The presence of mass transit, whether local or long haul, simply makes towns and cities livable. That is going to become increasingly important, as we're in a time where a recent prophecy is going to come to pass.
I don't speak of any supernatural explanation of world events, but rather petroleum geologist Marion King Hubbert's 1956 pronouncement than U.S. oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970, with "the global peak coming about half a century from now". Hubbert was a tad optimistic [pessimistic, actually] about his predictions; the U.S. peak was in the spring of 1971 and the apparent global peak in May of 2005 might have been eclipsed by production in the winter of 2008.
Even if we did dodge the peak oil bullet for a full three years the fate of the world's five largest supergiant oil fields is certain. Ghawar, Saudi Arabia's four million barrel a day cash cow, is over 90% consumed and seawater forms an ever increasing percentage of the output as the field nears the time when it will "water out".
The nitrogen pressurized field of Cantarell in the Bay of Campeche has declined from its 2.2 million barrel a day peak to perhaps a third of that and the Mexican government will soon begin capping depleted wells. The Kuwaitis have responsibly managed Burgan and information is spotty on China's Da Qing, but these two fields, at million barrels a day each are geological resources rather than fossil fuel cornucopias and their life spans are not infinite. The [X] field of northern Iraq is largely untouched but due to above ground concerns there it may never be exploited. The condition of these five, once responsible 10% of the global total production, are a good proxy for what is happening with the rest.
This peak oil business is going to be as wrenching a change for us as the industrial revolution was for our ancestors three centuries ago. Many careers from the 20th century are going to fall by the wayside. Rising heating costs will make larger homes less desirable and that goes double for the distant, poorly constructed suburbs that sprang up everywhere during the last decade's bubble. . . .
There are a few bright spots out there and engineer, accountant, New Orleans resident, Katrina survivor, and rail electrification activist Alan Drake is the keeper of a happier vision of our future.
The United States has about 180,000 miles of rail and 36,000 of those miles are good candidates for double or triple tracking coupled with rail electrification. If we undertake this technologically simple duplication of systems already in use in Europe we'll cut our oil consumption by 10%, put millions back to work in new, peak oil proof
careers, and amazingly enough our economy ought to grow 25% during the process.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Peak Oil, transit options and community health