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City, County, State, Fed governments
June 2006: last gasp?
Federal Highway - new route
West Eugene Wetlands
$17, $88, or $169 million
would have more
traffic lights than
NOT #1 Green City
The proposal for WEP and other mega-highway projects
makes it less likely that the Eugene region will make serious efforts
to mitigate the local impacts of Peak Oil, climate change and other crises.
Canceling WEP is a prerequisite for the needed shifts for sustainability
Don't underestimate peak oil
The profile of the new Oregon Transportation Plan, "Road map: How
to get there from here," (Register-Guard, Dec. 5) mentions the concept
of "peak oil" as a transportation planning issue, but then downplays
its significance, claiming that the peak of production might happen in
the next two decades.
In April, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury told an audience in
Eugene that we are at peak oil. Most petroleum geologists agree that the
peak is either here or will be here soon, and that the megafields discovered
more than four decades ago are showing signs of depletion. A good scientific
introduction to these issues can be found on the Web site of the Association
for the Study of Peak Oil, www.peakoil.net
Peak oil will require us to conserve energy and to live more locally.
The promise of hydrogen-powered cars is a distraction from practical solutions
to reduce consumption, since hydrogen is a means to store energy, not
an energy source (you still need energy to make it). The Oregon Transportation
Plan should recommend improved train
service in the Willamette Valley and coordinate with economic planners
to relocalize production of goods to reduce demand for delivery trucks.
At 7 p.m. on Jan. 10 , the Eugene Permaculture Guild is sponsoring
a lecture by Richard
Heinberg at the Eugene Hilton. Heinberg is author of "The Party's
Over" and "Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post Carbon
World," which describe how communities can cooperate to mitigate
the impacts of energy decline.
Federal law requires that federal aid highways must be designed
for traffic two decades in the future, not merely to address current traffic
congestion. Currently, ODOT planning projects are predicting traffic levels
for the year 2025. However, a more important question is what type of
an economy we will have two decades in the future, after the cheap abundant
oil becomes expensive, scarce oil.
While it is impossible to project what oil will cost when annual extraction
is roughly half of current levels (as the best estimates project will
be the case in 2025), it seems obvious that oil will cost significantly
more, if it is not rationed. Whatever the price increase, it will force
significant changes in travel patterns that must be factored into transportation
and land use planning.
These projections completely ignore any natural limitations to sprawl
development such as finite petroleum supplies, water issues, or other
limits to growth. If highway planning had to include the reality of the
peak of petroleum production, massive road expansion would seem even sillier.
The best projections suggest that in 2025 (the design year for the WEP)
most of the world’s oil extraction outside the Middle East will
have been exhausted, and therefore the Saudi, Iraqi, Iranian, etc. oil
fields will be of even more importance to the global economy. However,
by then, even those fields will be in obvious decline. Will we use the
remaining oil to relocalize production and build lots of renewable energy
equipment (solar panels, wind mills, etc) or will this oil be used in
a futile world war to control the oil fields (which will result in nothing
left over after the oil wars to power our societies)?
ODOT now claims that the new version of WEP would not cause
major traffic snarls - but they did this by downscaling much of the new
sprawl planned for west Eugene. It's circular logic - we need the WEP
because there's going to be all this "growth" - now they claim
that we can have the WEP because there's not going to be as much growth.Once
the peak of natural gas becomes obvious to everyone, and the availability
of petroleum shifts - new highways will be the least of anyone's concerns.
February 6, 2006
By now, President Bush's wildly irresponsible remarks on energy in
his state of the union speech may have already vanished down the memory
hole, but the damage will linger on. "America is addicted to oil,"
Mr. Bush began, failing to mention that underlying this addiction was
a living arrangement that required people to drive their cars incessantly.
A clueless public will continue to believe that "the best way to
break this addiction is through technology. . ." and that "we
must also change how we power our automobiles."
Mr. Bush recommended ethanol. As one wag put it after the speech: "America's
heroin is oil, and ethanol will be our methadone." The expectation
will still be that everybody must drive incessantly.
It is hard to believe that Mr. Bush does not know the truth of the situation,
or that some of the clever people around him who run his brain do not
know it, namely that ethanol and all other bio-fuels are net energy
losers, that they require more energy to grow and process them than
they produce in the end, and that the energy "inputs" required
to do this are none other than oil and natural gas, the same fuels we
already run engines on.
The president also said that "breakthroughs on this and
other new technologies will help us reach another great goal, to replace
more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."
In point of fact, our oil imports from anywhere on the planet will be
reduced by more than 75 percent because by that time worldwide oil depletion
will be advanced to its terminal stage, and nobody will have any oil
left to export -- assuming that the industrial nations have not ravaged
each other by then in a war to control the diminishing supply of oil.
