Conversations along the Highway: Where Gasoline Prices Hit the Hardest

Back when we started writing on this site, I mentioned that it was the time to take vacations that would likely soon become too expensive. In keeping with that, this summer we are taking, what will probably be our last holiday where we drive, in part, just to see the countryside. And so, on Friday, this brought us to the Arts and Crafts Show in Frankfort, KY. It was some 93 degrees, and thus attendance was a bit sparse, but I suspect that there are more reasons than that for the reducing popularity that these shows face, both from vendors and customers, and that their viability will slowly fade in the face of high oil prices. (clicking map will take it to full size...)

One of the stalls, for example, was run by a lady from Alabama, and she talked about going to a show in Springfield, MO as the range of her “territory.” But when one considers the distance, and the need for some accommodation it is already becoming difficult for her to justify the expense for the longer trips, in light of size of the potential income she anticipates. The wife of a colleague of mine, who had been working the same “circuit” has, in fact, recently stopped since it is no longer profitable. Their hope is that they can still get business, but working instead through the internet.

Which led to another conversation with a nearby stall holder, who had also just set up a web site, selling jewelry. He mentioned that this was becoming much more of a source of income, but also commented on something that I had not thought of. For much of my professional life I have bought items that I need through salesmen and local offices. But now I purchase more through the internet. The vendor was commenting that this holds true for many businesses, but that in doing so this cuts out the role of the salesman, who concurrently loses the commission that would otherwise have come with getting the order. I am not sure this is totally a good thing, since in the past the visit of a salesman brought up new technology I wasn’t aware of, and I suspect that if I looked at the records I would find I bought more than I do now, to stay current and extend our capabilities.

Well, after a quick trip through the State Capitol it was time to get back on the road, and into the 2-hour traffic mess that is the current intersection of highways 64 and 75 outside of Lexington. So much for making good mileage, as we slowly wormed our way up the 5-odd miles of stop and go traffic caused by a highway resurfacing project.

And speaking of things that will become more costly, and thus less common, Leanan noted in Drumbeat that the cost of asphalt is rising with the price of oil, and that Highway Departments are already having to trim severely the amount of repairs that they can afford each year.

Larimer County, Colo., would like to resurface 16-20 miles of its 450 miles of paved road each year. "This year, we'll be lucky to do seven miles," says road and bridge director Dale Miller.

Paul Degges, chief engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, will resurface 1,600 miles of state highway this year, well short of his 2,500-mile target. "Since my budget is not growing and costs are up, we're doing less paving," he says.

Unfortunately the rate of road disintegration is not similarly stalled and so, without a series of those election-winning tax increases (grin), this is going to become a spiraling problem of the next decade.

In regard to the traffic control through the construction, the Actress did wonder why the local highway department hadn’t adopted something similar to the controlled speed system (pdf) that the British had put in on the M25.

Controlled motorways prevent bunching and flow breakdown and, thus, increase safety and throughput. A controlled motorway system has been operating of the M25. Its purpose is to smooth traffic flow by imposing a mandatory speed limit, which is varied automatically in response to flow conditions. Following the successful trials on the M25 further extensions to the system will take place.

Since a significant part of the problem comes with stopping and starting large trucks, keeping the traffic moving at a slow rate would help overcome the problem (as was discussed in comments the other day). It has also received Automobile Association approval I had to explain that Highway Engineers tend to be some of the more conservative of the Engineering Bretheren.

And so we moved on, visiting two more State Capitols in the following two days and then coming to a short rest for a couple of days in Raleigh, NC. And here the conversation turned to the change in education that is starting to occur. It was interesting to note the number of entries, in an Art Exhibition at the State Museum, that had been submitted by home-schooled children. The advent of the internet would seem to make this choice a more palatable one, in terms of the availability of materials, and in much the same way as oil price encourages working at home, perhaps, particularly in rural communities, where transportation is already expensive, home education way well increase in popularity.

The nature of education is in itself changing, as the internet makes the classroom a far distant place from the little red schoolhouse, but some other older habits may return. My mother, for example, was raised in a small village in Scotland, and boarded over the week in a larger town, in order to get a better education in her more senior school years. In that same period of my own life I also went to a boarding school (traveling in a train not that dissimilar to the one seen in the Harry Potter movies – though not a dedicated train, rather that those were the carriages of the normal British Rail of the period). One wonders if the increasing costs may strengthen the appeal of such schools. I suspect it may not, although in this case the school has been around since 11xx and boarding students since at least the middle of the 13th Century. Yet it is also having to adapt to the changing demands of both student expectation and the more widespread involvement of students outside the schoolroom, that is increasingly part of education, but which also relies on inexpensive transportation as a facilitator. But one of the reasons for the long success of the school has partially been the same reason that induced my grandparents to send my Mother to board.

There was an exhibit in the North Carolina Historical Museum in Raleigh that noted how liberating the car had been for rural America, a point I have heard emphasized by other historians. The presence of good roads (requiring asphalt) and the power and speed that cars brought in moving goods and people (based on oil) opened the horizons and markets for the farming communities in ways that is hard for those of us today to understand. It is why some form of similar transport is still going to vital to the community at large.

And so it is that I think that I don’t think that Kiashu understands the rural economy. His piece, sensibly saying that, instead of Hypermiling we should stop driving, fails to understand the imperative in the rural community of the car. In many places in the United States, and I suspect in other rural parts of countries such as Canada and Australia, the population density will make it harder and more costly to provide public transport for the low numbers of folk out there. At the same time they will continue to need the services of the community in the villages and small towns and thus will increasingly be forced to drive. It was, after all, the uneconomic aspects of serving the rural community that caused Dr. Beeching to close almost a third of British Railways largely through reducing that service in the 1960’s. As the costs of rural service go up it is more likely that communities will continue to prune the public services that they provide to areas of lower public density, and then for those who live outside the urban conurbation there will be no choice but to increasingly rely on cars and trucks.

PG here; to further edify HO's point, here's a chart of "where gasoline prices hit the hardest" from the NYT (Hat tip to Tim Iacono over at The Mess that Greenspan Made; click to enlarge to full size):

“This crisis really impacts those who are at the economic margins of society, mostly in the rural areas and particularly parts of the Southeast,” said Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service, a fuel analysis firm. “These are people who have to decide between food and transportation.”

A survey by Mr. Rozell’s firm late last month found that the gasoline crisis is taking the highest toll, as a percentage of income, on people in rural areas of the South, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota.

With the exception of rural Maine, the Northeast appears least affected by gasoline prices because people there make more money and drive shorter distances, or they take a bus or train to work.

But across Mississippi and the rural South, little public transit is available and people have no choice but to drive to work. Since jobs are scarce, commutes are frequently 20 miles or more. Many of the vehicles on the roads here are old rundown trucks, some getting 10 or fewer miles to the gallon.

Hi HO,

I am just in the process of sending my daughter to Australia (from UK) for her "summer" holiday - yes I know it's the wrong way round:-) but I am doing it on the basis that airfares are still relatively cheap and the planes still well maintained and flying. I have made the trip several times and want her to have the chance while she can and it is socially acceptable.

Speed limits of 50 are common for roadworks on all motorways in the UK and cameras enforce an average speed over the whole length. IMHO it certainly helps keep the traffic moving smoothly.

For roadworks can't concrete be used instead of ashphalt?

" doing so this cuts out the role of the salesman..." one of the advantages of buying through the internet, no pushy salesmen:-)

I don't know how the costs work out, but as you say surely concrete can be used instead of asphalt if the costs of that continue up, or even low-carbon substitutes for concrete:

The first steps in the process are identical to making ordinary concrete. Sand and gravel are loaded into a storage hopper, then sent up to the cement mixing truck.
Now comes the difference. Slag and fly ash – from the silos - are fed into the truck, in carefully measured amounts.
When the truck gets to its destination the activator is added. The geopolymer concrete is then used exactly the same way as normal concrete.

This would also use waste industrial products.
Historically a lot of progress has been made when some inputs got expensive.
Without being hopelessly optimistic it seems that this is perhaps a soluble problem.
What do you think?

The only problem is that cement is very energy intensive to produce. It's my understanding that many cement plants run off natural gas or coal, and are less likely to have modern emission controls, although that may be more of a local observation here in Florida.

I did find this:

"In the United States, producing the roughly 80 million tons of cement used in 1992 required about 0.5 quadrillion KJ. This is roughly 0.6% of total U.S. energy use, a remarkable amount given the fact that in dollar value, cement represents only about 0.06% of the gross national product. Thus, cement production is approximately ten times as energy intensive as our economy in general. In some Third World countries, cement production accounts for as much as two-thirds of total energy use, according to the Worldwatch Institute. "

Apparently fly-ash cement is a lot less energy-intensive than conventional concrete:

Isn't that similar to what the Egyptians used.

I didn't know about the Egyptians, but it is certainly similar to that used by the Romans:
From my original link:

Professor Jannie van Deventer’s team at the University of Melbourne has found one. And surprisingly it’s chemically similar to a cement used by the ancient Romans.
Professor Janine van Deventer: The good properties of geopolymeric concrete are also present in the old Roman structures, so old roman concrete be made along similar lines in terms of the chemistry.
Narration: Over time the Roman knowledge was lost. The cement we know and use was invented in the 19th Century. The problem with it is its fundamental chemistry.

Or perhaps you are referring to Egypt under Roman rule?

Yes under Roman rule. Does Anyone get a feeling time is running in reverse we keep figuring out all these old ways are better than the new?

Depending upon what process is used (wet, dry, preheater or precalciner) the energy range can be enormous. The order presented in the previous sentence represents the highest to lowest energy usage. Generally, pulverized coal is used as the heat source as the ash can be incorporated into the clinker.

Wet process kilns generally have fallen out of favor because of the energy required to evaporate the water but the blending and homogenization of the principle constituents is alot easier. If you have a wet source of calcium (as is generally the case in Florida), you would probably use this since your raw material is wet to begin with. Enrgy requirements are typically anywhere from 5-9 million BTU per ton of clinker produced. The kilns are gnerally quite long (from 400 feet up to largest I've ever evaluated at 525 feet) and range in diameter from 12.5 feet up to 19.5 feet.

Dry process kilns are similar but the materials are homogenized in a dry state and introduced dry into the kiln. generally their energy requirement is anywhere from 4-7 million BTU ton of clinker.

Preheater kilns require a shorter kiln and preheat (with some small amount of calcination in a tower composed of a series of large refractory lined cyclones. The kilns are usually quite short (~200 feet) and energy requirements are lower 3-6 MMBTU/ton clinker.

Finally the precalciners use a "flameless burning" of pulverized coal in a pre-calciner stage (in the same type of preheater tower, usually between the thrid and fourth stage. As the name implies, the calcium carbonate that makes up the largest proprtion of the raw material feed is calcined to calcium oxide in this stage and the rest of the preheat tower is used to get the raw materials up to the proper temperature for the high temperature zone of the kiln.

All cement production follows the same process: drying (whether wet or dry), calcining the carbonate to the oxide form (converting CaCO3 to CaO), and then bringing the the mixture of calcium, alumina, silica and iron up to the proper temperature for the exothermic reaction to occur that gives cement its various strength properties. The calcining temperature requires a minimum of 1500 °F to start, the exothermic "liquid phase" reaction takes place only above 2400 °F. Depending upon the cement qualities desired, the clinker temperature will reach temperatures approaching 3200 °F before being discharged from the kiln to be flash cooled in a clinker cooler whose sole purpose is to drop the temperature below 1850 °F in 10 minutes or less (ortherwise you get very hard to grind clinker AND cement properties that make it fairly worthless due to various strength and expansion properties).

In making concrete, cement and other aggregates are combined (either in a central mix unit or in what is known as truck mix) in a precise mixture of water, cement, aggregates and a few additives. Recently, flyash has been used as both a filler for certain aggreagtes and because it has certain properties that enhance the concrete's final set properties. It requires extremely residual carbon content in the flyash. Western coals that produce a highly alkaline (read calcium) ahs have been preferred in the past but other flyash has been tested and approved. Substitution of between 15-30 percent of flyash for the cement and fine aggragte is not uncommon.

Some of the metals in the flyash present some challenges in the mixing operation (e.g., arsenic) but one incorporated into the matrix, seem to be isolated and non-leaching.

Thanks for the info.
Do you feel that this is good enough and cheap enough to keep the road system in fair repair with asphalt in short supply?

Concrete, if done right, can last a very long time. There are section of I-85 along the VA/NC line that are the original concrete poured in 1965. It's getting pretty beat up now and is scheduled for replacement, but I cannot think of a single asphalt road that has held up that well. There were section of I-95 near Richmond that have recently been repaired (paved with asphalt) that were the original concrete from 45 years ago.

I will note that there are two tricky aspects to asphalt that make it less durable. First, the wide range of temperatures it has to endure and flex with. By it's nature, even though it sets with cooling, it still flexes much more than concrete. Any asphalt is a compromise over a range of temperatures. You can't take asphalt used in central NC and use it Minnesota (well, maybe you can with global warming) or visa versa. Similarly, you have some control over the degree of flex by the amount of fines you put in the asphalt paving material.

