be completed by 2020. It’s only $5 billion.

tesla-gigafactory-nevada

So what’s the bottom line? If America really wanted to get off oil in a hurry, all her family cars could easily be replaced with somewhere around 24 Gigafactories (and that’s being excessive because I haven’t allowed for all the pick up trucks that might run on other synthetic fuels like hydrogen or boron). This would cost around $120 billion for the factories alone. Americans would have to buy their own cars, and part of that cost would probably be importing lithium from Bolivia. That’s a win for Bolivia, but it’s about time South America had an economic win, hey?

Meanwhile, the other crucial part of doing without oil is also learning to do without natural gas and coal. Gas is about as bad as coal, because of the methane leaks from the old pipe infrastructure in most American cities. Not only do all fossil fuels destabilise our climate, but air pollution costs America a lot of money every year. As a Harvard study (that includes Richard Heinberg) says: “We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.” Not only this, but America imports about $400 billion worth of oil annually. (Some have estimated more). Switching to clean nuclear power + renewables + EV’s (& synfuel) would clean up the air and prevent America importing oil. It would save them a third to half a trillion in health costs, and a quarter trillion in imported oil. With potentially an extra trillion dollars every 18 months to 2 years floating around in the American economy, and energy independence, and (with that independence) less likelihood of being dragged into future oil wars), it soon becomes clear. The question is not whether America can afford to go ‘nuclear gree’ with EV’s. It’s whether America can afford not to!

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