The key to the stupidity evinced by Mr. Bush's speech is the assumption
that we ought to keep living the way we do in America, that we can keep
running the interstate highway system, WalMart, and Walt Disney World
on some other basis besides fossil fuels. The public probably
wishes that this were so, but it isn't a service to pander to their
wishes instead of addressing the mandates of reality. And reality is
telling us something very different. Reality is saying that the life
of incessant motoring is a suicidal fiasco, and if we don't learn to
inhabit the terrain of North America differently, a lot of us are going
die, either in war, or by starvation when oil-and-gas-based farming
craps out, or in civil violence proceeding from failed economic expectations.
I hate to keep harping on this, but Mr. Bush could have announced
a major effort to restore the American railroad system. It would have
been a major political coup. It would have a huge impact on our oil
use. The public would benefit from it tremendously. And it would have
put thousands of people to work on something really meaningful. Unlike
trips to Mars and experiments in cold fusion, railroads are something
we already know how to do, and the tracks are lying out there waiting
to be fixed. But the reigning delusions of Hollywood and Las Vegas prevent
us from thinking realistically about these things. We're only into wishing
for grand slam home runs and five-hundred-million-dollar lottery jackpots.
Anything less than that makes us feel like losers.
Meanwhile, the official Democratic Party response to Mr. Bush's fucking
nonsense was the stupendous fatuousness of newly-elected Virginia Governor
Tim Kaine's rebuttal, a saccharine gruel of platitudes and panderings
History will look back in wonder and nausea at the twitterings of these
idiots as the world they pretended to run lurched into darkness.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a revision to the
Environmental Impact Statement to address the new information about
Peak Oil and climate change.
40 CFR 1502.9: Draft, final and supplemental statements.
(1) Shall prepare supplements to either draft or final
environmental impact statements if:
(i) The agency makes substantial changes in the proposed
action that are relevant to environmental concerns; or
(ii) There are significant new circumstances
or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the
proposed action or its impacts.23 CFR § 771.130 Supplemental environmental
(a) A draft EIS, final EIS, or supplemental EIS may be
supplemented at any time. An EIS shall be supplemented whenever the Administration
(1) Changes to the proposed action would result in significant
environmental impacts that were not evaluated in the EIS; or
(2) New information or circumstances relevant
to environmental concerns and bearings on the proposed action or its
impacts would result in significant environmental impacts not evaluated
in the EIS.
The Peak of
global petroleum extraction is a "new circumstance" that impacts
the project's purpose and need.
has an introduction to the many issues of Peak Oil
www.permatopia.com has an introduction to permaculture
solutions to Peak Oil
“In conjunction with the Oregon Department of Energy, Metro
will develop a contingency plan for dealing with short term gasoline shortages.
Initially, this will involve adoption of a framework plan which will establish
the need for refinement of the key elements.”
– Metro Regional Transportation Plan (Portland), updated October
[as of 2005, Metro in Portland has still not done this preparation work
on a serious level.]
"real fuel prices are assumed to increase from $1.50
[per gallon] in 2002 to $2.50 by 2025, while average vehicle fuel economy
increases from 20 to 30 mpg."
- Lane Council of Governments, December 2004, Central Lane MPO
2004-2025 RTP, Air Quality Conformity Determination, p. 23
[note: LCOG was only off by 19 1/2 years in their prediction for gasoline
price increases -- this is probably the best foundation for forcing a
new "purpose and need" for the WEP EIS]
for the Study of Peak Oil]
334. New roads and a tunnel in Switzerland (March 2004 issue)
Switzerland operates a devolved form of government seeking to involve
its citizens in major issues rather than impose decisions by parliamentarians
under the iron grip of party machines, as practised in many so-called
democracies. The decision now facing the Swiss people is whether or
not to modernise the highway system and build a new tunnel under the
Alps. Linear extrapolation of past trends of traffic and goods transport
has no doubt been used to justify the mammoth undertaking, but it is
meeting strong opposition, partly built on recognition of oil depletion.
A cartoon has appeared depicting a future scene of a cyclist and an
old man looking down on an empty highway with trees growing through
the cracks. The old man comments “In my day we believed in all
that” to which the cyclist replies "You still had petrol"
The Swiss Federal Office of Energy is holding a Workshop on oil and
gas resources on February 27th which will be open to the public. ASPO
will be represented by Campbell and Bauquis in a discussion with representatives
of the IEA, IHS, Schlumberger and Chevron-Texaco. It remains to be seen
if it will have any positive outcome, as the accompanying report commissioned
by the Federal Office simply contrasts the views of so called “optimists”
and “pessimists” to reach a neutral position, absolving
the government from the need to take any firm action. The likely
outcome is that the investments in roads and tunnels will be neither
approved nor rejected but simply delayed – it might indeed be
a good political response, given that impact of peak oil will soon be
Published on 4 Apr 2005 by New Zealand Herald. www.energybulletin.net/5112.html
New Zealand: No easy solutions in sight to keep oil prices in check
by Cameron Pitches
... New Zealand’s transport agencies need a contingency plan
for the rising price of oil. At US$70 a barrel, the Auckland Regional
Transport Authority should be looking to secure options on electric
rolling stock for our rail network.