Top coat asphalt always has a certain percentage of fines but if your asphalt (binder) is properly formulated for the region and the temperature characteristics, too many fines allows the asphalt paving to flex too much. That rippling effect that you sometimes see at traffic lights is caused by too many fines, too much asphalt or improperly formulated asphalt (or some combination). It also takes much more road bed preparation.

It's also more difficult to recycle concrete compared to recycling asphalt paving materials (though the practical limit is about 35% recycle). And asphalt, as the bottoms of the distillation and cracking process is, essentially, a waste byproduct of petroleum processing. I haven't checked the price recently, but the wholesale price of aspahlt was far below the cost of oil. As more and more refiners install coker units, less and less of this material will be available and the supply and demand pressures will force the price up in addition to the underlying cost of oil.

Current prices taken from RS Means Cost Estimate Book:
8" Stone Base @ 15.90 SY
2" Binder Course (asphalt) @ 7.30 SY
1.5" Wearing Course @ 6.20 SY
7" Unreinforced @ 34.50 SY
+ welded wire reinforcement @ 4.21 SY
So the prices are close now (keep in mind asphalt has been much cheaper in up front costs for a very long time). This isn't perfect by any stretch either, both need some compaction for the subbase which is not included, and asphalt needs more base prep than concrete. WW is a pretty sorry excuse for steel reinforcement, but the only purpose of that is to keep pieces from doesn't make the concrete stronger...but I digress...

We need road surface materials that last longer. What are the prospects for this?

Quarried granite setts

They pave Felicity Street 2 blocks away from my home.

Best Hopes for Mature Technology,


This has crossed my mind too. I've never been to Australia and New Zealand, and it seems like I'd better plan my vacation soon if I ever want to see those places ever in my lifetime.

Up unitl the 1970's most people coming to Aus/NZ arrived by boat. Many refugees from Asia still arrived the same way until 2001 when the government got tough. I think this will revive in the future. Just catch an empty coal freighter coming back.

Hi Termoil,

Some relatives of mine emigrated from the Uk to Aus in the 60s under the £10 passage scheme and they were one of the first to go by air rather than by boat. This was at a time before air travel was common (in Europe anyway) and package holidays had not yet been invented, so it was a double adventure!

It's supposed to be winter here in Australia but last weekend I went for avery pleasant bike ride in shorts and T-Shirt and I actually got quite hot. Ilive at the foot of the Snowy Mountains so not the hot dry top end. Anecdotally it's scary stuff. Don't pack too many woolys for your daughter.

Strangely enough my first time skiing was in the Snowy mountains in June or July, I don't think many Europeans would be able to claim this and some find it difficult to believe that Australia even has snow. Maybe similar to Australians who think it rains more in London than Sydney!

"Don't pack too many woolys" ROTFLOL she's not a woolys person and doesn't take any advice from me, least of all on what to wear:-)

If things get really hairy, she could stay there...

It's a pretty common thing for British tourists to stay.

I find it terribly depressing when people who actually understand why flying is becoming socially unacceptable decide to maximise flights 'while they still can'. Surely our ethics shouldn't just be based on what others think?

I suppose I shouldn't get bent up about it since the airlines will be going bankrupt before long, but it does get to me..

Hi Shaunus4,

I understand what you are saying but i am certainly not maximising my flights by a very large measure. This year I am taking no flights for holidays, same as last year. I commute to work by public transport despite it taking twice as long as by car and having a dedicated parking place and drive far fewer miles than the "average Joe".

That's a good point about how public services may be withdrawn from rural areas making driving even more necessary-- until perhaps later in the decline of energy resources: if agriculture becomes more labor-intensive again, population density in rural areas MIGHT increase.

But for now, with tight public budgets and increasing costs, I think even urban service providers get stuck with more driving, paradoxically. I have worked for the last 10 years in IT services for nonprofit social services, e.g. preventing domestic violence and so on. As the government portion of our funding dries up (partly due to increased costs for other things like road paving I'm sure, but also due to anti-government attitudes) nonprofit services have been consolidating across larger and larger geographic regions to save administrative costs (read: salaries, by having one person do what two or three used to do). And the result is that even though I always select an agency very near to my home so I can bicycle commute or use transit (I live in a central city area), I have to keep my car and find myself unexpectedly driving to remote sites 20, 30, 40 miles away to support them.

Of course since I am in information technology, I have implemented extreme amounts of remote control technologies so I can do most of my work from the central office. But as companies and agencies experience higher fuel/materials costs and balance budgets through mergers, other types of workers such as building maintenance people will actually get stuck driving more, against their will, because there's no way to telecommute to fix a boiler or a toilet, and companies can either not raise their mileage reimbursement to match gas prices or, they can still accurately say that salaries for a staff person at each location are still more expensive than mileage is. Of course, in the short term, even workers like me who COULD telecommute to meetings or do remote repairs will sometimes get stuck driving because our bosses will say that "meetings are better face to face." This particular cultural expectation is fading, but slowly I think.

It's interesting: For now, the fact that even low-paid jobs like admin assistant expect "reliable transportation" (read: car) for employees to do work-related business with, is a non-issue. This is because almost everybody has a car already, so there are few people who, like me, have arranged their lives around bus and bicycle and get annoyed at employers expecting them to purchase 5-figure capital equipment for them. But in the future, I expect that the current employer expectation that employees purchase and maintain cars for use in business, and accept mileage reimbursement that may not keep pace with inflation, will become more of a bone of contention.

Change in employer expectations will probably not come until they start finding it difficult or impossible to fill vacancies with employees that can meet their expectations. Some bosses are probably pig headed enough to shut down their companies rather than to adjust their expectations to reality, but most will eventually have to change. It is going to be hard on workers, though, until the paradigm has completed its shift.

I'm not sure about the outcome of this one.

I think that for the low pay range whats going to happen is that people without cars may offer to take a lower wage in order to work. So the employer may actually accept them faster than we think. Also of course once its more prevalent a employer but will become more common going to the nearest train station.

However I don't expect any flexibility for the higher wage scales. So the above only applies to the lowest payed positions say less than twice minimum wage.

Company Boarding houses during the week?

Corporatism will move closer to feudalism, where the serfs actually live next to the lord's manor or castle, or in barracks. And the CEO (king) actually takes more responsibility for his subjects (employees) wellbeing.

Eventually, we may even be back to historical feudalism, with everyone serving a small community run by a Big Man.

a 'doomer' might predict a fast crash scenario with society rebuilt as co-housing on steroids, somewhere japanese fiefdoms and somali warlords.

first world goes third world.

I don't think so or at least not anytime soon.

The poor work force esp if it opts to take a pay cut in exchanged for transportation support should actually do ok.
Overall if they plant a garden they may come out better off than they are now.

Most poor people live to operate a car pay rent eat and drink beer and smoke pot.
Don't slam me for this broad statement my point is the lifestyle is generally pretty simple
any expenses and credit etc keeps them deep in debt. By removing the car expense in exchange for a slight wage cut
these people will probably come out with a lot better overall.

You can imagine from this graph that once oil passes 300 a barrel these poor regions simply cannot support people driving.

However its also obvious that the rest of the country can continue to use oil until its a lot higher.

A simple calculation is 16/2 = 8 so a eightfold increase in oil prices is needed to get the rest of the country even to the same percentage level.

130*8 = 1040 dollar a barrel.

I've post this many times that we won't see problems until oil is 600-800 a barrel and we don't have anything really preventing it from going to that level once supplies are more constrained. Given nothing stopping a rise to this level we could see it as early is 2009-2010. I happen to think closer to 300 a barrel for 2009 is probably realistic but we will see.

I think this post explains perfectly why I'm saying this. The bottom line is a lot of people in the world can afford it.
Until they can't the price will increase dramatically. Sure this takes out the weakest areas of the US and the effectively become third world but thats to be expected.

I can afford to pay 20 dollars a gallon for gasoline no problem and I'm not super wealthy just upper middle class.
Over ten dollars a gallon I might think about cutting my consumption some but not really. Almost everyone with a decent income can reorganize debt if need be and pay these sorts of prices its not impossible.

Look at Europe.

I don't think that the scenario you draw makes enough allowance for the knock on effects of industries and whole groups of people effectively being removed from the system.
For instance, the civil aviation industry will go down the tubes.
Sure, some if the slack will be taken up by the wind-turbine industry, but not quickly enough to prevent one heck of a depression, and it is not the only industry which will be very hard hit, long distance tourism is another example. Each of those areas which are in severe trouble will have knock-on effects reducing the market for those industries which are not so directly affected.
To take a lead example, let's look at Hawaii.
Now a lot of people in the groups that you say are not at great risk live there, people who could easily afford $20/gallon gas.
But how many of them would keep their jobs and income with oil at only $200/barrel?
This would kill the tourist industry there, and the housing market and new builds.
Any of those middle classes such as architects, builders, hotel managers etc will find themselves out of a job or with greatly reduced income.
In turn this would reduce revenues enough so that whole swathes of government employees would be at risk.
And who is going to be able to pay for expensive doctors then?
The damage to those middle classes then further reduces demand, in a cycle.
We might pay high petrol prices in Europe but most of it is tax, which is recycled within the country.
I feel that demand destruction will be a lot more powerful than you have allowed for, and so prices for oil will not shoot up so much, but relative to the new reduced income they will still be expensive.

Well I've said a few times that the American Middle class is toast. But this does not mean that people will quit working they will do whatever they have to to survive. The value of most of the stuff we have built the last 50 years housing industries etc effectively goes to zero. But you still need to eat and you still need to get to work to make money to eat. It will be a third world living for many but just like the third world you still will have a lot of people with decent incomes.

Money concentration never stops.

The difference in the two scenarios is that no-one ends up paying $20/gallon for gas, not for a while anyway.
The economy is toast way before that, and the same effect is obtained by those who used to be able to afford gas at $20/ gallon now having reduced income and getting the same hit with gas at $10/gallon.
The demand destruction is constant, save that the oil producers are also hit as the prices for their product do not go to the same level as their customers are now too impoverished.
Over a slightly longer time frame less oil would be produced as very expensive plays would not be affordable as they would if the world economy had not imploded.

I think you over estimate your own ability to earn income at the same level with continuing deepening of economic problems. There are some very, very high flyers that have come unstuck with the credit crunch and this will be seen as a minor precursor to the building oil shock. Oil is the foundations,the floors walls and roof of many industries that just didn't exist before the oil age, and they will not survive very long when the price moves way outside the assumed cost window. Look at the protests from European truckers and fisherman. They arebascially saying they are unprofitable now. If too many fisherman go out of business, there will be shortages of seafood. That trickles down to seafood restuarants and all the distribution chain which reduces the economic activity. When this is happening to every industry simultaneously, there will be a massive and rapid contraction of the economy and nobody will be spared.

Oil production obviously cannot consume 100 percent of the world's income. My intuitive, uninformed guess is that it cannot go above 15 percent. If we see oil at $300 per barrel, we will be looking out over the smoldering ruins of the world's economy

I'm sorry memmel,you usually have some interesting and knowledgeable posts but on this one you are off the track and that would appear to be typical of a lot of the wealthier classes.Because they personally are coping(I'm alright Jack)and anticipate,rightly or wrongly that they will continue doing so, they don't seem to be able to see the bigger picture - ie. tunnel vision.There appears to be a lack of empathy as well.

Because of the flow-on effects, $300/barrel oil will see drastic changes for everybody,rich or poor.

I think you have misinterpreted what memmel said.
I disagree with him, as I posted above, but he is far from saying that he will be OK. If you look carefully at his statements, he is arguing that oil will rise geometrically, so that it will soon be out of his reach too, after a short delay.
In fact, elsewhere he argues that the middle class will be impoverished and that only the very rich will get through.
I think he overestimates how well the economy will hold up, but the dispute is a technical one and in no way implies any lack of empathy on memmel's part.

Point taken.Thanks.

Well I did not go into details but I drive like 4,000 miles a year. My point about 20 dollar a gallon gas was I've changed my lifestyle such that its something I could handle. Assume 20 miles to the gallon thats 200 gallons or 4,000 dollars a year.

I don't really have to drive this much and if gasoline got more expensive I could probably half this.

You can take other scenarios lets say you live on a farm and go into town 20 miles away once a week. Thats about 2,000 miles twice a week would be 4,000 miles lets double this and say you do 10,000 miles a year thats 500 gallons of gasoline at 20 dollars a gallon thats 10,000 dollars. Just to keep things simple its 1,000 dollars a month for gasoline.

Thats a non trivial expense but well within the economic capability of someone making say 60,000 plus.

Look Europe already has 10 dollar a gallon gasoline and its doing well with it. As it approaches 20 dollars a gallon you can certainly cut your usage a lot but it something a lot of people could deal with. Also of course I'd have to think that corner stores would be brought back well before such prices where reached and bigger shopping areas would either have easy rail access o r at least trolley access.

Given that a lot of other people would not want to spend this much of their income on gasoline you would have to think the government would be forced to beef up electric rail.

But the point I'm trying to make is that gasoline demand is robust up to 20 dollars a gallon. Past this and even for me the benefits vs the cost start not making a lot of sense. Its my personal pain threshold given my current income and a fairly low gasoline usage lifestyle.

I'm a computer programmer so I can work at home but I suspect a lot of people can figure out how to change their lifestyle carpooling taking trains etc to get a gasoline usage footprint down below 500 gallons a year.

I could do a lot of things get a small moped for some trips ride a bike etc. But thats not my point my point is my demand for gasoline would remain strong as long as I have something close to my current income up to 20 dollars a gallon. Thats my personal rubicon. Now I'd be making real sacrifices in exchange for gasoline at that point I'm not saying it would be trivial but its doable.

So lets look backwards from 20 dollars a gallon to today at 4 dollars a gallon and along this path we see a lot of gasoline consumption is similarly sticky at 10 dollars a gallon for someone making 50k a year and using 500 gallons its 10% of gross income. Maybe 15% of net income. They can certainly do some more conservation shave say 100 gallons off without massive lifestyle changes etc.

But you can see that people can afford much higher gasoline prices then they think they can.

Now back to the middle class. No way you can do the big house in suburbia with house prices even close to todays and the SUV.
So the American middle class lifestyle is hosed. The above equations only work out if you give up on suburban middle class living. This means moving to a much smaller cheaper house and a more fuel efficient car and probably carpooling or taking the train or only working a four day week or working at home 2 days a week etc.

So just because the numbers work for me does not mean they work for everybody but on the other hand once you remove suburban living and the waste of large cars the remaining economy is robust to very high gasoline prices. You would in general be living a lifestyle closer to lower middle class but at that point you can endure these high prices.

The death of the American middle class and suburbia is not the end of the world. And as you can see even if it does die demand for gasoline remains robust up to the point of 20 dollars a gallon where price demand and alternatives including lifestyle changes work.

Nothing impedes demand from gasoline from remaining strong until this price point is reached. There are plenty of potential consumers for what ever gasoline is available up to this price. As you go over it then it begins to simply not be worth it.

I realize that this is a lot higher then most people believe but feel free to do the calculations for yourself.
If need be assume you go bankrupt to eliminate all debt and next assume your salary is 33% of its current to account for economic slow down. I think many will find they could still buy the several hundred gallons of gasoline a year even after such events.

Can you keep the House at its current value and the SUV no.

The big SUV is gone thats easy and housing costs would have to drop inline with the loss of disposable income to gasoline and a poor job situation.

Housing is the big loser since its the one cost that can be substituted readily.
The net result is demand for far flung suburban housing drops effectively to zero along with the value.

Look at it this way.

Lets assume you pay 250 dollars a month for gasoline and the price doubles so you pay 500 a month.
This has to come off your house value for the most part although some can come from cutting other expenses.

Its about 500 a month for every 100k of a loan so 250 a month means housing values would have to drop 50k to compensate
for the income loss you also need to assume some serious food inflation etc.

So you can see that what happens is gasoline gets more expensive is that the value of far flung suburbia rapidly approaches zero.
This implies destruction of the suburban middle class lifestyle with demand for gasoline remaining robust well past levels most people would believe. I think people are wrong in assuming that demand for gasoline will drop enough to result in price decreases instead people will just walk away from their homes. You have to eat and have to work and you don't have to have the suburban house and SUV.

As far as prices go most people would be looking for housing less that 200k and many could not afford over 100k.

Effectively the same on the rent side 500-1,000 a month for rents makes sense. For middle America with lower salaries you would half these numbers. Anyhow the place that Americans can cut drastically is in housing and of course get rid of the SUV.
So this is where they will cut.


Thanks for thinking out loud. Seems that not too many appreciated or even understood what you just wrote. Back of envelope calculations along the lines you describe but using my own numbers are sobering.

An additional issue -- an obvious one -- is that every product and service one can imagine and that one takes for granted will go up at a rate similar to the increased costs of driving. If your guess that 15% of income is a breakpoint for how much is affordable before the pain forces changes, that point will be hit with the higher overall cost of living before its hit with the costs necessary just to keep driving.

Car costs are very immediate so a lot of opinions here address the problem of personal transportation. Not much discussion of the general costs needed to keep present lifestyle, which is dependent on energy at every turn.

When gasoline hits $20 in the USA, everything a person buys will be affected in a major way. Those costs are hard to estimate but will be real and significant. I keep thinking of what will happen to the price of a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs.

Well for eggs and bread I suspect local farming will pick up in conjunction of course with land prices spiraling downward.
Once we get down to average prices around 500 a acre then intensive farming of marginal land near the cities makes sense again.

So far it seems like food prices are doubling pretty much with oil but I think thats because they have been depressed for a long time so I'd expect the rise in prices for basic foodstuffs to slow. Highly processed food will probably simply disappear. This is not a bad thing. But this means people will have to spend a lot more time cooking. For the dual income families stretching it to the limit at work trying to make ends meet trying to cook real meals is a pretty heavy time burden.

We may find that the stress and resulting divorces that generally lead to bankruptcy and foreclosure is going to be a huge issue over the next few years. A lot of families esp ones that followed the keeping up with the Jones's lifestyle will fall apart.

This says they where low in 2007.
I suspect that this trend will reverse sharply.

In any case in general divorce will put a lot more people over this 15% threshold even if rates do not increase.
A lot of people are living at over 100% of a dual income. Also of course the obvious is they have to increase prices
as peoples purchasing power drops.

But again the key point is it does not seem like gasoline demand will drop instead housing and land etc is where almost all the losses for peak oil will be.

Although Alan's concepts are right on for the way to live without oil the truth is this means the value of Americas housing stock and land will decrease substantially inline with the purchasing power and needs of this way of living.

For example I'm pretty sure you can basically take 50k off the value of every single house in America when gasoline hits 10 dollars a gallon and thats conservative. Thats equivalent to 5,000 gallons at ten dollars a gallon.

Keeping it simple assume 500 gallons a year thats 10 years worth of gasoline.
Also keep in mind losses in Boats, RVs, SUV's unemployment etc.

The side effect of crashing property values as suburbia implodes dwarfs the direct loss
from higher gasoline prices. Next of course we are coming out of the biggest housing bubble
in history which is imploding given that high gasoline prices even todays are a strong force
pushing housing prices down and given that in a lot of areas housing was 50% overvalued.

And finally given that lowering housing costs is the easiest way out of peak oil esp if your underwater
on a loan and you can see why the Iron triangle is scared to death of high gasoline prices.

The death of suburbia takes us back almost 70 years in valuations for property. Its what
has to happen to get to Alans electric rail but hopefully you can see that its going
to be one hell of a ride.

One more time we have leveraged cheap gasoline into over valuation of most of the real estate in the US by
in my opinion 100->1000 times its true worth to a non-oil/expensive oil based society.

Unwinding a 100:1 leverage scenario is a bitch.
The 1000:1 cases which occur in California unthinkable.

Best hopes for that 100:1 unwinding.

Mike :)

Anyone worried about the price of a loaf of bread needs to get a breadmaker. They are not very expensive, they make bread baking a snap (only takes me about 5 minutes to gather and mix all the ingredients), and the cost per loaf is only a small fraction of store-bought. An additional advantage is that wheat flour is not nearly as perishable as store-bought bread, so it can be bought in bulk and stored. You could even go one step further and buy wheat in bulk, store it, and grind it in a small grain mill.

As for eggs, the obvious answer is to keep chickens if you can. Unless you are in the country or live in a town with very lax law enforcement, I'd recommend NOT being the first in your neighborhood to have a rooster. However, you don't need a rooster if you just replace your hens when they stop laying. You can probably keep 3 or 4 hens, and keep them reasonably concealed enough, that nobody should notice. Unless you live in a town where you have an over-zealous code enforcement gestapo, you should be able to get away with that - especially if all of your neighbors are doing likewise.

If you absolutely can't keep chickens, then don't worry: there will be plenty of other people around who do, and anyone that has more than just a couple of hens will soon enough have a surplus to sell or barter.

While many people will certainly want to bail out of their suburban house and relocate closer to work, that is the problem: MANY people will want to. Excess of homes for sale in the suburbs means that many of those that would like to sell won't be able to. Similarly, an excess of buyers for housing closer in means that many of those who would like to buy won't be able to.

More likely, what will happen is that people who are not able to make mass transit or carpooling work will have to go to weekly commutes, and find some way to sleep and eat cheap near their workplaces. Being away from home for a week or more at a time is tough, but you do what you have to do. I've had to do it, my wife has had to do it, and I'll bet a lot of the people here on TOD have had to do it, especially the oil patch guys.

Well the boarding house or dormitory solves the problem of getting to work on time, but "reliable transportation" also refers to making business trips during the workday. Commuting isn't a reimbursable expense.

There is a way that job related auto travel can be handled now: get the manager to approve renting (not leasing, renting) an auto for the trip. After a while, the manager would get lazy and give blanket pre-approval for such charges on an expense claim. If this happens for several departments within the company, accounting will insist on setting up a blanket order with a preferred auto rental company, and this way of operating will become 'company policy'.

Some employers already have company owned vehicles that are used for employee business trips. The University of California is one such employer. At least it had them when I worked there about 20 years ago.

But the future surely does involve far less travel by individuals in single vehicles. This is just a way to use during the transition.

This is how some companies already put up workers in remote areas - oil platforms, mines and places such as Fort McMurray. It just means that we are going to redefine what is meant by remote, perhaps?

The problem may be a bit more complex. When I wrote about Botswana back in March, I commented that they had problems with the introduction of solar panels to provide power in rural communities. In talking with some of the folk that were familiar with the project they commented that it was very difficult to get the maintenance staff, who were based in the main cities, out into the rural communities to do the repairs and maintenance. This is even though, in relative terms, these are better off individuals, given the options they would prefer not to spend a lot of time traveling, Of course we too are now putting solar farms and wind farms out in the country, and they will need to be maintained . . . .

HO, you've just raised a huge issue. There is a lot to be said about relying only on simple technology that you can maintain and repair yourself. As it becomes prohibitively expensive for technicians and repair people to come out to you, or for you to take equipment in to be repaired, having equipment that you (or someone likely to have the necessary skills living right in your neighborhood) cannot repair is going to cease to be a viable option. As stuff breaks down and remains unrepaired because nobody can afford what it takes to get it repaired, complex technologies are going to be increasingly abandoned by ordinary people.

This implies that one should take this into consideration when buying anything from here on out. Can you repair it yourself, or can you learn to repair it yourself? If not, is there likely to be someone in your local community that can do the repair? If not, then that is probably a technology that you need to consider figuring out how to do without.

Here's a read for everyone who lives in a suburban or exurban metro.

"Oklahoma's painful car culture"

By Lara Moscrip, contributing writer
Last Updated: June 12, 2008: 7:28 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- For many people in Oklahoma, life is built around the car.

With several refineries in the region, years of cheap fuel have made it possible for many people to live far from their jobs.

Now the situation is unraveling.

Read more here


I note that in the study cited in the article, my city ranks 37/ surprise. If they ranked in "awareness of the problem," I'm sure we'd be dead last.

I also noted that Los Angeles is ranked 12th! Makes me rather suspicious of the methodology.

Worse yet, Atlanta is #15! The flaw in the methodology, I think, is using cities rather than metro areas. The City of Atlanta is quite small geographically and population-wise, but the metro is huge. The City and other areas inside the I-285 perimeter highway have rail transit and an extensive bus system; most of the rest of the metro area is highly car-dependent. From Wikipedia:

As of July 2006, the city of Atlanta had a population of 486,411 and a metropolitan population of 5,138,223.

One way to reduce the need for road maintenance it to treat them gently. Damage to roads goes at roughly the 4th power of the axle weight.
Banning trucks on roads that do not have specific tolls to compensate for the damage they do should keep paving budgets within reason. Shifting to lighter passenger vehicles should do even more.


Excellent point, Chris.

States don't have to wait for feds to penalize gas-guzzlers as they already have the authority to impose fees on vehicles by weight to compensate for the additional damage they cause.

That's right, not only are the gas-hogs driving up gasoline costs for the rest of us but they also don't pay for the extra damage their obese vehicles cause to the roads.

Most elected officials drive gas-hogs so they prefer it that way.

This would be a good idea if it only applied to gas-guzzlers.

Unfortunately, the heaviest vehicles are 18-wheeler trucks, and truckers are both the people who can least afford a toll on driving, (high costs put them out of business) and the people who are most likely to go on stike in protest (look at Spain/Portuagal and the strike here in the UK). A mass strike by truckers could cripple the economy for days and send petrol/gas prices through the roof, which would put more truckers out of business, leading to a vicious circle.