At US$100, the Government should be suspending all new roading
projects. At US$200, Auckland International Airport’s
proposals for a second runway should be shelved in favour of a container
wharf for shipping.
Reliance on emerging new energy technologies such as hydrogen won’t
help us in the short term, either. The so-called hydrogen economy is
a net energy-loss proposition - more energy is put in to the extraction,
compression and storage of hydrogen than comes out of it.
In addition, more than 90 per cent of hydrogen is obtained from fossil
fuels, which defeats the purpose of an alternative fuel.
A bridge too far: Big men and their little toys
May 24, 2005
Building our way out of congestion through highway expansion
seems incredibly short-sighted, especially in the context of oil reaching
$100 a barrel by 2010 and a public transportation sadly in
need of a billion dollar overhaul.
The Peak Oil Crisis: Part 4, A Sudden Shortage
Tom Whipple May 19 - 25, 2005
A few weeks ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris released
a study called "Saving Oil in a Hurry" in which they examined
what the oil importing countries could do should there be an interruption
in supply. This 165-page document looks at previous oil shortages —
the two in the 1970’s and some recent ones in Europe — to
develop recommendations as to what governments should do when there
is more demand at the pumps than there is gasoline available.
They conclude that the overriding concern during a government intervention
is to hurt the economy as little as possible. The study emphasizes that
there are important differences between measures simply restricting
travel, such as a Sunday driving ban, and those that assist or encourage
motorists to cut fuel use such as car-pooling or the concept, unknown
here in America, of "ecodriving" (light foot on gas).
The major cost associated with fuel storage is lost mobility and the
reduced economic activity that results.
After much thought, the IEA came up with seven general approaches that
would produce savings of energy (in a hurry):
• Increases in public transit usage.
• Increases in car-pooling
• Telecommuting (working from home)
• Changes in work schedules
• Driving bans and restrictions
• Speed limit reductions.
There can, of course, be endless details to these general approaches
to saving transportation energy and the savings garnered by each of
these approaches will depend on how they are implemented. There is a
big difference between a car-pool publicity campaign and expansion of
strictly enforced HOV to all lanes of all major arteries and the denial
of parking to single occupant vehicles.
The publication of internationally agreed set of approaches to saving
transportation energy at least gives us a basis for discussion on the
day when the real shortage arrives.
Confronting the new transportation paradigm
May 2, 2004
by David Coyte
While Indiana’s Gubernatorial candidates are jockeying for positions
on the I-69 proposal and Citizens’ group are working up lawsuits
on the project, events are transpiring in Indiana and around the world
which will render this debate obsolete.
In spite of the recent gas tax increase, Indiana’s Department
of Transportation has some serious fiscal problems. Rather than scale
back new construction projects, INDOT has changed its revenue projection
methods to make them look affordable. The new revenue projection formula
uses the historical trends of the 1990's to predict revenues for 2002
The significant trend during that period was an incredible increase
in miles driven. With the higher gas tax and assuming the same growth
in travel INDOT expects an increase in revenue for road “preservation”
and new construction of about $100 million per year – most of
which will go to new construction. This is a 15% increase in annual
funding for these areas as opposed to the traditional 2%.
There are problems with these numbers both in their likely accuracy
and in how they are slated to be spent. Most of the assumed $100 million
in additional annual revenues are targeted towards new construction
leaving an approximate $25 million increase per year for maintaining
our existing roads. Since the cost of maintaining a mile of interstate
during the late 1990's was rising at over 25% a year, this formula sacrifices
our existing road system for new construction – which then becomes
an additional maintenance burden. The assumption in these forecasts
that the driving trends of the 1990's will continue is highly suspect.
Road funds dropped by well over 100 million between 2001 and 2002 –
primarily because of the economic downturn which is still with us. This
situation, coupled with rising fuel prices, makes the likelihood of
continuing 1990's travel growth most unlikely. INDOT’s Long Range
Plan Fiscal Forecast ends with this warning: “Again, it is important
to note that the fiscal forecast assumes additional funding from some
source will occur in the future. The time and amount of the additional
funds are not forecasted.” This statement should trouble economic
The Global picture is even more troubling. There is substantial evidence
that world petroleum prices will begin rising sharply within the next
10 years. While there is plenty of oil resources left on the planet,
the cheap and easy “conventional oil” resources are about
gone. What’s left will be much more costly and slower to produce
creating “real”, as opposed to the “political”
shortages we experienced in 1973.