It's about the only thing I can think of that would lead to a doomerish civilisation collapse society - truckers causing mass strikes and rioting about prices.

That is not a good thing.

Actually, one of the reasons that rail is not used more sensibly is that roads are provided at a huge discount to trucks. Axle weight tolls could even things up a little. Running the heavy stuff on iron rails rather than soft asphalt would make much more sense if not for the market distortion that the free roads cause. We might reduce fuel consumption by 10% or more by switching to rail and bring the price of oil way down.


I disagree about it bringing down the price of oil. To build out the rail infrastructure would take ten years at least.
And this is just removing part of one use case for oil which is long distance trucking.

Next of course we have to figure that we won't do it until its to late. I mean we don't have the plans drawn up right now to expand rail so from the day they start even if its a crash project your at least a year and probably more to ramp up. To get through the red tape of getting rail out would require very high fuel prices.

I've seen nothing in any assumptions that people make about switching off of oil that results in the price of oil falling.

You can figure out that it won't go much higher than 20 dollars a gallon but between that point and now you have plenty of demand for oil and oil products.

I'm not saying we won't build out the rail overtime and that it won't result in lower fuel usage just that by the time we do it it will because price and supply of diesel for transportation is such a issue that it makes economic sense to move to rail.

Look we have seen some demand contraction in the US my opinion is that is related to the collapsing housing bubble but it sure has not resulted in lower prices. The bottom line is demand will effectively remain robust always for oil and oil products the only change is that it will get so expensive that substitution is possible.

The huge difference between substitution that I'm talking about and traditional economic substitution causing prices to drop is for a critical need like oil it only happens after the price is too high to make economic sense.

For example SUV's no longer make any economic sense whatever sales should be practically zero. They are dropping for sure but sales volume is still quite high given that the economics of a new SUV are senseless by any metric. So you can see how you have
a big lag between when substitution should happen based on common sense and when it does happen. This lag is what keeps prices from dropping as constrained supply forces more and more substitution.

Oil will never be cheap again. About the only thing that could result in oil finally not being a major factor besides just plain running out is if we developed some seriously good electric storage devices with energy densities per weight/volume similar to oil.

To build out the rail infrastructure would take ten years at least

If Alberta Tar Sands efforts were made (i.e. Maximum Commercial Urgency), we could electrify the 33,000 miles of main lines and expand speed and capacity enough to take 50+% of truck ton-miles in six years, not ten years.

And even after 4 years, the results would be significant.

Best hopes for Not Underestimating what can be done,


Alan I don't disagree with you. But realistically given we have not even gotten to the point of a mandate to do a massive electric rail program I think your being way to optimistic. I'm not saying we won't do it but I'm just saying that by the time we do it that it won't result in low oil prices.

Also your completely ignoring the effect of a move back to rail on land and housing prices. Not that your not right about what has to happen but obviously anything thats not near a frequented rail line or trolley access is going to drop dramatically in value.

This is something like 50% or more of the US housing stock losing most of its value. Sure we will have a return of city centers and local stores etc. This is the end of the American middle class as we know it.

Its not that we can't change we will but given the implications you would have to imagine putting in the rail lines and trolley lines will be politically heated even once we decide to do it. This is the same as when we put the rail in in the first places the towns that where bypassed dried up and died. Or back when the interstate system was put in.

The economic impact of expanding a new rail system will be pretty large. Just the example your giving would result in thousands of truckers losing there jobs along with the truck stops and related industries. Its a whole large industry thats going to be eliminated.

And trains simply don't require near the number of people to operate or support vs the trucking industry.
Its not that your not right just that your not thinking through the implications of even doing the right thing.

You need to seriously think about the impact of your proposals.

I think your the one underestimating what your suggesting by a lot.

This is why we should have converted a looong time ago and done it gradually. Now I'm pretty sure we won't rush like your saying and it will be to little to late for a long time and we will only switch to rail after we have been forced. A fast change has just as large a economic impact as no change at all. In fact I'd argue its more damaging than letting the oil based society fall apart and then bringing the electric rail in once people have already started to relocate.

They can readily handle high oil prices without electric rail simply by changing their lifestyles to one similar to what your proposing for electric transport. So given all this a forced life style change to lower oil consumption followed by popular demand for electric rail makes a lot more sense than trying to push it through while prices for far flung suburban homes is high.

We live in a society where neither the general public nor their business or political leaders have given any regard of the future. The discount rate is effectively zero after 30 years or so, as far as most Americans are concerned. Future generations don't matter, they can deal with their own future. That's the way it has been for at least a half century now, and arguably since the first European settlements were established.

Well, guess what? The future is now. The bills are coming due, the chickens are coming home to roost - name your cliche, we're there. It is going to hurt big time, but it can't be helped. The time when it could have been helped is long, long ago.

Someone (Pogo, maybe?) once made some wise crack about Americans demanding results and getting consequences. Well, consequences are what we are about to get.

We don't even have to electrify at first. Lower rolling friction, lower air drag and fewer stops and starts make trains more efficient and so they reduce fuel use. Modular methods make the transition fairly quick. There is some very heavy advertizing going on in the DC area for freight trains as a solution to high fuel costs. It may have some effect.


I agree I'm not saying that rail won't grow substantially over the next years. In the US unfortunately it will probably be diesel first with electric coming much later but this is a lot better than trucking. But my point is that rail esp freight rail will grow pretty much as needed by economic factors for all the reason I listed in my first post its political suicide to push it through as some sort of Manhattan project.

The sad thing is that the middle class is in a catch 22 by hanging on desperately to their lifestyles they will lose and probably have a poorer existence. By aggressively switching to electric rail they would lose big in the short term but win in the long term as a trolley suburbia version of middle class life is possible and quite nice actually.

I live in an 1834-1850 streetcar suburb of New Orleans, the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. And it is quite nice :-)

Best Hopes for Transit Suburbs,


I agree New Orleans I think because of its culture is a special town and I think the way the US pretty much turned its back on it after Katrina has only strengthened the city.

I'll admit I dismissed it because of the Hurricane threat but I've had to rethink and realize that its the people that matter not the location of a town. I do hope the city takes control and responsibility for its levee's away from the US government.
Although its a huge expense I think that if it does and continues to work on its rail it will do well.

I suspect if New Orleans can rest control of the levee system from the feds the city would have no problem giving the feds the big virtual finger :)

"a trolley suburbia version of middle class life is possible and quite nice actually."

The trolley version of suburbia was in fact the enabling version of suburbia. re: "A streetcar named desire".

There are rubber wheeled electric bus versions of streetcars readily available also, thus for infrastructure all that is needed really are the overhead wires.

In an emergency situation I bet the suburbs will be retrofitted with buslike streetcar systems in less than a couple of years.

In the interrim, it's quite possible to retrofit smaller 12-seater buses to all electric and do point to point trips for transit.

The suburbs are not dead, they're going to go through a heavy, heavy painful period of re-adjustment.

Density and existing diesel bus lines will help determine this. Normally, where ridership is highest already is where bus lines will be electrified (or replaced with streetcars). Cul de sacs are hard to service w/o cars. And many Suburbanites are "Drive or Starve". Without a car, they cannot out food on the table, even with food stamps in hand.

Suburbs will not empty 100%, but they can, and will, shrink dramatically with wide swaths abandoned.

I see less chance of a collective response in Suburbia, due to the social isolation endemic there. More likely a "every man for himself" response in most, but not all, cases.

Best Hopes,


Most freight needs to go by rail. Trucks should only be for transport of freight from factory to nearest rail terminal, or from rail terminals to local businesses. Anything else is lunacy and is certainly unsustainable. It is going to have to happen, and that is going to be bad news for truckers. Sorry, but it must be.

One way to change the behavior of elected officials is to change the officials. Voting green, for example, might reduce the size of vehicles at the statehouse.



In the UK the annual vehicle tax for commercial vehicles (trucks) is based on a combination of weight and number of axles with seven bands. The maximum weight limit is 44,000kg.

For cars the tax is based on CO2 emissions so in general the heavier (larger) the car the more it emits and so the more it costs.

A development waiting to happen: The artists, craftspersons, and small entrepreneurs that frequent these various arts & crafts fairs, etc., need to work out some sort of exchange whereby the local people sell at their local fairs, and carry the goods of more distant people, which are shipped to them on consignment. Surely this will happen soon, and is probably a good business opportunity for people that can facilitate this type of business arrangement.

As for road repairs, I've mentioned this before: I think we are going to soon start seeing lanes of interstate highways more or less permanently closed off, as funding remains unavailable to complete repairs. If states can't keep all four lanes open, they'll just cut it down to two lanes. This will spread, and be the first step in what will become the catabolic collapse and eventual abandonment of the interstate highway system. More effort will be put into keeping the older US and state highways at least minimally passable. In most cases, there is one of these running paralel to the interstates, and will eventually become the better route to take.

Education might actually evolve into more of a hybrid approach, being a combination of home schooling, neighborhood co-ops, and internet distance learning in the early years, with more centralized boarding schools for the last few years. These latter institutions might be needed for science labs and other specialized facilities, and will only be for those students who are smart enough to really be able to benefit from them. For the rest, there will be mostly apprenticeships and OJT, supplemented with maybe a little local schooling.

As for transport, I suspect that what will evolve is something of a variant on the airline's hub-and-spoke model. Intercity travel will be served by passenger trains, or airlines for longer distances. Transport between city hubs and outlying suburbs, exurbs, and small towns will be by a network of commuter rail lines or interurbans. Transport from neighborhoods to these mass transit nodes will be by some form of shuttle bus. People will have to walk or bike or ride a horse or - if they are far away and lucky enough to afford it - take an NEV (their own or a taxi) to pick up the nearest shuttle bus. I don't know what people do who are so remote that it is 80 or 100 miles or so to the nearest town; they had better be pretty self-sufficient, and maybe make a trip by horse a couple of times per year into town - or grow enough oilseeds to make their own biodiesel to fuel a pickup truck.

In regards to highways, you likely see pressure from FHWA to ensure that the Interstates are maintained in a good condition. Perhaps more of the federal gas tax will be allocated from preservation and less for 'modernization' projects. As these tend to be newer, they should be in better condition than the older US and state highways (yes, there are exceptions).

At the state level, it'll depend on each state. States that share the state gas tax with cities and counties may revise the percent that goes to them. Perhaps they will keep the entire state gas tax for their own projects, especially if they are unable to raise the tax.

The ones that'll be hit hardest are likely the counties, unless they already have a gas tax in place, especially larger rural counties in the west that have a large number of lane miles for a small population.

Public transport is not an easy answer, as the cost that will be hardest for many jurisdictions is the on-going operating cost.


The importance of local communities, whether in a more rural area or in a city, should not be underestimated. While orders can travel by wire, real goods don't travel down your internet connection quite as well. Will far-flung (and affordable) delivery be available? Of course, I write this after just buying a gift on and thus bypassing the local bookseller and the shipper.

The psychological impact of the automobile on America is an interesting subject, including the rural liberation you mentioned as well as the adventure aspect a la Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Also, in the US anyway, the Jeep is a horse.


In both Scotland and Sweden I have used bus drivers to pick up packages in one town and bring it to me in another - admittedly though this was about 40-years ago, but at the time it was quite widespread, and I was just following along with local custom. The bus ran twice a day - once in each direction. (And I think in the Scottish case it still does).

Such a system piggy backing on the bus services is still running in Sweden and I guess they today have a lot of internet business shipping.

The Scottish Highlands still retain a postbus service (people carried by the regular postal service) and vice versa, some parts of the Republic of Ireland have buses that carry parcels.

Isn't this called a postal service?

i have read that years ago in the UK there were several collections and deliveries daily, so perhaps this might happen in the future?

Assuming we can make the transition to all long-distance freight:

You place the order, it is picked and packaged at a warehouse, it is loaded on to an electric or biodiesel truck or horse-drawn cart or whatever, taken to the nearest rail depot, hauled by train to a rail depot near you, and loaded on to a truck or cart to be delivered to your post office box, or maybe even your home.

You walk to your local bookstore, they place the order, it is picked and packaged at a warehouse, it is loaded on to an electric or biodiesel truck or horse-drawn cart or whatever, taken to the nearest rail depot, hauled by train to a rail depot near you, and loaded on to a truck or cart to be delivered to your bookstore. You then walk back to pick the book up.

Except for that last step of home delivery, the amount of energy used in transporting the book would be just about the same. Thus, if the local bookstore wants your business, they are going to have to offer something of greater value. Maybe a guaranteed buyback policy at some percentage of the price paid, if in good condition?

In the upper midwest of America, climate change is taking an awful toll on highway surfaces. 40 degree days in January followed by a day of rain then a mix of below freezing periods is combining to make highway repairs more critical. I often wonder if light, electric cars will honestly be up to the challenge to traverse these pot-holed, frost heaved silk roads of ours.... Much repair is needed repeatedly and often in the same place, year after this substainable?

Electric cars have excellent torque, and if they used in-hub motors can more easily have independent drive to all wheels, so their potential to be used off-road should be excellent.
In addition, anyone who has seen a trial bike will know how great they are in the rough, so electric bikes can be built to do just fine.
The US main, at least, will get through!

Not off-road...on-road..hitting a pothole at normal speed jars teeth and cracks plastic. The increased number of holes in the roads are climbing....not to mention the bridges falling down. sorry for the spelling errors...

I live neat the Somerset levels which often flood, so the roads are terrible.
The trick when driving there is to go slow enough so that potholes can be avoided or the bump minimised.
Folk will just have to learn to drive a bit better.

"Normal Speed" is likely to fall all the way down to the 10-20mph range by the time roads get that bad.

...or grind to a halt. More asphalt and repairs are needed now...but with budget cuts it's not looking good. We desperatly need mass transit but my concern is that the money will be diverted away from mass transit contruction and put into the costs of daily repairs to fix the "OLD" structures just to get the points A to points B. 700+ tornados this year alone in middle America is reacking havoc on the existing grids. When I see "live from the sky" picture after picture after picture of entire villages in ruins from flooding and winds it exausts my hope for an energy reduced future. The amount of fuel needed just for clean-up is going to be stagering...oh ya the hurricane season just started.

Or if the mass transit is in the form of bus service, then you need to maintain the roads, pay for the diesel fuel, and then the buses..

They had an interesting program this morning on the Diane Rehm show:

10:00U.S Transportation Infrastructure

Record breaking gas prices are prompting new questions about our nation’s transportation infrastructure. A look at the state of mass transit, our highway systems, and the role of the federal government


Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Oregon, 3rd District, Democrat

Robert F. Puentes, Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution

Randal OToole, senior fellow, Cato Institute

Mayor Greg Nickels, Mayor of Seattle, Washington

Tyler Duvall, Acting Under Secretary, Department of Transportation

You can listen directly from the website. I only caught part of it this morning. The conservatives were predictable in claiming that we ought not be building mass transit, but it didn't sound like they really had much to offer other than rhetoric.


In hub motors and bumpy roads are an absolutely horrible idea because the motors are unsprung weight.

Not only that, but independent drive to all wheels has absolutely nothing to do with driving over pot holed roads. 4WD is for keeping traction on loose slipper surfaces. Not traversing bumps or potholes.

Thanks for the info.
Although I try to look reasonably carefully at relatively untried technologies, for a non-engineer it is fairly difficult sometimes to get a true grasp of the practicalities of various solutions, and so input like yours to keep us on the straight and narrow is invaluable.
I take it my comments more generally on the suitability of electric bikes etc for imperfect roads did not suffer from similar weaknesses?

in my many years as a bus driver I came to believe that potholes have have some sort of mischievous spirit around them. I have seen streets rebuilt down to the sewers and promptly develop potholes in the exact same places as before. It is if that point on the face of the Earth was destined to reject the presence of asphalt or concrete.
I have heard the suggestion made that the companies which build the roads should also be financially responsible for their upkeep over the following 20 to 30 years. That would motivate them to build the roads better in the first place. I see the practice of accepting the lowest bid resulting in inferior work being done. By accepting the second lowest bid would lead construction companies to make more realistic cost projections.

In Australia there are many thousands of kilometres of paved(bitumen) highway,some traversing long distances over unstable clay soils.There are a lot of very heavy trucks,1,2,3 or 4 trailers,with a gross weight of between 50 and 100 tonnes.These vehicles cause a lot of damage to roads.
They are taxed at a higher rate than light vehicles but they are still effectively subsidized by the taxpayer.Rail transport has been allowed to run down and can only compete on really long routes like trans Australia.

With increasing costs across the board there is no way these highways,let alone secondary and minor roads,will be able to be properly maintained whether bitumen or concrete is used unless heavy transport is reduced.

The logical solution is to embark on a massive rail project to upgrading and electrifying existing lines and build new ones.There is already a lot of electrification of lines in Queensland for passenger,freight and coal transport.The electricity is from coal burning stations but this is another problem.

So, first, Welcome to Raleigh (where I lived from 1971 to 1992) and where I work. I have been living in Chapel Hill since 1992. Since the implementation of the Triangle Transit (which serves Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill as well as several other communities in the Raleigh area I had been an off and on rider (also carpooling when not riding the bus). However, since the inplementation of the express bus system in August 2005 I have become a dedicated rider of that system.

What I noticed when I first came to Raleigh in 1971 was that on weekends, the farmers and their families came to the big city of Raleigh (population 50,000 plus the 11,000 students at NCSU) to shop at K-Mart. There were no malls and the big shopping center was Cameron Village (still exists in much the same form as it did in the 1960's).

But you only have to recall that it was a 10 minute bicycle ride from the campus to the south or west and you were in rural America and farmland. Not any more. They built a lake on the Neuse River to supply Raleigh and the surrounding communities until 2030. Last year during the drought Raleigh was getting down to less than 60 days of water. By 2010 (or 2015 depending upon whom you are listening too) all the land available for development and not conserved under greenways, parks, and various buffers will have been developed in Wake County.

In my second job (when I was in town) I drove I-40 from Raleigh to Durham (there were 4 of us so we carpooled and we were way ahead of our time, but then again an engineering firm whose specialty is energy and the environment should probably employ such people, right?). It was two lanes in each direction with a grass median. The road was so empty that I joked that I could throw a bowling ball behind us and nobody would have to swerve out of the way. It hasn't been that way for a very long time. And other than the fact that I take the bus, my commute is typical in this part of the country.

We are now paying for, in more ways than one, for the choices and decisions made more than 60 years ago. The resources were never unlimited and like that convex mirror on the right side of the vehicle, "objects may be closser than they appear."

The Triangle really needs to get its act together and get moving on some sort of light or commuter rail system ASAP. I don't know what the hold up is.

As I talk to people about oil limitations, most of them are not hardcore cornucopians, but are generally adverse to behavior changes, hopeful about technology obviating them having to change behavior, and are generally interested in exploring in the US for oil, but don't understand the scale of our economy and oil usage, or think that ANWR=Ghawar.

One of my huge places of failure in these conversations is I have no idea what to offer people who live rural lives. City and even suburban dwellers can visualize walking to a store, or taking a bus or train, but for some people bicycling seems the province of children or spandex-clad Lance wannabes.

We participate in a CSA program (localizing, supporting a producer, though not producing ourselves) and I imagine that fuel subsidies or tax rebates for agricultural land would potentially promote the preservation of farmland for farming, and push development back towards infill in existing cities and towns instead of exurbs.

I think that Tom Friedman's higher tax on fuel idea is terrific. But for people whose past decisions and the economic circumstances (globalization moving jobs overseas, like in small cities that once did textiles/tobacco in NC) literally present them few to zero choices about mobility, what can we do to make rural life work? I'm not talking about exurban rural poseurs, either, I'm talking about folks who have been out in the country, the true country, for decades. What are your best rural policy ideas to smooth transition to lower-energy, permanently higher energy priced futures?

A good idea for the exurban/suburban crowd, but I'm talking about RURAL life.

Park and ride works for suburban and exurban commuters who work in cities and well-developed suburbs. It does not work for any of the other tripmaking purposes of rural life, and it does not work for the vast number of ruralites whose lives are not based on a satellite relationship with a metropolitan area.

Electric bikes, motorbikes and trikes, and biogas fuelling a communal truck to bring in needed supplies periodically.

I think eTrikes may become a mainstay for farmers. A large lithium battery under the rear "crate" and some muscle assist should be good for a 20+ mile trip to town for small loads at decent speeds (say 30 mph top, 25 mph average).


How do these figures sound?
The frame is lightweight but you have to allow for the load you are trying to transport.
So you have, perhaps, a 10kwh lithium battery - since Toyota hope to mass produce them I am hopeful that they might get it down to around $500kw from the present c.$1,000 - I would like to see capacitors to provide some extra shove up hills and make regenerative braking easier - and up top you have perhaps 2sq meters of solar roof, which provides weather protection as well as power for air-con and heating.
Total cost might be around $12,000 or so.
Not much of a vehicle by ICE standards, sure, but liveable.

Well there is van pools and car pooling for rural workers that will work for some people. But it seems that people in rural areas with low-wage jobs are going to have to do a lot of moving. If they work at the x-processing plant 50 miles away and no one else in their area does, they are going to have to move there. If the wife/husband work in different directions, someone likely has to change jobs. If one of them loses a job, and finds another 40 miles away in another town, they probably have to move again. Which may have gone on in the past as well, but it will have to be the norm in the future.

This means a move to renting and also it means assumptions about stable dual incomes are invalid instead on average you could well have only one wage earner per family. Looking back a lot of the reasons why you had only Dad working and mom staying home with the kids was not just social but also because of the cost of transportation vs availability of jobs. As cars became prevalent and people more mobile a dual income was also possible. In our enlightened times it could well be mom or dad staying home but a move to one primary wage earner on average is probably what we will see.

All of this is not good for housing prices. In a lot of rural areas you have some fairly poor people who own a few acres and a trailer as they leave it will force land prices down and of course the number of people who can buy even the more expensive homes is going to dry up. So this extra urban ring of houses on a few acres of land scattered around most cities will get hammered price wise.

A lot of this land would eventually revert back to farming but its going to pull down farmland prices right along with it since splitting up fields into five acre mini-farms is a big driver for rural property prices along of course with larger purchases for subdivisions.

So even as food gets more expensive I think your going to see farmland prices drop and of course costs increase dramatically for oil based farming.

The economic implications of this devaluation are pretty big larger than the direct effects of peak oil.
I'm assuming a 50-70% drop in the value of properties more than 20 miles away from a major job center and a recentralization of our cities. Even a 20% drop dwarfs the direct effects of peak oil. The net worth of a lot of American now considered wealthy will nosedive this of course will remove their borrowing power which is a big issue for farmers.

I think you will see most of the farmers with loans on there properties go bankrupt further driving down prices.
For the ones that own there land but don't have cash I think you will see them forced to cut back on how much they can plant using the land is collateral for the loan. This will increase the cost of food. Only at this point do I think real renewable organic farming will start to make a comeback either using solar/biodiesel or plain old draft animals to farm. But your probably
talking food prices at least double our current ones and land a tenth of the cost and much more expensive oil before we can convert.

Peak oil is going to set up some pretty vicious economic conditions as we effectively unwind the leverage thats been applied via assumptions of cheap oil.

Yes---when will we be seeing the animals coming back to the farms?? They are terribly needed (read John Seymour's "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it") Pigs and horses and goats and hens and cows and ducks and geese-----they all have their niches, helping with plowing, eating plants (then the people eat the meat from the animals), working the land (pigs are good for this and horses) and providing FERTILIZER!!! I live in an area that used to be strictly farming, now exurb of Tokyo. There are old abandoned pig sties and cow sheds all over the place and I would like to see them filled with animals again. Instead people watch food prices skyrocket. butter is not available, and people just spray weed-killer on the vacant land to kill the grass, which a horse or cow could be eating. The energy from this grass is therefore TOTALLY WASTED and watershed is polluted.

People like cars and dislike having animals.

First of all, I am hopeful that as the cost of transport skyrockets, maybe we can bring some of the textile industry back to NC. It is an industry that could be based upon renewable feedstocks: cotton, wool, linen, and maybe even hemp, all of which could be grown in NC or nearby states. With a proper focus on necessities rather than frivolous fashion, this industry could be in the non-discretionary rather than discretionary sector. The textile mills haven't been gone that long, there are still a lot of working age people with the know how to bring it back. A revived next-era textile industry will have to be rebuilt on a smaller scale than what it was when it left NC - those large mills will be too large to be energy-efficient. That means that what we need, and with any luck will get, will be smaller-scale textiles mills dotted all around NC, which is exactly what a lot of those rural communities need.

Another localized, small-scale industry that we will need to develop is biofuels, specifically biodiesel and especially biogas. I know that biofuels have gotten a lot of bad reviews here, I know they are no silver bullet, and I certainly am not advocating bioethanol in any way, shape, or form. However, biodiesel has a considerably better EROI than bioethanol, and given that NC has absolutely zero oil reserves of its own, we are going to have to have something to run essential motorized equipment in agriculture, freight transport, and public services. If we took most of the land that has been dedicated to tobacco production and instead dedicated it to oilseeds for biodiesel feedstocks, then we could be producing more of our own energy with NO negative impact on food supplies. The biodiesel processing would also provide some small-scale employment opportunities around the state. As a public health matter, it would do us no harm to get our citizens off of tobacco - we need to get the cost of medical care down, too. Biogas has an even more favorable EROI. We need to get all agricultural and municipal wastes into anaerobic digesters to produce all the methane we can, because NC has almost zero NG reserves, too. Again, this is all small scale technology. If NC could get ahead of the curve, maybe we could develop enough expertise in a lot of towns to actually be able to export anaerobic generators to other places.