Some experts believe that the current fuel price increases represent
the beginning of this situation, and events are occurring which support
that belief. In February it was announced that refineries are beginning
to ration supplies to independent retailers. OPEC has announced it will
cut production in April. This could be due to the reduced ability to
produce rather, than as claimed, an effort to support prices which are
already well above price targets.
Oil is to our economy what water is to agriculture. Because of this
you would expect the planning agencies and the business community to
be sensitive to its availability. This is not the case. Much of the
blame lies with the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division
of the Dept. of Energy. The EIA is dominated by economists who believe
that petroleum will be “created by demand” over the protests
of the petroleum geologists who are responsible for finding and producing
it. Furthermore, the EIA has accepted huge increases in the oil reserve
estimates that came out of the Middle East in 1988 and ‚89 - which
most geologist find highly suspect. In 1999 the EIA predicted that oil
prices would stay under $23 per barrel through 2020 (1997 dollars)*.
In January of 2004 the EIA predicted that the price of oil would stay
below $29.00 a barrel in the high price forecast. Today oil is over
$36 per barrel – yet current EIA predictions are just as optimistic.
Presidents from both parties, despite the scientific evidence, have
supported the EIA fantasies. No president wants to anger the powerful
highway and trucking lobbies, or suggest to us citizens that we may
have to curb our energy consumption.
If, as events suggest, oil prices continue to rise, then INDOT’s
revenue projections are more than just optimistic – they are a
destructive delusion which will delay us in addressing the very serious
issue of developing and maintaining affordable and effective transportation
alternatives. As fuel prices rise, miles traveled (read highway revenues)
will drop as people conserve, carpool, and use transit. The need for
additional highway capacity will disappear. The need for alternate urban
and inter-city transportation services will grow.
There are reasonable responses to this situation: First, stop all new
road construction – the cheap gas world has come to an end and
we will be lucky to maintain our existing road system. Second, take
the money slated for new road construction and put it into rail-based
transportation. Two big reasons for this: Freight rail uses 1/10th as
much energy as trucks, and maintaining rail lines costs about 1/50th
as much as maintaining an equal capacity highway. Because of those efficiencies
freight has been moving onto rail over the last decade and we are now
facing a shortage in rail capacity.
On the passenger side the solution lies with implementing the Midwest
Regional Rail Initiative, of which Indiana is a member. This nine-state
plan proposes a high-speed (100 MPH) passenger rail system throughout
the Midwest. Indiana’s cost to implement this plan would be less
than the 7 mile long upgrade of I-65 in southeast Indiana. The US Department
of Transportation studies have shown that this system will require no
public subsidy after the initial few years of implementation. This regional
system, coupled with rail based transit systems for our metropolitan
areas, will address the transportation needs and energy realities of
Creating additional rail capacity is the investment strategy that makes
sense. A bonus for moving freight onto rail is greatly reduced highway
maintenance costs. A bonus for investing in rail transit is better access
for our growing elderly and working poor populations. Both efforts improve
our air quality and positively impact the issues of sprawl and loss
of farmland. Regional farmland becomes ever more precious as distant
food sources become more expensive to access.
More of us will become transit dependent as oil prices reverberate through
our economy. To remain economically and socially viable we need to focus
on the new transportation paradigm while we have the time and resources
to implement it. That paradigm demands that we maintain the roads we
have while aggressively investing in freight rail and passenger rail
infrastructure. . It will take political guts to confront this situation.
We best find some soon.
There are excellent books and articles on the subject of oil resource
depletion: Hubbert’s Peak: the Impending World Oil Shortage, by
Kenneth Deffeyes, Princeton University Press, 2001; Out of Gas: End
of the Age of Oil, by David Goodstein, WW Norton and Co, NY, 2003; and
the The Hydrogen Economy: Creation of the World-Wide Energy Web and
the Redistribution of Power on Earth, by Jeremy Rifkin. These are all
respected scientists. Searching “Hubbert’s Peak” will
bring up numerous articles on the Web.
* Annual Energy Outlook 1999, Table A12, page 129, EIA, December 1998
David Coyte is President of CART, the Coalition for the Advancement
of Regional Transportation, which is headquartered in Louisville and has
been working on transportation planning issues for over a decade. Coyte
has contributed articles to planning magazines, newspapers, and non-profit
newsletters. A version of this piece will appear in Louisville's Business
First Magazine in May.