NC also has significant woodland resources, and these need to be managed for maximum sustainable yields. With proper development and management, wood could supply a significant percentage of our state's energy, as well as being a renewable feedstock for furniture and other wood products industries. The fabrication of wooden crates and boxes is one industry that will probably make a comeback. All of these are or could be small-scale industries suitable for small-town employment.

NC should also be able to feed itself, and probably to produce a surplus for export, even allowing for an increase in the production of timber, fiber, and oilseed crops. As global warming progresses, we'll probably find that the range of crops that we can grow in NC widens rather than narrows; maybe we'll eventually be able to raise oranges around Wilmington? At the same time, the climate in WNC will continue to be moderated by the mountains, meaning that NC will be exceptionally well placed to become a diversified market garden for the entire east coast. There should be plenty of opportunities for all types of agriculture, all around the state. Water will be a bit of an issue in the piedmont, but as average rainfall in WNC is projected to remain steady, maybe we'll have to build a new round of reservoirs in the mountains to increase both the water and hydroelectric resources in the state.

One final thought: Much of the population in ENC, especially on the Outer Banks, is going to have to eventually be evacuated as sea levels rise. Where are they going to live? I'd suggest that resettling some of those people into depopulated rural communities could be one way of revitalizing those communities, and bringing their populations back up to a "critical mass" that could support a wider range of services and speciality businesses.

In some cases smaller commuter buses are now being introduced.

With skyrocketing gas prices, the Fort Leonard Wood Commuter Service offers an affordable alternative to $3.79 per gallon gas. The service, which celebrated its one-year anniversary on May 1, is still accepting riders.

The service, operated by USA Express of Rolla, provides a daily shuttle for interested workers from Rolla to Fort Leonard and back, for $110 per month for qualifying government employees or $6 per day, whichever is less. The price is actually $220 per month but the federal government will pay $110 per month directly to the carrier as part of a mass transportation benefit program.

In the latest version, there are experiments to examine the viability of using hydrogen as the driving fuel.

The project was initiated by a request from the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center to reduce single-occupied auto trips to Fort Leonard Wood. The result is a commuter bus service and hydrogen refueling station between Fort Leonard Wood, Lebanon and Rolla. The 19,000 lb. bus runs on compressed hydrogen, using a Ford H2 internal combustion engine. There are only 15 of these experimental/developmental vehicles in the world,

Looks like prices have a lot of room to go up if they are going to control demand. Looking at my home state of of Texas and its major metropolitan areas, it appears that we are spending between 3 and 6 percent of income on gas prices. This is not going to get any SUV's off the road.

I ate dinner with my parents last night and they were telling me they acknowledge a problem with oil supplies, but that they want to be some of the last ones to get rid of their SUV's, as they feel vulnerable to injury from accidents in a smaller car. While I drive a small Asian car that gets 35mpg, I can understand where they are coming from. When you live in Texas, everybody and their mother wants a huge SUV and pickup. I was just eating at Dairy Queen yesterday, and noticed 3 Ford "King Ranch" edition pickups. One of the guys getting out to eat was about 5'6" tall, and was wearing Nike shoes and cargo shorts. Clearly he is a major ranch hand that needs this vehicle.

Seems like prices have a ways to go up if we want to control demand on the gulf coast region and avoid a potential spot shortage as put forward by westexas.


"guys getting out to eat was about 5'6" tall, and was wearing Nike shoes and cargo shorts. Clearly he is a major ranch hand that needs this vehicle."

Big cars also could be a response to small penis size and self worth, a problem Texan's need to look at.
The women of Texas will need to carpool to run down their drunk husbands if prices rise much more.

Years ago, a female geology student explained it to me: penis size is inversely proportional to the height of the pick-up. She provided no data to validate this hypothesis, but her knowing smile was fairly convincing

It's the women in the giant SUVs that scare moms on steroids.

Some of the big SUV's are actually terrible in an accident.
I don't know how the ratings work in the US, but in the UK some really large vehicles like the Range Rover Discovery only got a three star rating, whereas the modest Toyota Avensis got a 5.
In practise as they showed in a 'Top Gear' program that might mean that a crash which would hopelessly deform the passenger cell on the SUV would not do significant damage to that on the Toyota.
The SUVs also roll over a lot.

It's hard to imagine such a crash unless the SUV rolled. Prior to becoming aware of peak oil, I drove a GMC Envoy. I had an accident at an intersection where a Toyota Corola slammed into my right rear tire well. It sent my Envoy fish tailing but I was able to drive it and park it. While getting out, I noticed I had a dent in the wheel well and a flat tire. Everything on the Corola from the steering wheel forward was smashed and tucked under the the rest of the car. My insurance also had a sizable medical claim to pay.


Hard to say for sure without seeing the accident, but my guess is, if he T-boned your rear wheel the solid rear axle is one of the most rigid places in the vehicle. It's damn close to hitting a solid concrete block. Crumple zones don't work in every direction. If two vehicles of different sizes hit head on, the crumple zones will distribute the forces more evenly although not equally.

Also, size won't help if your old truck was engineered in a time of more lax crash safety standards. This is an offset crash test between an old Land Rover Discovery and a new Renault Espace minivan. They're close in size with the Land Rover a few hundred pounds heavier.

The offset frontal crash is one of the hardest tests because the energy of the crash is concentrated on about half the area of the front. With a few exceptions, cars more than 10 years old performed terribly on this test. There's a lot of misinformation in auto safety, like when people buy big trucks for perceived safety. A used truck more than 5-10 years old is terrible on safety.

I'm not suggesting we all avoid used cars. My car isn't the newest or safest, and I ride a motorcycle too. I drive defensively, and I'm aware of the risk.

I don't know how the ratings work in the US, but in the UK some really large vehicles like the Range Rover Discovery only got a three star rating, whereas the modest Toyota Avensis got a 5.

Those ratings never show Range Rover vs Toyota, its Rover vs wall or another Rover. In a collision of big vs small, small loses every time. And a Range Rover is still quite a bit smaller than a Ford SuperDuty or other similar truck.


Here is a poser and I expect hate mail for it...

My son just passed his test.

To be a named driver on my 2000 1.6 Almera costs £1000 on top of my insurance.

The idiot went out and bought a 1980 88 inch diesel landrover (for cash pennies). - Good chassis, good tyres, generally road worthy - it is down to its terminal depreciation value - so long as it is maintained.

I insured it with the NFU for me as driver for £125 last spring.

He passed his test and now he is a named driver (with restrictions) for £127 !

Thats right. 18 years old and insured for 127 quid. Any normal runaround would be about a thou.

So, he effectively gets access to £873 worth of diesel at todays prices - more than he will ever use in a year since it will be used to get him into the Cairngorms to bag Munros (it is not for general driving. - but he wont need to commute on Campus)

It is not affected by the recent doubling of road tax as it is too old.

Another £375 gets him a vegetable oil conversion kit.

Spares? - he can get off ebay or landy forums - cheaply.

Mechanics? - You learn to do landys yourself

So his running costs are fuel (25 mpg) tax. £220 pa. MOT - £ 50 quid a year, Insurance £125 -£200 / year

He reckons he will get a few years out of it. And it will get him to where he loves to be - before we are all stopped by guvmint anyway.

He has the cheapest wheels I know.

Yes, he knows about PO and GW.

But he intends to get a good couple of years of fun before TSHTF.

I dont blame him.

Hi mudlogger,

Make sure you drive it more than him, i.e. you are SEEN to be the main driver, perhaps by buying the fuel on your credit card rather than his, pay for the road tax, MOT..:-)

Exactly :-)

One of the guys getting out to eat was about 5'6" tall, and was wearing Nike shoes and cargo shorts. Clearly he is a major ranch hand that needs this vehicle.

Wait a sec.
Hold on.
Time out.
Please explain relationship between height, shoe brand, pant style and occupation.
I'm unfamiliar with Texas, but I have traveled extensively throughout the rural West, including B.C. and Alberta, and have always been struck by the incongruous appearance of the very toughest and most thoroughly authentic of the West's colorful figures. As well as the short stature of many of them. (And incidentally, they may easily be called Gene, or Carroll, or Pat, I have even met a Leslie or two.)

The native vegetation here in south central Texas can scrape all the meat off of your legs if you're not careful. If you factor in the rattlesnakes, chiggers, poison oak, ticks...... Basically what I'm saying is you don't do ranch work in casual summer attire, and if you aren't doing ranch or farm work, you certainly don't need a King Ranch edition pickup.


You seem to live near me :)

In the guys defense, maybe he had the day off, and was going to DQ to pick up his sweetheart to go to the movies? could happen.

I drive a little 20 year old Honda and the Super Duties can certainly be intimidating, but I actually fear the idiots in the Mustangs on their cell phones more most days.

I ate dinner with my parents last night and they were telling me they acknowledge a problem with oil supplies, but that they want to be some of the last ones to get rid of their SUV's, as they feel vulnerable to injury from accidents in a smaller car.

The notion that SUVs are safer than other vehicles is a (widespread) cultural myth. Do you think your parents would be receptive to this 2004 article from the New Yorker?

Big and Bad

The truth, underneath all the rationalizations, seemed to be that S.U.V. buyers thought of big, heavy vehicles as safe: they found comfort in being surrounded by so much rubber and steel. To the engineers, of course, that didn't make any sense, either: if consumers really wanted something that was big and heavy and comforting, they ought to buy minivans, since minivans, with their unit-body construction, do much better in accidents than S.U.V.s. (In a thirty-five m.p.h. crash test, for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade—the G.M. counterpart to the Lincoln Navigator—has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan—a vehicle engineered from the ground up, as opposed to simply being bolted onto a pickup-truck frame—are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent. ) But this desire for safety wasn't a rational calculation. It was a feeling.

Thanks for the link, I'll pass it on to them. Good reading for myself as well.


High and Mighty...that's the book you're looking for:

Crash tests are mainly vehicle into a stationary barrier. In a two car crash, the heavier vehicle will experience less decelleration than the lighter one, and I don't think the ratings system factors this in. The SUVs propensiy to roll over, makes up for their heavier mass however. Rollovers can be due to driver error, or due to forces from the crash itself. So even careful SUV drivers who take account of the fact they can't turn like a sports car are subject to additional rollover risk. One of the required tests is roofcrush, which somewhat mitigates rollover injuries.

This is not going to get any SUV's off the road.

that's not what a quick search turned up.

Saving gas part of new lifestyle for Texans

Just a reminder, thanks in advance for clicking the "SHARE THIS" buttons (which are available on all our posts) and vote for our work on various sites like reddit and digg. Those link farms help us get a lot more eyes, which means more ad revenue to support the site--it's worth ten seconds to do it, I hope. has a new Quick Vote up on their frontpage.

Question: "Can you get by without a car?"

Yes 16% 16895 votes
No 84% 89094 votes

Pretty much says it all doesn't it?

Very neat map. Rail is not the only solution to the suburbs, and comparing it to 1960's cut of rail service in UK is not fair(Unless you are referring to really remote areas). I believe that the notion of "feeder" buses deserves some merit when looking at potential solutions, and even though it might take time to provide such solution, it is definitely faster to implement than many of its alternatives. There are different size of buses according to the demand of each line, and there are also those buses which run on natgas or biofuels, or mixes. Yes, not all people would have the bus going in front of their houses, and some may have to walk, bicycle, or even drive to where the "feeder line" goes. It will not solve the problem of the current "necessary luxury" of driving anywhere you want, but at least it provides an alternative to those who are needing it most.

OTOH, the high cost of energy will hit urban people in other ways. We will be hearing about that endlessly come this winter when the cost of heating whacks them good. They will also pay more for food as cities are furthest from food production and processing. Plus, the cost of all imports are going up dramatically. And we are hearing much about how public transportation is being overwhelmed and underfunded. However, rural folk will be hard hit by closure of regional airports.

Cities, with their gargantuan social service budgets and plummeting tax revenues, combined with acute indebtedness, threaten to become real hellholes. I'll take the high cost of rural driving anyday.

I live in a "Rural Area". (Actually, the Larimer County quoted in HOs article)

I can't possibly imagine the logic that results in you thinking that it is somehow cheaper to heat my home than a row of condos in Denver that share a wall.

I live where I live because of WestTexas and Todd. I am well along my ELM plan. Want to buy some lamb? Grass fed! Very tasty.

If your logic is that Rural dwellers can heat with wood.... well... maybe if you live way the heck out in the woods in West VA. Sure, maybe. Maybe that works in Maine too, I dunno, never lived in Maine.

Look at the map again. See how bad Wyoming is? I assure you, there are very few people heating with wood in WYO. There simply isn't enough wood in WYO. WYO has grass not wood. Folks in WYO need gas. They drive trucks because they farm. They live a long way from anything. However, I think the people farming will do ok.... they are the correct side of the rising food price equation. Some of them will fail to adapt and go bankrupt. That happens. Others will adapt and do fine.


(Who is darn happy the train runs though Berthoud. It doesn't stop there now..... but I suspect in a few years it will. And I'll be GLAD to have a train to take my food into Boulder and Denver... I need that market)

For areas like Wyoming it would seem that the best value would be to increase insulation up to Passivhaus standards, so the almost no energy is used for heating.
For new build cob houses (mud and straw) together with greenroof technology would make sense.
Wind turbines would seem to have a good future in the rural areas there too, although batteries for back-up are still expensive.
For farmers biogas may also be becoming economic, with lots of imputs for that from livestock.

For sure. WYO has wind. LOL. WYO has LOTS of wind. That and coal.

There is a reason Vestas is building a blade plant and a tower plant in Windsor,CO. Wind we've got. Its water we need.

Note that home schooling isn't exactly what you've reported.
Home schooling is not running a school at home, with a desk and lessons.
In particular - life is a lesson. Nobody teaches a baby to walk or a toddler to talk or to use their arms or eyes or ears.

Curiosity drives us all - the need to understand and to grow. The standard school system is exceptional at beating that out of people; some survive in spite of it.
The education system seems to be designed to perpetuate itself; and generate professors. It does not consider any part of the body except the brain (right side of course).

Home schooling is best described / renamed as deschooling. There are many excellent books on the subject. Life is the teacher. You do not spend 8 hours a day keeping control of a classroom of kids - you learn to do the things you want to do; be it reading, math. You become good at research and don't expect to be spoon fed answers.

What's so good about having a class of kid all +/- 0.5 years of age? Why should kids not interact with people of a wide variety of ages and skills?

That being said - we are all different and learn by different means; but home schooling in no way requires the internet or lessons or schedules of what is to be learned when.

"In many places in the United States, and I suspect in other rural parts of countries such as Canada and Australia, the population density will make it harder and more costly to provide public transport for the low numbers of folk out there."

If the population density is so low, that a bus could not be fully loaded even if nobody would keep on driving a car - I agree. In more populated rural areas however, public transportation was reduced because driving a car was so cheap and convenient. For these areas I see a real chance that with the reduction of individual car traffic public transportation may take off again - and in the end increase quality of life.

How full the bus is depends on how often they run. In much of the Third world you might only get one bus a week, but they are pretty darn full.
In small communities if folk had no car then a weekly bus service would get pretty darn full - and if things reach that pitch the driver's wages will be tiny.

New Report from Merril Lynch states that Ethanol saves $526.00/Yr on gasoline:

Oh, but it costs an extra $15.00/yr at the super market.

Lessee, $526.00, . . er, $15.00 . . . hmm,

Five Two Six, . . . . Fifteen

That's a tough one, heh, heh

We were all waiting for the obligatory bullshit ethanol post. Thank you.

Well, of course; no one could, possibly, want to hear the Other side of the story, right?


What's interesting to me is how fast the price of Diesel fuel is gaining on vegetable oil, you can get more than half a gallon of veggie oil at Walmart for the price of a gallon of Diesel, and that's buying it one gallon at a time!

I once joked that it might be doable to build a serial plug hybrid Diesel and just buy the fuel off the shelf at Walmart instead of buying it at the pump. Now it doesn't seem like such a joke...


I'm personally interested in a plugin hybrid/fuel cell that can handle vegetable oils.

Hydrocarbon fuel cells coupled with advanced battery technology gives you a pretty decent flex fuel vehicle.

This should be able to run on anything from veggie oil to CNG.

forget a hybrid diesel, VW makes diesels jettas, polos and golfs that get bettween 50-70MPG.

Its more a issue of being very flexible in fuel not just mpg.

See my earlier posts about 20 dollar a gallon gasoline. At this price level you would want to be very flexible in your fuel choices. A solid oxide fuel cell with batteries and plug in capabilities gives you a transportation that can work in a undependable fuel type and supply environment.

You want to be able to use pretty much anything thats around to run your car on.

Electricity, Propane ,diesel, gasoline, vegetable oil whatever.

Heck if road conditions get bad enough hover craft might prove useful.
Not sure about their fuel efficiency.

ThatsItImout - don't give everyone the idea, already doing that here in the UK, but the price of veggie oil keeps catching up with the cost of the diesel - £1.26 ($2.50) a litre or over $10 a gallon. When ever cheap cooking oil appears it disappears the same day, so I am not the only one with this idea. I add 20% neat oil to diesel. Works fine and if anything runs far smoother.

Diesel and vegetable oils are getting close to the cost of peanut oil so may try that next. Rudolph Diesels first engine ran on peanut oil so reckon it would work fine.

Gee, that was worthy of Goebbels.

What you chose to not tell:

US Tax money is being spent on US blender's credit.

From the quoted Merrill Lynch report:

The $21/bbl reduction in expected price is due to world biofuel production, not just US ethanol. (Remember, oil and products are traded on a world market, so effects do to just US ethanol production are more difficult to analyze correctly.)

"Largely due to the USc 51/gallon blenders subsidy (USc 45/gallon when the new Farm Bill is enacted), gasoline marketers have been making a profit and were willing to pay a premium for ethanol, sharing these profits upstream"

Still, US corn ethanol will not save the oil markets

If US natural gas prices were to converge towards oil parity, corn-based ethanol would likely turn unprofitable very quickly

I live in Texas and I agree with the height of the truck and P size. HAHA!

Road maintenance is a distant second after schools in small towns budgets, roughly half (at least here in rural Maine)…

And BTW home schooling is disproportionally practiced by fundamentalist Christians, in order to avoid contentious subjects like evolution or sexuality. Maybe it will change, but that's not good news for the incredible amount of taxes thrown at schools…

Global warming has little to do with road degradation, the freeze/thaw cycles always damage roads. If anything milder winters tend to mitigate the problem. At least here in northern New-England.
Towns have less and less money, road maintenance (including plowing) has been slowly declining since a fair amount of time (when oil was "cheap").

Riding horses for transportation is fine, if we forget that the horse population is now very low in the US. Increasing it will require 1/land for grain and hay 2/skills to train and care those horses 3/relays, barns etc. to change and feed horses for longer trips.

Some form of transportation is unavoidable in rural areas, at least until the only jobs available are not local.

Probably really rural towns will depopulate as semi-local paper-pusher jobs become scarce and oil more expensive (especially heating oil in N-E).

There's a fair amount of big trucks/SUV for sale on people's lawns since the beginning of spring, there's still a even fairer amount on the roads…

Being invested in PO (or climate change) often transform the last problem into the last nail on the coffin of our societies.

Most declines are slow, a little painful at times, but really unnoticed.

global warming may not but climate change does.

"most declines are slow, a little painful at times, but really unnoticed"????

Tell that to the owner of lobster boat in Bar Harbor.

2005 peak lobster???

And rural Maine is pleasantly cooler (at least today) than it was even up North as far as Cambridge earlier in the week.

It was, after all, the uneconomic aspects of serving the rural community that caused Dr. Beeching to close almost a third of British Railways largely through reducing that service in the 1960’s

You conflate cause and effect.

Remove the good roads and abundant cars and those "uneconomic rural train services" suddenly become economic again.

Traditionally, farm land near a county seat went for a higher price because of the ease of access. Close-in farmers "went to town" every Friday and during the week at least once a month to pick up something, etc.

More remote farmers came in every other week "if the weather was good".

My father could have commuted by the electric inter-urban (single car streetcar designed for longer distances) from Georgetown KY to the University of Kentucky in Lexington (the farm was 2+ miles from the station) if he had attended before WW II, but he went afterwards and had to hitch a ride, which took more time. He quickly found that attending school with a tie made it easier to get a ride (a habit he continued until his retirement, one of only 4 faculty members that habitually wore a tie :-)

A map showing the interurbans of Ohio & Indiana that shows that line.

then for those who live outside the urban conurbation there will be no choice but to increasingly rely on cars and trucks

How can one increase the 100% reliance of today ?

As the price of oil goes up (and availability decreases ?) two effects will show in rural America. The Exurbanites that work in the city and enjoy living in the country will move closer to work (often living on what my grandfather called "5 acre toy farms") and those that must live in the countryside (true farmers till they retire, when they will "move-to-the-city" (small town/county seat) at some point) but revert to the travel patterns of the 1920s. Visit town every Friday if they are close, every other Friday if the weather is good and they live further out.

Many old interurbans did have "flag stops". Someone walked or bicycled (or was dropped off) anywhere along the line and would flag the next passing streetcar. And they would call to the operator when they were close to where they wanted to get off.

"Milk runs" came from Interurbans passing through and picking up milk, eggs and other produce as well as people (payment was made by dairies and merchants in town, an honor system). All without a drop of oil ! :-)

So I disagree in substance with your conclusion. The ICE will survive in rural communities but it is essential for only a VERY much diminished role.

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation,



You can make good money on 5 acres!!!

I get what you are saying but you hit a nerve. I've got 6 acres and have major grass envy of everyone who has more and better land.

My grandparents rode the interurban in Indiana. I grew up hearing about it. Thanks for the map! I am going to send it to my mother. What a useful network it appears to have been.

I will confess to thinking about different places at different points in the post - and in parts of rural Scotland there is still the odd bus (as there are Greyhounds) that provides some modest access. But getting to visit folk that don't live near the village, when you don't have a car is a real problem. (We had a little bit of in inkling of this at a recent wedding where folk flew in from odd parts and had to be got to and from airports at times convenient to planes).

On the other hand in the old days the butcher came around twice a week, taking orders on the first visit for delivery on the next, and seemed to do not badly on it. And I remember riding with the grocery van as a child and thinking it a treat to get to open the gates as the driver brought goods out to the shepherds and small crofters. (I was not that old at the time and only did it for a couple of days when up there on vacation - as a permanent job it would be a whole lot less pleasant.)

But, Alan, I think you miss the point that the genie is out of the bottle. It becomes very difficult for society to step back from this, and while down the road there may be an EV in all our futures, in the next 20-years I doubt it will be enough.

I would have thought deliveries would be OK.
Sainsbury is already getting quite a few EV's in it's delivery fleets:
J Sainsbury plc : Responsibility : Case studies : Case studies - Environment

Of course, it might be argued that that would not be any good for longer rural routes, and indeed these are for urban areas, but they would certainly help a lot in a hybrid form to reduce fuel costs.
A different technology might be helpful for really remote areas though, as they are not short of resources to produce biogas, whish makes a pretty good fuel.

As for the isolation, we are basically talking about a return to pre-war conditions, when few had access to private transport, and if you did not live around a railway line you were indeed isolated and people who lived outside the village would not have many visitors.

The internet should mean that they are in far more contact with the outside world than in those times though.

I think that we can divide the rural population into two parts, those that have to be out there, farmers#, and Exurbanites (and retired farmers).

# The numbers of farmers may grow where good non-oil transportation (rail) exists for more labor intensive farming such as "truck gardening"

Exurbanites live in rural areas as a life style choice, and having them simply move close to or in town where their workplaces are has a compelling economic logic post-Peak Oil. Retired farmers will need to either move in with family or, single word, move-into-town.

The remaining rural population will vary in density. Wheat farms may see very low population levels and can support few small towns (not so different from today). Wheat is set up for mechanization and the crop is not perishable.

Much higher oil prices may result in more social isolation for the wheat farmer. High oil prices may reduce the habit of driving into a small town diner for breakfast and coffee with fellow farmers, and cut into church attendance. The internet will help somewhat there.

Many of these remote rural areas are suitable for wind farms, which will add a secondary economic base and population. I could see re-opening rail spurs closed 50 years ago (non-electric) and use them both for crops and for wind turbines (rail mounted cranes can be much bigger than truck mounted cranes suitable for rural roads, bigger cranes > bigger Wind Turbines and bigger WTs are more economic). But weeds will grow between trains on these low density spurs.

OTOH, areas with electric inter-urban service (and 20 years is long enough to re-establish these in part) will attract perishable, higher value, high labor crops such as dairy, vegetables, fruit, and fish farming near the lines. Mixed passenger and freight rail service (starting with commuter rail that has "truck farming" freight cars added would be Step 1) would attract high density rural communities (where the land was suitable and non-oil transportation was frequent).

A string of small towns could be well served by an inter-urban rail line, and some "Big City" commuters may live out there (see outside Boston, Philly and NYC) and take the train in. Even a few such commuters will add to the vitality and viability of the small towns. 60 minutes on a train is *FAR* more useful and productive time than 60 minutes driving in a car.

If there is an alternative to the post-WW II BAU rural form, it will attract people and economic support like a magnet, while a high oil based transportation system will repel them. Once change starts moving towards the more economic alternative, it tends to cascade with positive reinforcement. Thus we are not wedded to ICE transportation in Rural America as we are today.

Best Hopes for More Changes,


Boy, when I first saw this map I thought it was a list of counties that had gone for Gore (in purple) and for Bush (in yellow).

Ah, the electric interurbans and the standard railway system that served just about every nook and cranny in the country...almost all ripped up and here we are looking for travel alternatives not more than 80 years later.

The other day I watched a lineup of cars, bumper to bumper in rush hour, stopped at a light. Within 100 feet was the commuter rail line. What I though of was - here are two trains side by side - one has a single engine and 6 cars each of which can carry 100+ people. Taking up the same length but on the pavement is the other train. Each car contains one passenger and each has one engine. Add up the horsepower of the gasoline engines in the lineup and compare it to the HP of the diesel-electric RR engine, then add up the number of passengers being "carried" by each train. Think of the energy used per person/mile.

What we've been doing and are doing is nuts! 100 years from now people will simply not believe the way we lived.

When I was a kid, I grew up on a farm in a rural area. Now I live in the city, so I guess I can say that I have seen both worlds.

Back on the farm all of the roads we had were gravel, not asphalt. They would come through from time to time with a grader to smooth it all out again, and on occasion bring some more gravel, but other than that there wasn't much maintenance. We didn't have any kind of SUV either - just a regular old station wagon.

So in light of this, I pose a couple of questions. What is the possibility that rural roads might revert to gravel to escape the high cost of asphalt? What are the true costs of maintaining a gravel road?

In the story that I quoted there was a comment that some counties were going to allow some of the rural roads to revert to gravel.

A few paved roads in Hall County, Neb., will revert to gravel surfaces, says public works director Casey Sherlock. "At some point, they'll be potholed so bad we won't be able to keep patching them." He had hoped to resurface 6-7 miles of road this spring and could afford only 2 miles.

Please allow the thought to be raised that driving hundreds of miles to marginal "arts and crafts" markets comes under the heading of desirable demand destruction. We don't need more fru-fru in the USA. And as I consider the future prospects for young people in a dead-ocean, drought-stricken, and sea level-rising scenario, the fact that someone supposedly makes a living on knick-knacks is also very unpersuasive.

Farm local to where I live in North Wales is pressing its own oils for sale in diesels and uses the residue as cattle cake. Plant was opened today

Should work fine in most of rural USA. You get fuel and still can feed the cattle. Better than ethanol.

Nicely done, sir.

A lot of craftspersons are capable of making useful things that people would actually need. However, right now they can't possibly compete with the Chinese made stuff sold in SprawlMarts. They are having to cater to the artsy-craftsy decorative market, because that's the only market they have got.

However, rising transport costs will eventually put an end to the Chinese made stuff, and to the SprawlMarts. Household stuff that people actually need will eventually wear out. Where will people go to buy replacements? From local craftspersons, who will have developed their skill doing the decorative stuff, but who will shift to the useful stuff when the market develops.

To make such automated speed limits work, you'd need many, many more cameras on freeways (obviously nowhere with a traffic light), and you'd probably want to up the speed limit by 10mph in each of those places and begin enforcement directly on that point. Which you'd have to warn people about.

Where I live, our speed cameras occur (to maximize revenue) near the bottom of hills, in between traffic lights, in 25-35mph zones. On top of that, even though they only snap a picture when they record legal speed + 11mph, that doesn't prevent about 20% of people from slowing down to the limit, and 5% of people from slamming on the brakes and slowing down to 5 or 10mph under the limit. On crowded roads, this dramatically affects gas mileage and is approximately the most annoying thing about local commutes.

In recent articles they interviewed people with long commutes getting hit by higher gas prices. Two of them stick out to me. In one, a woman worked in Dallas as some kind of manager. 18 or so years ago she had bought a place by a lake over a 100 miles away from Dallas and has been making that commute ever since then. At the time they interviewed her she was doing it in a van (her daughter was college age), which she claimed got 22 miles per gallon. In another story a couple was living in a house in Sacramento, but wanted a bigger, newer one, so they moved 50 miles away to Yuba City. They both worked different schedules so did not car pool in their 100 mile daily round-trip commute. The husband was commuting in a V8 pickup truck.

I would be in favor of legislation that would make these types of situations illegal. Some poor person in rurual Mississipi is making a commute from their family house to the only job they could find 40 miles away, out of necessity, and here you have people in metropolitan regions making choices to live a long way from work and then making their commute in gas guzzlers.

That legislation would be harder to pass than many gun-control laws.

Most folks (at least here in TX) think they have a fundamental right to a large vehicle, the same way they have the right to breathe air.

I have had the argument many, many times with various folks. Legislation won't be the answer, but once gas prices go up enough, some of them will switch. Some won't (I know a woman who just bought a full size Yukon w/ all the bells and whistles, since they "made me a great deal." Gas was well over $3 a gallon when she signed for it)

Yeah, I wouldn't ever expect it to but there is a situation coming where rich people driving hummers are going to make life miserable for poor people in Honda Civic's.

Why in the hell would you make it illegal?

Why shoulder that micromanagement burden?

"To save them from themselves"?

You need to seriously rethink what it means to live in what is supposed to be "A free country." This drek would barely be doable in the Soviet Union or China.

There are very simple ways to make these situations more equitable. Just to copy/paste my preferred method:

Hand every adult taxpayer a $2000 check ("Fuel Price Relief Plan of 2009"), then pay it back by taxing the oil companies a certain amount(A "windfall profits tax") per barrel that they bring into the US market. The account needs to be fully repaid by the next year, so adjust tax to fit (At 21mbpd, that's about $52/barrel assuming 200 million taxpayers). The next few years, do the same thing, but with $3000/taxpayer, $4000/taxpayer, et cetera.

Fuel prices, naturally, rise commensurately with the pressure we put on the oil companies.

This attacks illegal immigration by simply not giving them the check (changing the profit equation of them coming here, and incentivizing legal citizenship). It attacks fuel wastage significantly by raising the price of oil, without hurting any of the working poor & fixed income - who gain, because they weren't able to afford a median fuel consumption in the first place. We encourage every form of alternative energy and hybridization and high-MPG cars through a natural, market-based incentive.
Properly directed, the markets and rational self interest are a hell of a lot faster at picking out what works than Congress is. We encourage lifestyle changes in a manner that's virtually impossible any other way: we give people the tools to cut down on home heating oil by giving them the money to insulate their house better and buy solar heating, while at the same time naturally incentivizing them to move somewhere with less transportation expenditure involved in living their lives. All this is done without explicitly attacking any of these unsustainable lifestyles - but by attacking the oil companies, and letting people choose paths that are less dependent on them.

The alternative to a massive redistribution of wealth on the basis of oil usage is a massive transfer of wealth over to those who currently have the oil, coupled with the threat of impending catastrophe any time anything happens to the oil supply, and the surety of gradual disaster as world oil supply peaks and declines.

Balance it out with a $60/ton CO2 emissions tax (to prevent coal use from skyrocketting), and you've forced the US energy market much, much closer to being functional/sustainable. Without compromising basic freedoms involving where you live or work.

The present administration has shredded our precedential rights - we *could* be arbitrarily imprisoned according to them, if they felt it necessary. Actually implementing a system to try and efficiently decide where people should live or work is an entirely different level. Even Orwell wasn't so ambitious.

Why in the hell would you make it illegal?

Well I don't seriously think it would ever happen. But the problem is we have a precious finite and exhaustible resource that we aren't prepared to do without. The woman who commutes 200 miles a day was some kind of manager who makes a good salary. She will be driving that van, plowing through our declining oil, even if gas were $12 a gallon. At that point she would be ecstatic about all the cars that are off the road. But some of those people off the road will be having great difficulty making it to work.

But I like your idea. I would be in favor of it. But I wouldn't get the money from the oil companies. I would tax the gas extra and rebate back from that up to a certain amount of gallons. And possibly limit that to an income threshold.

The Europeans sure must be having the last laugh regarding their high gas tax that funded their mass transit.

You're making one hell of a value judgement about who should and should not drive and how far. People should make their own decisions how much they want to spend and utilize resources and the market prices out how much the resource is worth. You're blaiming a single person because oil was underpriced for decades due to forces beyond her control. I hardly think that's fair. If she was driving an electric car that far because electricity was $.001/kwh, would you then call for her to stop because one day electricity may cost $100/kwh. No, more taxes are not what are needed here, proper market signals are. She won't be driving that far when gas is $12/gal more than likely, and I don't think you can value a cotton farmer more than her, so please stop calling for complicated resource redistribution systems that the government will inevitably f'up.

People react to the economic circumstances around them. Blaming them for buying a suburban house or driving an SUV, and then suggesting that we punish them, is grossly unproductive, and rather pointless.

Attempting to implement true rationing or totalitarian restrictions that accomplish the same ends as rationing (forcing vast groups of people to give up their houses/jobs/vehicles completely, by forcing some sort of 'fair and equal' consumption pattern), are not flexible enough to equitably accomodate the population of almost any Western country - the cure is worse than the disease.

If she's driving that van on $12/gallon, and there is a revenue-neutral rebated tax in place, she will be not only cancelling out a vast amount of her disposable income, she will be literally funding her neighbors to sell their houses/cars and move somewhere that they can live without such a wasteful lifestyle. We don't *force* anyone into what we think is wise, because we are not omnipotent. We *let* them organically respond to a moderate price signal that we impose on them, rather than allowing them to remain unprepared right up until gas skyrockets to $20/gal as something like ELM takes hold, and all of that money drains out of the US economy, enslaving us to the oil barons. We(as in, Congress) don't know enough to pick out every energy-saving choice and apply it - we can only give people a reason to change their lifestyles in ways that make sense to them. Noone needs to be punished, no one person *needs* to reduce their fuel consumption - only the average US consumer.

And so it is that I think that I don’t think that Kiashu understands the rural economy. His piece, sensibly saying that, instead of Hypermiling we should stop driving, fails to understand the imperative in the rural community of the car.

Kiashu wasn't suggesting that everyone couldjust drive less, he was presenting it as most people could drive less if they do an audit. Australia is a a vast country with a thinly spread rural population as well which faces much the same problems as their US cousins. Even so, there are many ways that rural folk will adapt and they could teach the rest of us a thing or two when it comes to squeezing the most efficiency from every car trip we do.

In the country (or bush as we call it here) you don't just duck into town to have a latte or a pleasant drive. You do multiple tasks with the one trip and if you forget to buy the milk, tough, you eat your breakfast cereal dry.

Of much greater concern to the bush, is the cost of diesel and fertiliser which is already starting to impact the profitibility of many rural enterprises. We too have destroyed our rural rail networks to the point where the entire state of Victoria this year will have to transport the entire grain crop by truck. Painted ourselves into a right royal corner there, ably abetted by an economic rationalist agenda of both sides of our poilitical duopoly.

I've been reading stuff like this.
The second link has a nice little spread sheet.

For businesses you often value them at ten times net revenue.
I've got no idea how to value farmland for farming but I'd assume the land price would
have to be less than that. This gives a maximum value of 4,000 a acre for prime farmland
with 2,000 a acre as what I'd consider a good price. You would pay it off in 10 years in exchange
for a 50% return given about 400 dollars of net profit a year.

I found this.

It gives about 1100 dollars a acre for prime farmland on page 25 so my 2000 is not all that far off.

Because of suburbia land prices are often over 10,000 a acre and 4,000 is quite common.

So farmers are probably facing a substantial drop in land values as suburban expansion ends and peak oil
pushes up operating costs.

So not do we have all the problems you mentioned but this devaluation of land itself is going to be a big factor
going forward.

This link finally came through

For this comparison, farmland prices in eastern Illinois (Champaign, Coles, Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermillion counties) for excellent quality farmland as reported by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers were used. As can be seen in Table 1, these prices have been increasing. Farmland prices in eastern Illinois rose from $3,200 per acre in 2002 up to $5,150 in 2006, an increase of over 60 percent.

So you can see the inflation in farmland prices and it also has a calculation of worth of the land for farming coming in around 1800 dollars a acre.

The point is not only is farmland for farming overpriced land near the cities that could provide local truck gardens is insanely over priced.

It probably isn't a coincidence that the most vulnerable counties are Republican strongholds, and are also the same counties Hillary Clinton did best in. Yet while Republican energy policy sort of seems aligned with the Keep Gas Cheap dream, its results will be quite the opposite in the long run.

You have punctuated curves, curves that go up, then go flat, then go up again.
For instance we could change from an average CAFE of 25 to an average CAFE of 50 (that's average, not everybody) by switching to plastic cars.
Or we could build lots of synfuel plants for coal to liquids.
Or we could build compressed natural gas diesel cars and drill like hell all over Pennsylvania and Michigan for tight shale natural gas.
Or we could get used to a car that only goes twenty miles on a charge. A hot wax tank heats steam sort of deal, with a burner so you can take it a hundred miles in one day if you need to. Heat the wax every night using baseload power.
These don't need technology breakthroughs.
For the short run we are just going to get used to living in smaller spaces closer to work and not driving as much except back and forth to work, stopping to shop on the way.

The map showing where impacts of gas prices are hitting hardest illustrates how difficult it has been for places like Wilcox County, Alabama to deal with current economic pressures. We contribute to the discussion by focusing in depth on some of the historical effects of institutional racism on the ground in Wilcox County and the ways its people and communities have responded. See our post for more: