Ten Ways to Cut Oil Use

Grist has come up with a list of 10 ways to reduce oil use, in an article they call 10 ways to kick the offshore-oil habit. In this post, I list these approaches and offer a few questions for discussion. Thanks to Jason Bradford of The Oil Drum staff for pointing out this article.

The approaches suggested by Grist are as follows:

Ten Approaches

1. A better "cash for clunkers" program. A two year plan that gives credit for only replacement vehicles with 35 miles per gallon efficiency or greater is suggested. This program would be paid for by extending the 1978 gas guzzler tax to cars and trucks.

2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. The article notes that 59% of public transit networks have cut service, raised fares, or both since January 2009. More federal funding could help this situation.

3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative. Federal employees should be directed to do these as much as possible. "For everyone else, a campaign would make these more normative and socially acceptable."

4. Smarter freight movement. Grist suggests that Congress commission a study of methods to make trucking, rail and jet transport more efficient, including approaches to improve milage and ways to reduce empty travel of vehicles.

5. Smarter land use. Grist suggests that Congress could direct (and help fund) efforts to update zoning and land use regulations, to encourage more compact development.

6. Smarter travel through IT. Grist recommends a national study, noting that UPS saved 3 million gallons of fuel in a year, by equipping its trucks with software that allowed them to map out routes that avoided left-hand turns. Also, traffic lights could be timed better.

7. Educating drivers. Drivers ed programs and other outreach programs might teach the importance of slower acceleration and maintaining tire pressure for getting good gas mileage.

8. A resolution saying efficiency is a new national priority. Congress should pass a resolution on the importance of efficiency, and tell government agencies to improve efficiency. Funding for new projects might also depend on efficiency.

9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs. A prize is now awarded for 100 mph vehicle. Similar prizes could be offered for other breakthroughs.

10. Efficiency "visibility." Congress should fund the development of a National Energy Efficiency Data Center (NEEDC), which would study efficiency technologies.


1. Which of these seem to have the greatest possibility of fuel savings--over the short term? Over the long term?

2. Which approaches are truly low cost?

3. Historically, Greater efficiency -> More utilization of energy devices -> More fuel use (and economic growth).

Presumably, the authors want

Greater efficiency -> Same utilization of energy devices -> Less fuel use (but not much economic decline)

Or even:

Greater efficiency --> Lower utilization of energy devises --> Much less fuel use (and not much economic decline)

How does one arrange for one of these two latter outcomes to happen? One would think that if fuel is becoming more and more expensive relative to people's income, one of these latter outcomes might happen. Or if fuel is less available, fuel use may decline, in spite of energy efficiency. These may happen naturally, as oil becomes less available.

4. How big a dent do you think we can make in "kicking the offshore oil habit" with these approaches? (US onshore crude oil production is about 3.4 million barrels a day. US offshore crude oil production is about 2.0 million barrels a day. US use of oil products (including imports) is about 19 million barrels a day.)

Why not 55 mph speed limit?

How much would that cost to implement ?

Why not 55 mph speed limit?

It would probably as effective as is was last time, which is to say, not very.

You need to redesign American cars (and trucks) to be more efficient. The trouble is that American car manufacturers have never been very good at this. Everybody else in the world is good at it.

What are your references that say the 55 mph speed limit was not effective in reducing fuel consumption?


A number of studies suggest that the change in the speed limit did reduce fuel consumption from pre-limit consumption.


The national 55-mph speed limit in effect until 1987 is estimated to have reduced fuel consumption by 1 to 2 percent while simultaneously preventing 2,000 to 4,000 motor vehicle crash deaths annually.

Those references will do. A reduction of 1 to 2 percent is 99 to 98 percent ineffective.

The 55 mph limit was mostly cosmetic - giving the people the impression the government was doing something useful, when in reality it was doing almost nothing.

We need a cut in fuel consumption of 50 to 80 percent. In order to do that, you need to do something drastic, such as introduce a very high gasoline tax, and steep taxes on gas guzzling cars. Basically the same thing the Europeans have been doing since WWII.

If we were looking for a 100% reduction, then yes, it would have been 98-99% ineffective. But that was by no means the target. The ME embargo was a 5% supply reduction, so the speed limit reduction was 20-40% effective of and by itself.

While I agree a number of measures need to be applied - no single one will be effective - every reduction adds up to a larger overall reduction. The speed limit change was a short term, immediate fix (followed by CAFE, etc) that showed how some drivers could change to meet the national security threat, though also showed how many felt their lifestyle whims were more important, proving the "America is addicted to oil".

People ignored the 55 mph law and state governments actively tried to subvert it.
You could easily fix cars with today's computer technology(which did not exist in 1970s) to electronically limit the speed. In WW2, the speed limit was limited to 35 mph.

It is more time-efficient to drive 70 mph (or higher) than 55 mph and per Jevon's paradox greater efficiency leads to greater car use. Limit speed and you will reduce the use of cars. If you reliably dropped speed by 21%, people would choose to spend less time in their cars. It would be the same effect as increased congestion.

People have built their lives around their cars. A low speed limit would definitely aid that transition.

Great points. One slight quibble about the 35mph limit during WWII--I personally would love to see this again, but as far as I know it is true that most modern cars are most efficient at somewhat higher speeds these days.

The last 4 automobiles I owned get best mileage at about 1900 to 2100 rpm. In one that was 58-62 mph, in the rest about 54-58. Since most of my travel was on the highway it was in high gear, though I suspect the same would result in any range. Back in the day, I kept logs of fuel purchases and miles, and noted the differences. It covered a driving span of about 1.5 million miles over 25 years.


When I started driving to work 33 miles a day one way, I got an'84 Honda civic. Most get 35 mile per gallon from these cars. By keeping it under 55 my mileage started at 45 MPG. Now the difference between going 55 65 for 33 miles, assuming constant and instantaneous door to door speed, is three minuets. At any point on the trip like sitting in traffic at speed below 55 this differential is smaller. I eventually got my around town mileage up 55 MPG by shutting off the engine when ever i could.
Funny thing on the hwy long distance at 55 it gets 50 MPG

We don't need any new laws,
we just need to slow down!!

Where is your bicycle?

I give a long discussion about making vehicles physically unable to go above 55KMph (34 MPH) on my blog,

The problem with laws creating speed limits, with 90% of the vehicles on the road capable of sustained 80 mph, is that people will invariably go beyond the speed limit when they believe "just for this trip" they self-justify exceeding, by far, any posted limit.

Electronic limits are too easy to beat. With an extant vehicle fleet of 220 million cars and trucks, only an inexpensive escapement mechanism (think "tick tock" grandfather clock) that can retrofit the entire fleet will bring about a true conserving of fuel, policing effort, tires, vehicle weight, engine size, total materials to build a car, etc etc etc.

Look, I drive seventy every single dayum time I drive the freeways. I'm not advocating this for some gleeful agenda of punishing the status quo. It's just that there are now, waaaaaaaaay too many of us, on the planet.

Things have to change, if they are going to remain the same!!

You need to redesign American cars (and trucks) to be more efficient. The trouble is that American car manufacturers have never been very good at this. Everybody else in the world is good at it.

Ford makes very fuel efficient minis that are sold in Europe. The new Ford Fiesta ECOcentric gets 64 MPG (US). It's a diesel mini, and you won't see it in the US. I've seen info that one of the reasons that EU style minis aren't sold in the US, is because of difficulties in passing differing US crash worthiness standards, although I've yet to see valid proof or disproof. I've been told that there are difficulties for car manufacturers making a diesel with reliable diesel particulate emission controls to US standards (CA could have a lot to do with it, because they always raise the bar on emissions standards, and everyone else eventually follows). I do know that the Smart first stops at a California factory for emission and crash worthiness modifications, as well as some testing to meet regulatory hurdles.

The top selling mini in at least the UK, is the Ford KA, which has been popular for a number of years. IMHO, it's the best looking mini I've ever seen.

As far as improvements in US fuel economy tech, I think all the manufacturers have come up with some tech to get better MPG. Ford calls their improved fuel efficiency engines "Ecoboost". My 99 Ford F150 had an EPA rating of 13/17, but the 2011 F150 with an Ecoboost engine has a rating of 16/23. Ford will have a Fiesta this year that will have a HWY MPG of 40, and Chevy will have a car called the Cruze Eco that will also have a HWY rating of 40MPG. Compare to the tiny Smart, which has an EPA rating of 41 HWY. Those are all not hybrids, BTW.

Just a little hypothetical here; If the Volt performs as advertised, and most Americans switched to it, it would be a major game changer for the US. GM is saying it's electric motor can go 40 miles on a charge at HWY speeds, which means most trips for Americans will be without using any gasoline.

Well said. I am of the opinion that the real reason for the "stricter crash standards" and emissions levels is just a subtle form of protectionism. Given that all the car makers are now global, what is the point? Let Ford import their Euro cars, especially the diesel ones. All the design and development, and tooling, is already done - they will be the lowest embodied energy vehicles we can get, and the most fuel efficient ones to boot.

Thanks. I'm not 100% sure that it's merely crash worthiness standards that keep auto manufacturers from selling gas sipping minis in the states, but it's something I've seen reported more than once.

The emissions stem from environmentalism in California, but overall I think it's been a good thing. Since I was a child, the population has grown quite a bit in California, but I'd argue that the air is cleaner than when I was a kid (I'm 48). It can still get quite smoggy in the Los Angeles area, and prevailing currents give some parts of central California the worst air quality in the country (Bakersfield area), but I'm sure it'd be much much worse if not for emissions standards.

The air quality is on its way to being cleaner thanks to new standards being implemented at Los Angeles ports, which are responsible for a significant amount of LA's air pollution http://www.portoflosangeles.org/newsroom/2010_releases/news_040710_caapu... . As always, Ca has raised the bar, and ports all over the world are adopting similar standards. Ships can now turn off their on board generators while in port, and plug to jacks provided dockside. Locomotives and tractors in port facilities must have new emissions equipment installed. Unfortunately, I think the emissions equipment used to reduce particulates and other emissions on diesel powered vehicles reduce fuel efficiency, and the particulate filters are a bit of a service problem.

Having spent three months in Bk last fall, I know what you mean!
But I think the diesel emission rules have gone a bit too far. The result has been to keep highly fuel efficient diesel vehicles from being imported, or even produced locally. I don't think they will make much of a difference to the smog issue, but I am just guessing here. What is not up for debate is that they use much less fuel, and the engines last longer, and they are not the soot blowing things that they were even 10 yrs ago.

Particularly annoying here in Canada, where the emissions standards are less, but those cars are (mostly) still not available, as it's only worth the trouble of importing if you can sell to both markets. The diesel Smart was available here, until they introduced the gas version for the US market.
The diesel ones command a resale premium now!

The increased revenue from speeding tickets could easily exceed the cost of updating speed limit signs.

Can I just buy new signs between home and work, and be exempt from those tickets? It's going to cost me the same either way.

Another thing to consider- Speeding fines based on income. if your rich you could care less about a$150.00 speeding ticket!

55 is a catch all number. Not all vehicles operate at peak efficiency at that speed. CIP, I did a trip to upstate NY from Wilmington, DE, and back using the same route both ways. I used cruise control a vast majority of the time. The trip back, I had 200 less pounds in the car, and cut my cruise speed by 5 mph. (75 up, 70 back) Despite losing 2000 feet in altitude, the lower speed and less weight made my mileage drop by a mile per gallon.

When I drive my 2000 Honda Insight at no more than 55mph, I can achieve 75-80mpg. When I average 60 mph, it drops to around 68-70mpg. When I average 65-70, it drops to 60-64mpg. When I average 75mph, it drops to 55-58 mpg.


Maybe not. Prevailing winds during such a long trip could more than account for a 1 mph per gallon difference. There are other variables as well such as the temperature of the fuel when purchased, the sensitivity of the auto shutoff off the pump, ambient air temperature, etc.

At speeds above the 50 mph range the only real variable that could make a slightly higher speed a bit more efficient would be because driving at lower speed would require much more shifting between drive and overdrive. Typically only applies in hilly terrain or when carrying or towing a heavy load.

The effect of a slight wind can easily be 5 to 10% difference in gas milage. The worst effect of wind is to have it at 135 deg angle from velocity vector.

I have noticed my mpg meter on my truck register 21 mpg with a 10-15 mph tail wind, but only 16 mpg going in the opposite direction on the same highway a short time later. The change in direction was the only factor as the ground speed was 65 mph both ways. Occured yesterday on flat highway over with 60 miles travelled each way.

Therefore, wind speed and direction have a huge effect on fuel efficiency, even with only a slight breeze. Energy required to move an object through air increases with the cube of the speed, and is directly proportional to frontal area of the vehicle. Even with high gearing (low numerical ratio) most cars get best fuel economy at 50 to 60 mph, a few get better milage at 40 to 50 mph. Lock up of torque converter usually occurs at about 50 mph and that has an effect on optimum mpg speed too.

When I started driving to work 33 miles a day one way, I got an'84 Honda civic. Most get 35 mile per gallon from these cars. By keeping it under 55 my mileage started at 45 MPG. Now the difference between going 55 65 for 33 miles, assuming constant and instantaneous door to door speed, is three minuets. At any point on the trip like sitting in traffic at speed below 55 this differential is smaller. I eventually got my around town mileage up 55 MPG by shutting off the engine when ever i could.
Funny thing on the hwy long distance at 55 it gets 50 MPG

We don't need any new laws,
we just need to slow down!!

Where is your bicycle?

While you're thinking of ways to cut your oil consumption take a moment to look at this photo essay, it might give you some added incentive...


Whenever efficiency is mentioned as a solution, someone always brings up Jevon's Paradox, which is the effect sometimes observed in economies where increases in efficiency actually increase consumption.

But I'm not sure if I buy this objection. Jevon's Paradox has been observed, but it's mainly been observed in cases where efficiency improves but supply is not significantly constrained. In that case, there is nothing preventing demand from increasing and efficiency improvements may simply serve to make consumption more convenient. But that's not the situation with oil. With oil, supply is constrained and falling. It seems to me that Jevon's Paradox should not occur if supply is declining, especially if efficiency improvements are being driven by supply constraints.

It seems to me that Jevon's Paradox should not occur if supply is declining, especially if efficiency improvements are being driven by supply constraints.

I'm not so sure about that. Consider the maximum supportable price. It is likely determined by how much marginal users are willing to pay for the marginal supply. Cut their costs, via greater efficiency and the market might be able to support somewhat higher price. With say 25mpg cars lets say $100oil is max -consumers can't afford it anymore. But Prius owners would probably keep driving even with $160 oil.

But, as I imagine it, this effect should be a pretty weak one. And prior to being totally supply constrained the opposite will happen, i.e. efficiency drives demand lower.

If I have a 24 mile commute and drive a 12mpg sport utility guzzler, I burn 2 gallons a day. If I trade that in for a 50mpg Prius, I burn 0.48 gallons a day.

Now if gas were the same price as before, maybe I'd decide I can afford a commute four times as long! So there you have Jevon's Paradox at work. But... if gas quadruples in price, I'm now paying the same thing I was before. I'm not likely to want to increase that. So I've maintained my standard of living but cut my consumption to a quarter of before.

Now if I move to a home 12 miles (round trip) from work and keep the Prius, I've cut it in half again... and so on.

There's actually a lot of headroom to cut, which is part of why I'm not a believer in the "Mad Max" scenario of peak oil. But I do think it will hurt... especially for the modern ponzi finance system which requires permanent increases in consumption to sustain the debt-based monetary system.

Note: I am neglecting the embodied energy of the Prius vs. the SUV. Anyone have any idea what that difference is? Of course, embodied energy can come from other sources besides oil (gas, nuclear, renewables, etc.) so it's apples and oranges. That's why this stuff is complicated to analyze.

I agree with what you are saying here on Jevon's Paradox, which I believe has been overgeneralized in its application. The specific case with coal use had to do with a production efficiency that made much more coal producible at lower cost, thus driving up demand. Usage efficiency is something else, which may lead to lower prices in an incremental way, but these would be offset by the higher prices of constrained supply.

I'd also like to see us differentiate conservation (not driving or driving less) from efficiency (driving the same amount but using incrementally less gas). From this POV, conservation destroys demand in a qualitatively different way than efficiency does.

However, within a system, where choosing not to drive, or to drive less, involves other choices and consequences, it is difficult to predict what the aggregate or even individual outcomes would be.

I'm thinking out loud as you can probably tell.

I'd put it even more directly. I find the automatic jump onto Jeavon's Paradox to be a classic copout.

As with the Addiction discussion the other day, I feel that any proposal that suggests we shed any of our beloved scads of surplus power is telling the addict that the gig is up, the party's over, and he will come up with all sorts of truly ingenius reasons why it won't work, why it's really bad, why we should be ashamed to even be talking this way, why we're silly to suggest it..

Jevons paradox is not really a paradox and is readily explainable by modern economic theory. It only applies to situations caused by rapid technological improvements. If the improvements in fuel economy are caused by government policies, such as fuel economy standards or high fuel taxes, it doesn't really apply. We haven't had any rapid improvements in energy technology lately.

No argument there.

I just see it tossed around here at TOD when someone proposes any efficiency alteration. 'Ever since I got that Energy Star Fridge, I get to just leave the door open half the time, and my electricity bill has stayed exactly the same!'

The other one is 'why save energy when someone else is just going to go out and still use it?' It's a kind of argument that keeps coming back and trying to prove that you can't improve anything, and I think Alanon must have a great term for it. I think it's called Bargaining.

Pretty much none of the above. All ten are govt, govt. govt. programs and commissions. Most would have little impact and the best would have marginal (but maybe marginally worthwhile) impact.

55 miles an hour as suggested above would be a much better suggestion than any of the 10.

Perhaps impose an increasing gas tax to move the supply-demand curve over time. That could be rationalized, even by free market thinkers, as needed to protect Adam Smiths "social goods" that could be overused by the public(oil) if it is not protected.

(Use any revenues to make a small dent in the out of control deficit.)

They don't even mention carpooling. An organized effort along these lines could immediately cut the amount of gas used in commuting to a quarter of its current level. Add a much stronger emphasis on walking, biking and public transportation, more aggressive hov lanes... and you can bring single passenger trips down to a tiny fraction of their current rate, and of course cut gas use for this purpose (a major one) by similar amounts--and with arguably improved commuting experiences for all involved. And yes, 55mph (or even slower!?) saves lives as well as gas.

There are so many low hanging fruits here, it is truly ridiculous. That even Grist can't come up with these simple, obvious, relatively easy, effective ways to drastically reduce our commuting gas use---it's just one more depressing sign o' the times, I guess.

They don't even mention carpooling. An organized effort along these lines could immediately cut the amount of gas used in commuting to a quarter of its current level.

Americans haven't really shown much commitment to car pooling. The average car still only contains about 1.2 people during rush hour. It's one of those concepts that sounds good in theory, but fails because people don't actually behave the way it assumes. Basically, it's another Tragedy of the Commons situation.

Cuba used to have (maybe still does?) a law that required a driver with an empty car set to stop and pick up anyone looking for a ride. Presumably this would increase the occupant ratio dramatically, but I can;t see anyone (including myself) accepting being required by law to pick up hitch-hikers. Part of the appeal of the the car is not just the transport freedom, but also the ability to NOT have to share your space with strangers.

If people are prepared to share their space with carpoolers, they are probably prepared to take (efficient, clean and safe) transit (e.g. Calgary, Portland). And if that is the case, then just get on with building the transit, and be innovative about how it's done.

Investment by the public sector in Mass Transit has shown great reductions in personal auto use, as Alan from BE describes again and again WRT NOLA, DC, NYC etc..

My home state of Maine once had Interurban trains that were well used and should be part of our parallel transp. plan again.. These don't HAVE to be purely Public costs, Public Track and Private Carriers is a common enough balance.. but it sounds like you don't want to hear about anything done on the Public side of the equation..


Although I think each of these suggestions is worthy of further attention, I am surprised there is no mention of the single, simplest approach that is guaranteed to have the desired outcome:

Increase the cost of oil products by levying taxes on them.

Historically, oil shocks and recessions have had the effect of reducing consumption and promoting efficiency even before government programs are put in place to deal with the problem. One of my axioms of societal behavior is that money is the prime mover for most people and most organizations. It is only when money is on the line that a critical mass in society are willing to change their entrenched behavior.

Additionally, I am always leery of top-down solutions as they so often either add a layer of complexity in the form of regulations or produce unintended side effects or both. Strict adherence to Occam's Razor says that the simplest solution is probably the best and nothing could be simpler than taxing consumption of oil products to raise their price. We currently tax liquor and cigarettes, two other addictive substances, because we wish to discourage their use. It's a tried and true solution.

The only problem, of course, is that such a solution would be political suicide for any politician that would support it. That's why I think it is important that we try to convince the American people (and others) that over-consumption of fossil fuels, oil in particular, is our #1 enemy. Terrorists will generate headlines and bring grief to thousands but they will not bring down the USA. Stumbling into Peak Oil with no preparation, on the other hand, may never generate the same headlines but is already grinding us down with no end in sight.

Here's hoping for some more vision and serious explanation from some of our so called 'leaders'.

-- Jon

PS__ I bet you all thought I was going to forget to mention that the Energy Export Databrowser is a great tool for putting the facts of our oil situation in front of people. ;-) No advertising and no spin means that users can come to their own conclusions about what the data say. And the story the data tell is both compelling and pretty unambiguous -- imported oil will soon be in short supply.

I very much agree. Just tax the stuff, and use the money to reduce our outrageous deficits.

I suspect that the most effective driver of declining oil consumption will be declining production and increasing cost. :) Most of the decline in consumption will occur the old fashioned way too: demand destruction. Fewer vacations, closer vacations, moving closer to where you work, telecommuting, buying less stuff, etc. Efficiency improvements (hybrids, smaller cars, diesels, etc.) and resource substitution (electric cars, natural gas cars, bikes) will make up some too, but I actually suspect that good old demand destruction will be more than 50% of the consumption drop... especially early on.

This is the only thing the num nums in Washington know how to do. It will pass. One increase already has. The quadrupling of the 'spill tax.'

num nums! hahaha, may I use that in conversation?


No, you've got it totally backwards. All they know how to do is spend.

Just tax the stuff, and use the money to reduce our outrageous deficits.

That's a good idea. The Europeans, Japanese, etc. tax the living bejeezus out of fuel, and use the money to fund their social programs. That's why the Europeans, Japanese, etc. have free health care, and Americans have cheap gasoline.

However, the whole U.S. taxation system suffers from a reality disconnect. That's the #1 problem with it. For some reason people think taxes and government services are somehow unrelated.

That's why the Europeans, Japanese, etc. have free health care, and Americans have cheap gasoline.

I love it. Lucid line joins dots.
Do it again.
Fuel my addiction to this site.

A flat tax hits the poor and lower-middles disproportionally.

Many in the US need to drive for work/other, have no, repeat, no choice, and extra gas costs may tip them over into destitution.

Right now, one child in 4 in the US is receiving “food stamps” - the number of families living on the edge is staggering. You will see hungry people driving cars (already the case ?) and when the food budget shrinks, the children are always the first to pay even when ‘fair share’ is implemented.

Some kind of ‘staggered FF tax‘ or tax combined with FF allowances / tax credits / etc. is not a solution, it is too complicated to implement, setting aside other objections.

Rationing is the only decent answer, within the framework of the kinds of measures proposed in the top post and the ‘tax it’ posts.

Of course, that would be inconceivable in the US - ‘fascist’, ‘green dictatorship’, ‘cause for revolt’ as it cuts straight to the heart of the US zeitgeist which is cornucopist (that wd doesn’t exist according to my spell check), technotopist, capitalist, resting on a double vision (sic) of hegemony, supremacy; the belief in endless resources, leading to an assumption of entitlement mediated by a questionable ‘free market’ ideology.

Rationing would automatically be seen as the work of the very devil himself, aka. Democrats, the Illuminati, Rotschilds, a black President, World Governance, and so on.

Rationing leads inevitably to a ‘black’ market. Not necessarily a bad thing, and directly embedded in various energy schemes based on the free market mantras, with selling rights to pollute (e.g. Kyoto), not that I am in favor, but it is accepted and easy to plan for and control.

In the US, ‘gas credits’ (similar to ‘food stamps’ with the difference that the buyer rather than the Gvmt. pays - btw food stamps are run by computers and one big bank appropriates a big rake-off) only lead to some amount of uncontrolled re-distribution, with the non-or lower-users being rewarded indiscriminately.

That is perhaps in some ways unfair (the accidents of geographical location, mainly) but does send a strong message -: those who use less ‘profit’ as they can ‘sell’ their rights, allocations, as they might perceive it, at a ‘premium’. The scheme preserves the poor, and this is a bonus whether one is thinking ethically or pragmatically.

I’m not keen at all, only pointing out that rationing as an alternative is in many ways easier, more effective, etc. than a flat tax.

Tax works in many parts of the EU simply because ppl drive less and can pay, or often have public transport available, so can choose not to pay... FF taxes have to be viewed as part of a larger system, with for ex. good health care, public housing, free universities, etc.

The heart of rationing must rest on an egalitarian allocation of ‘credits’, and once again, in the US that would be impossible.

There is no way a single black mother who works for X co. could get the same ‘allowance’ as the CEO of that X Co. If she could sell her rights to the CEO..


food stamp usage with interactive maps:


Gvmt. ‘benefits’ (social security, food stamps, etc.) account for 17.9 of personal income:


of course the average - high as it is - completely obscures the real situation.

Many in the US need to drive for work/other, have no, repeat, no choice, and extra gas costs may tip them over into destitution.

So, why don't you vote for urban mass transit measures? I Europe, you can get anywhere by train. Try that here!

I know, I know, distances and all that. I submit, though, that on the East Coast and in the Mid-West, where cities are close together, there should be inter-urban train service greater than there is. And, urban mass transit is a joke in most metro areas today. Diesel bus is not the answer - what is needed is electricity powered transit, what used to be called street cars. Even the light rail used in many cities is insufficient for real urban needs. Great cities do have great transit. San Francisco comes to mind (their mix of BART light rail, street cars, and electric bus lines is good); New York, of course, has true urban mass transit; and even Chicago isn't bad! In a great city you do not need an automobile. It is and should be a luxury, taxed accordingly.

Which reminds me. Why, exactly, or how, are poor people driving to work every day? We have all of these unchallenged assumptions, like it is fine for everyone to drive to work. That is what propels people out to the suburbs, and has destroyed so many cities. It is a way of life that cannot be sustained, and we hear that the reason we cannot tax gasoline is because everyone, including 'poor' people drive to work every day? That is insane! It is proof of addiction!

I say, tax gasoline; tax oil; use the tax for efficient mass transit, to reduce federal lending and debt, and for social programs, especially medical programs for the huge problems our addiction has created in our nation's overall health. That would be from air pollution, lack of exercise walking, toxic water, chemicals in foods, and so forth, all of which create obesity, COPD, cancers of various sorts, heart problems, circulation problems, diabetes, and the rest! These problems are created by our dependence on the automobile, and on fossil fuels. They should in all honesty and sensibility be paid for by the industries and consumers that produce them. Anything else is dishonest, deceitful and a absolute fraud. It is time we wake up!


In Europe, you can get anywhere by train.

Yes, and often quite efficiently - provided that you redefine "anywhere" as those places crammed wall-to-wall with people, which have sky-high costs of living to match. In other places - even in Holland's Randstadt region - you may well end up waiting a half-hour or hour for a bus just like in smaller US cities, unless you just happen to live near a train station. And even then, if the place is too small, few trains may actually stop.

But yes, there are some crowded places in the US where it would be feasible to do more; Alan points them out from time to time. However, part of the problem is that potential transit riders expect to get it all nearly for free, as per:

I say, tax gasoline; tax oil; use the tax for efficient mass transit...

Moan and complain to your heart's content, but don't expect the majority to vote up limitless funds to give a small-ish minority nearly-free rides, especially when most aren't feeling house-rich any more. Politically, it just isn't on, and I'm beginning to think it may be less so after the November election.

Somehow, transit advocates need to come up with a credible (ugh, the jargon:) "value proposition". I have no idea what that could possibly be, given the high cost of transit (Chicago Transit Authority was saying $7/ride during the recent budget impasse. A ride into downtown, which is mainly what it's useful for, is not too likely to exceed 10 miles; at that point you're getting into PACE and Metra more than CTA.) With absurd costs like that (even with no road tax payable for buses, and many capital expenses not included), we'll wind up with electric cars instead.

P.S. inquiring minds wonder, how do cars cause "chemicals" to be added to foods? Does sodium benzoate fall into one's grocery bags from the trunk lid? Is there any ill whatsoever that's not caused by cars? Is that why people routinely lived to age 150 or so up until cars came into wide use in the early 20th century?

P.P.S. the USA doesn't have internal passports - not even residence permits, which I've been told exist in Canada. Not much to stop a car-hater from moving to the big city, except for the expense, but that's just as true in Europe. So what's the maudlin emotionalism about the things all about?

PaulS once again channeling Yogi Berra:

Paris--no one wants to go there and spend money because it's too crowded and expensive (clearly the result of no one being willing to spend money there!!????)

Just unimaginably idiotic.

Compare and contrast ;

PaulS ... as those places crammed wall-to-wall with people, which have sky-high costs of living to match ...

to :

rangertech1...I spent a couple of years in Japan. They have several advantages with regard to efficiency. Almost all of the population is very concentrated.

and :

Kye Bay There is no free lunch. We've been gorging for a hundred years. It's payback time.

Have you ever considered stopping for more than half a second to ponder that your existence (as you currently know it)  is 100% dependent upon your external costs being born by others?

Metaphorically speaking - the cost of your car and your life style (which apparently is non negotiable - up until nature decides otherwise)  is born by people (sometimes children)  working in sweat shops or places like Bhopal or (currently)  the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of us despise car-culture because of what it does to people and to the planet - would it be fair to say that there are a surplus of examples of it bringing out the worst in people, and examples of the opposite are, to say the least, scant?

There is an imminent and rude awakening ahead for many profoundly ignorant people - and in most cases these will be people that reside in the USA.

Cars, plastic and cement----the three evils of the oil age. All of them foist their costs on the planet---the oceans, other countries, poor people, the air, the water. They benefit only the narrow group of industrial folks who get the profits.


That is why I am really optimistic about Peak Oil.

Even the people at the top of the food chain don`t really enjoy the ruin they are bringing to the planet. They don`t have a choice. It is the usual "prisoner`s dilemma" story.

Cement (concrete) has been around since the Roman empire or earlier. Most concrete is made using coal, gas or electricity.

It's widespread use is an evil of the modern age, and will decline with peak oil, but only as a side effect of economic decline/collapse.

You are being pedantic. Pi's point is valid, as is, his reference to the "prisoner's dilemma". If wealthy "entrepreneurs" and industrialists in the west were not screwing the rest of us, then we can be reasonably sure that there are plenty of other people in other parts of the world more than willing to step up to the challenge.

The whole notion of wealth "creation" is absurd! If there is a god (personally I think invisible friends are tantamount to an admission of insanity)  then perhaps god can create something from nothing. An analogy is oil "production" - complete and utter nonsense, all we are doing is moving it from one location (typically below ground)  to another (your gasoline tank)  and converting it along the way - to make a profit.

Using terms like wealth "creation", or oil "production" and 30% of your cereal is "free" are inane vacuous cons played out as part of our normal lives.

Somehow, transit advocates need to come up with a credible (ugh, the jargon:) "value proposition". I have no idea what that could possibly be, given the high cost of transit (Chicago Transit Authority was saying $7/ride during the recent budget impasse.

In recent years transit systems in the U.S. have spent about four times as much per incremental rider as transit systems in Canada, and Canadian transit systems have ridership rates that are two or three times as high as ones in comparable U.S. cities. To my way of thinking that means the U.S. has been doing something things that are fundamentally wrong in terms of transit policy. However, European ridership rates are twice as high as Canadian ones, which suggests they are doing some things that are fundamentally right.

However, to get back to costs, I rode the Calgary light rail system for years, and its average operating cost was about 27 cents per ride. No, I did not slip a decimal point in that number. The trains however, were standing room only most of the day and packed like sardine cans during rush hour. See Calgary’s CTrain – Effective Capital Utilization for an analysis of the system economics.

It's 100% powered by wind turbines, too. I was in the Pincher Creek area of Alberta last weekend and I've never seen so many wind turbines in my wildest imaginings. They were everywhere.

The Calgary LRT is a great example of how to build a transit system cheaply, in the order of $20m/mile, compared to the recently built Seattle LRT at $190m/mile and the proposed system for Honolulu at $300m/mile. When it's a tenth the cost, you can build ten times as much.

For those that don;t know, Pincher Creek is on the lee side of a major pass in the Cdn Rockies, and is one of the most consistently windy places you'll ever find. Makes Altamont Pass in Ca feel like just a light breeze. They can build the wind turbines on shorter towers too, as the tall ones are at risk of getting blown over!
What was marginal, low value grazing country is now productive - it has revitalised what was just a sleepy highway town.

P.P.S. the USA doesn't have internal passports - not even residence permits, which I've been told exist in Canada.

Told by who? Someone from Mars?

"In Europe, you can get anywhere by train."

That certainly applies to the tourist who wants to visit major cities and sites of interest, and all those who have paid a 'premium' to be on or close to a commuter line (train, RER, tram, even bus and plane.)

It is not true for a large proportion of workers (shoppers, medic visits, etc.) who live in the 'regions' - countryside an distant ex-burbs. I'm sorry I have no link for this - it was published about two years ago in Le Monde, in French, about France - but the latest Gov. study at that time showed:

* ppl in the periphery drive more (duh), double or triple (from memory obviously)

* because many ppl who live in or very close to urban centers drive not at all

* poorer ppl drive more (above a certain level, close to poverty) - again, this is obvious, they have gone for cheaper housing, bear the discomfort of geographical job changes they can't refuse, long commutes, and if a family often need two cars

The conclusion was that further taxes on FF would inordinately fall on the 'lower rungs' and would affect employment and 'the economy' in short order.

this thread is probably dead...but I lost my connection so am very late..

Of course I would 'vote' for mass transit, it is probably the best measure amongst the proposed ones. I was addressing only one aspect: tax and rationing.

A flat tax hits the poor and lower-middles disproportionally.

There's no intrinsic right to drive cheaply - solutions can include;
- carpooling
- taking the bus
- biking
- vanpooling
- etc

The longer we have cheap oil, the longer we put off the inevitable, and the more painful the transition will be.

Before you get people out of their cars, you must give them something else to get them to work. You must also avoid the tradgedy of the commons whilst doing so. You must also remember that you are undoing the suburbanisation and car infrastructure that has been relentlessly growing in America for the last 60 years or so. You must also take into account that there is no one size fits all solution for every city.

However using the fact that there is no "one perfect solution" should also not be an excuse to do something, as some people seem to think. A tax on car use now will never be as bad as the perfect storm approaching for which the poor are much less prepared for.

Before you get people out of their cars, you must give them something else to get them to work.

*BINGO!* That's step #1 in the "Coping with Peak Oil" contingency plan. The U.S. is completely behind the 8-ball on that step. Other countries are doing much better.

You must also remember that you are undoing the suburbanisation and car infrastructure that has been relentlessly growing in America for the last 60 years or so.

Yes, you are reversing 60 years of bad decision making on the part of leaders, promoted by oil, auto, and real estate lobbyists, none of whom are going to admit they made any mistakes.

You must also take into account that there is no one size fits all solution for every city.

Yes, but as a starting point, you have to realize that the solution for any given city is not going to be popular with the oil, auto, and real estate lobbyists who have been driving the agenda up until this point.

A tax on car use now will never be as bad as the perfect storm approaching for which the poor are much less prepared for.

And, unbeknownst to most people, the perfect storm is now upon us.

However, to switch metaphors, most people don't realize that when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your original objective was to drain the swamp. The collapse in the housing market, banks going bankrupt, huge government deficits, unemployment - these are the alligators nipping at people's butts. They don't realize the swamp they are standing butt-deep in is peak oil, and if they manage to drain the swamp, the alligators will go away. The hard part is convincing people that the swamp is the source of the alligators.

Great alligator analogy RMG. I will just add to it by saying not only are we surrounded by the alligators (of our own making) but now we are feeding them (bailouts, mis-directed "stimulus" spending etc).

We should have let them starve to death, and walk out of the swamp on the backs of the dead ones, and leave the remaining ones to starve!

We should have let them starve to death, and walk out of the swamp on the backs of the dead ones, and leave the remaining ones to starve!

Well, that would be my preferred solution. My whole life I have never understood why people couldn't see the swamp for the alligators nipping at their butts, (or the forest for the trees, to use another analogy).

From my cedar post-and-beam home here, high in the Canadian Rockies (built by myself personally on a strictly cash-flow basis much to the horror of the banks), my perspective may be a little more erudite than the average person's, but I still don't understand why people can't see what is going to happen. When they get chomped in the butt it always comes as a complete surprise that the alligators have been sneaking up on them.

The working poor are quite likely to not be able to use mass transit and carpooling. They are the ones working odd shifts, weekends, etc.

Even if a co-worker lives nearby, they don't work the same shift, or even the same days. When child care costs nearly as much as your hourly wage, an extra hour on the bus (vs driving) is not cost effective at all. Workplaces don't have changing rooms for bicyclists, or even a safe place to lock up your purse other than your car. The cost of a weekly taxi to bring groceries home is more than the cost of insurance and vehicle maintenance.

So they get a $500 car (likely in poor repair) and drive it. Even if they spend more in gas than on public transportation, they save dozens of hours a week in travel time. And without a car, how do you take a vacation? A rental costs more than their entire vacation budget, if they can even rent (no credit card).

You are focusing on the exceptions, not the norm. There are likely 75% of single occupant commuters that could realize a less consumptive alternative than what they have now, including the poor.

The working poor are quite likely to not be able to use mass transit and carpooling. They are the ones working odd shifts, weekends, etc.

Well, in the U.S. they probably won't be able to do so, but that's the nature of the U.S. economy. The people at the bottom of the economic ladder are screwed.

It's much better to be a member of the working poor in Europe, where public transit runs at night and on weekends. Also they get free heath care, paid vacations (4-6 weeks), child care subsidies, and other fringe benefits that the working poor in the U.S. could only dream about.

It's much better to be rich in the U.S. where you don't have to pay all those taxes to keep the poor happy.

A flat tax hits the poor and lower-middles disproportionally.

Absolutely correct. Many ecological economists have responded, though, that you want one policy instrument for each separate policy objective. You cannot reasonably expect one policy to do two completely different things.

Want to discourage gasoline consumption? Raise gasoline taxes.

Want to mitigate or eliminate the harmful effects of declining oil supplies on the poor and lower-middle class? Lower their taxes or even send them money (via a "negative income tax" for example). The taxes in this country are already heavily skewed to favor the rich. We need a steep progressive income tax, as we had under such radicals as Truman and Eisenhower.

Want to do both? Implement both policies. Then the poor will see that their incomes are rising enough to offset or more than offset the gasoline tax, and will reap additional benefits by, say, riding a bicycle if they can. We can't reduce oil consumption unless we have buy-in from the poor and middle class. That means a shift in the burden of paying to those most able to pay.

Ding Ding Ding, we have a winner.

Why don't we just grow up and realize there's not always a feel-good solution to a problem, and sometimes, doing what's necessary is gonna hurt, and most of all it's gonna hurt the kinds of folks you'd feel guilty about hurting because they really are part of the problem after all, and the privileged really are quite capable of covering their own bases to mitigate (or, more likely, exploit) any of your idealistic meddling in open defiance of your unquenchable desire for equality or justice or whatever. But still, it would just be so much easier to just single out one little overprivileged group and cut them down to size and spare everyone else and things will be great. Woohoo, I can just see the fatcats howl in outrage as the doe eyed Ethiopian child finally gets her bowl of rice thanks to enlightened folks like you. Stick it to the man!

But really, fatcats in their private jets aren't the ones burning up most of our oil, it's your legions of unassailable single moms exercising their inalienable right to drive to work and the store and the salon every day. $100 a plate sashimi isn't what's responsible for the overfishing of our oceans, $3 a pound fishery-raised tuna (that BTW probably qualifies for food stamps) is, because having a pulse is the only requirement to get your lips on some of that there delicious tuna. Most of that scary 7 billion humans aren't living in developed nations, and certainly they're not the ones pushing the figure even higher, because God forbid anyone ever tells people who can't support the kids they already have that we'll no longer be guilted into providing free food and medical care so they can have even more. Spoiled Western hunters sipping brandy and smoking cigars aren't decimating all those cute fluffy African animals, bushmeat hunters peddling it to the natives for pennies are, because you just can't criticize destitute people trying to scrape together some semblance of survival, regardless of how they go about doing it. Same I suppose applies to subsistence farmers chopping down rainforest, etc.

We've got problems, big problems, of that there's no doubt. Whether you're going be able to effectively shoehorn the solutions to those big problems into something that quite neatly aligns with your political leanings and gives you that warm fuzzy feeling that can only be attained by simultaneously punishing the undeserving and rewarding the deserving, only requiring sacrifice from the minority you feel should be required to make sacrifices and sparing or even elevating the more deserving masses, well now, that's quite a bit more doubtful. Oil doesn't really care who's burning it, it's all the same in the end.

I spent a couple of years in Japan. They have several advantages with regard to efficiency. Almost all of the population is very concentrated. Most folks don't know that per capita, Japanese has more forest acreage than we have in the U.S.

They also make use of an integrated public transportation system. You really don't need to own a car/truck unless you are in the business of hauling stuff around.

Citizens pay more than $100 U.S. per year for the privilege of having a drivers license.

Automobile yearly registration averages around $500 U.S.

Automobile/Truck insurance I don't have numbers for except for what I paid. I have no tickets and no accidents and paid $210.00 US per month for liability insurance. I bought a used minivan for $2000 U.S. that had a 1200cc engine and a top speed of 55mph (with driver only). I usually got about 45mpg out of that Mitsubisi. I named her Gladys.

Once I got over the intimidation of figuring out how to get around on public transportation I got rid of the minivan and never looked back. Spent the money I saved on my friends at Karaoke Bars.

Perhaps instead of raising gas taxes there should be a national automobile registration. The amount paid for personally owned non-commercial vehicles per year based on the weight of that vehicle.

I believe in Japan the govt uses the gasoline tax revenue to fix highways. Maybe also other things too, though.

50 cents to one dollar per gal tax. Use the Horizon fiasco as the impetus. Use extra funds for the debt and a new direction. Bring the troops home to help with cleanup....good face saving excuse.

Canada is the biggest supplier of US energy, yet our fuel costs are far higher. It isn't that big of a deal. We drive a Yaris in our family which is very affordable. Canadian prices are still dirt cheap compared to other countries.

The problem is that the United States is painted into a tax corner and any party that goes in the tax direction will be trashed out of office. If the money is spent wisely, folks don't mind paying taxes. When the money is utilized like a campaign slush fund, or for imperialism, well.....

Good luck getting the gas tax raised! Unfortunately a majority (not all, but still most IMHO) of Americans think that their taxes go up every year, even if they get a tax cut. Some may be convinced, others never will.
I know people who simultaneously supported going into Iraq AND the Bush tax cuts. I've asked such people if they thought that made sense, as war is one of the expensive things a nation can do and if it was necessary we should sacrifice in some way. Those who were poorly-informed, but generally middle of the road suburbanites looked blankly at me and then said things like, "I never thought of it that way." My wingnut brother in-law and his cousin responded with some irrelevant Limbaugh talking points sprinkled with "libtard" and "democraps" and even a reference to Monica Lewinsky! The first group may be convinced to take the right steps (if they can be made to think about it), the second never will.

It should be perfectly obvious that if you increase spending, e.g. on a war, you will have to increase taxes to pay for it. Possibly not at that point in time - as long as the creditors are willing there is also the option of paying more later. The longer you put it off the bigger the interest costs become. It's like living on your credit cards because you don't have enough income to support your lifestyle.

However, there seems to be a mental disconnect in many American's minds between taxing and spending. The Bush administration was a classic example of that. They seemed to think that deficits didn't matter and they could get away with massive deficits forever. It's similar to thinking that a leak in the roof doesn't really matter, because you can always put out buckets to catch the water.

However, at some point the rot will become terminal, and the roof will fall in, which it has.

Taxing it would only work if enough people really believe that it needs to be done, otherwise we'll just elect congressmen who will get rid of the tax.

First you have to get a heck of a lot of people on board with the idea that increasing the cost of the stuff is the best way to solve the problem.

The European economies are democracies too.
It looks as though Old Europe is more frightened of ill health than fuel taxes.
The Baby Boomers in America might see the light as they age.
Perhaps Europe has a different demographic profile to USA.

True, but a good bit of the infrastructure and culture in Europe was mature before there were cars. It seems possible that the US has been more profoundly impacted by growing up with cars. Not that cars aren't also deeply ingrained there, but it doesn't seem that the existing infrastructure is so totally predicated on cars (it's rare to find a place in the US where you can't have curb-side service in a monster SUV).

If Gen Y kids are 'Digital Natives', then think of the US as 'Automotive Natives'. Getting us off cars is like trying to take away a kid's smartphone.

Yes, there is that aspect.

Perhaps it can be counterbalanced by the fear of Death.

Explain the link to the Boomers between oil taxes and cheap Medicine.

One has to develop a relationship with Death ,a character in Terry Prachett's novels.

I'm skeptical that enough people can be convinced that cheaply produced oil is scarce enough to justify any kind of fear, much less fear of death.

I probably have an unjustifiably low opinion of my fellow Americans; I hope they surprise me.

Although, I have noticed that when I mention oil depletion I often get nods of glum agreement now rather than the dumb looks or vigorous denial of the past. It seems a great many more people are aware of the problem, but they seem to believe that they are locked into their lifestyles and simply wait for 'somebody' to do something about it.

I'm skeptical that enough people can be convinced that cheaply produced oil is scarce enough to justify any kind of fear, much less fear of death.

Bullshit! We know exactly how to convince just about everyone to do just about anything we want them to do. Just ask any 21st century Advertising exec, and he or she will tell you that we've had that tool perfected for quite some time now!

I would agree a tax would be better, if you want to discourage consumption. It may also lead to more/ worse recession, but that is a decision one would need to make.

Apparently Grist thought a tax would not be popular. So they came up with a bunch of easy and cheap things (well sort of easy and cheap). But if governments are already very "hard up", where are they going with sufficient money to bail out and expand every transit system in the country, for example? Maybe they need a bunch of new taxes.

I recon you sell it with a tax cut somewhere else of equal size. So you don't do a tax increase, you do a tax shift. A shift from income tax to pollution tax. Shouldn't the patriotic people who help America get off its horrible Oil addiction be rewarded? And shouldn't endangering the national security (consuming excessive amounts of oil) be discouraged?

One idea that was proposed in Canada was as follows; (I cannot recall the exact numbers)

A tax on carbon was proposed at some number per tonne that equated to about 11c a litre on gasoline and was estimated to raise some 43 billion annually.

This was to be offset by income tax legislation that allowed income splitting estimated to cost 39 billion.

The delta was proposed to go to fund pubic transit projects - specifically light rail transit.

I really liked the idea because I am self employed and my wife does not work. We have two kids and she stays at home. Splitting my income with her would have knocked me down a tax bracket and was worth good money to me.

But - as has been pointed out above - proposing new taxes is political suicide. It didn't help that the proposal was made by the Green party which had little chance anyway....

The problem with that proposal is that single people get no benefit, but still pay the carbon tax. A better way is to just raise the tax free threshold, and also eliminate some (or all) payroll taxes.

Income splitting is a whole different issue, and should be treated and debated as such - if it's really a good idea, then do it anyway, it should not be tied to energy policy. BUt it does raise the question of how to (equitably) recover the lost tax revenue, and my suggestion is that you don't -reduce government spending instead.


Whether a tax is popular or not depends upon the events that lead up to it. I made a fairly detailed post about the Danish Oil Situation back in March that sums up why the Danes were willing to embark on a series of 'Green Tax' reforms. Their history with oil dependency and oil shocks made them starkly aware of the down side of their oil addiction

I would hope that events like the Deepwater Horizon spill could be used in a similar fashion to galvanize support for decreasing our dependence on both imported oil and domestic oil fields that push the limits of technology. We are currently experiencing one of those rare moments that can be used to begin the conversation about higher fuel taxes. It is very disappointing to think that Grist, of all places, would think that fuel taxes are not even mentionable in their publication. This conversation has to begin in the media and then, if we are successful, work its way onto the political stage.

Let's be very clear when we say the following:

  1. We do want to discourage consumption.
  2. High levels of fossil fuel consumption are not in the national interest.
  3. We understand there may be short term pain but it will be for longer term gain.
  4. Our tax system is perhaps our best tool for discouraging consumption and we need to begin the conversation on just how high those taxes should go.

Best Hopes for sane tax policies.

-- Jon

"Though local and state politicians are railing against BP and what they consider lax industry regulation and enforcement, it is nearly impossible to find any of them calling for offshore drilling to cease, or even slow down. Louisiana’s senators — Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat, and David Vitter, a Republican — have both scrambled to be the most prominent voice to argue that the country should not retreat from offshore drilling just because of the spill. Many of their constituents seem to agree."


This is an incredibly lame effort on Grist's part, which I normally have a lot of respect for. A resolution from congress? Please. People have zero respect for anything congress does or says. Cash for clunkers? Please. How about fees for all cars less than 40mpg and rebates for all cars more than 40 mpg. In short, a feebate program ala Amory Lovins.

Immediately announce emergency priority legislation to raise the gas tax to at least ten dollars a gallon. This will be done by a certain percentage increase per month for three years until the ten dollars a gallon is reached. Increase the tax by the CPI in years hence. Right now the gas tax is so low it doesn't even pay what it is intended for,the building and maintenance of highways. We are subsidizing our demise out of general tax funds.

The people who visit this site could come up with at least a hundred, not ten ways, to decrease oil use. Establish a thread to do this, publish it and distribute it to all major media and political leader.s

We are in a crisis and we were in a crisis even before this oil gusher; it is just that the gusher is making this obvious.

The billions that are spent on the military and environmental consequences to maintain our oil economy is criminal.

In all the media accounts I have seen, including interviews with the suffering locals, I have not seen one person call for an effort to cut our dependency. What were the locals driving before this gusher and what will they be driving afterwards?

BP is the proximate cause of this disaster but everyone needs to step up to avoid spills like this in the future.

Obama could start by speaking straight to the American people if he is capable of doing so. The gulf is screwed and will be so for years, if not for decades. It is time for another sweater speech ala Carter without the sweater.

Where is the outrage? If this gusher is not a wake up call, a whack on the side of the head, what the hell is.

Ineffective and disappointing set of ideas. Basically worthless.

More later.


My thoughts exactly.

I would expect this group to have a lot more to say.

Probably just distracted watching the mud geyser :)

They don't even mention carpooling. An organized effort along these lines could immediately cut the amount of gas used in commuting to a quarter of its current level. Add a much stronger emphasis on walking, biking and public transportation, more aggressive hov lanes... and you can bring single passenger trips down to a tiny fraction of their current rate, and of course cut gas use for this purpose (a major one) by similar amounts--and with arguably improved commuting experiences for all involved. And yes, 55mph (or even slower!?) saves lives as well as gas.

There are so many low hanging fruits here, it is truly ridiculous. That even Grist can come up with these simple, obvious, relatively easy, effective ways to drastically reduce our commuting gas use---it's just one more depressing sign o' the times, I guess.

Since 55% of US oil use is for cars and light trucks, this has to be the target. Accelerating the adoption of PHEV and EV's as rapidly as car manufactures can re-tool and ramp up production should be the first priority.

The second should be raising gassoline and diesel taxes by at least $1/gallon(probably $4/gallon would be better) to ensure that existing vehicles are phased out as soon as possible.

Longer term (10-50years) mass transit expansion.

In addition to taxes, we will have to reduce the crash test requirements at least to European standards. High mileage eventually requires less weight, and less weight equals less safety. If the long term carrying capacity of this planet is closer to two billion than seven billion, a few hundred crash deaths would unfortunately be inconsequential. I'm looking for a Honda CRX, which could never be built now. A 55 mile speed limit would have little immediate impact but would encourage the sale of underpowered, lighter weight, more economical cars.

I think if this were a serious effort to reduce oil usage then
several categories can be targeted.
Commercial shipping can be converted to nuclear power. China's CEO of COSCO shipping is looking at this. Nuclear power is used for several hundred military ships.
It would work and be cost effective and enable faster shipping of goods. It would be cost effective even with higher insurance costs and paying for two to four armed squads of security. 9% of the worlds oil is used for shipping.

research on substitutes for oil for plastics.

Oil is still used for electricity.

Oil is still used for heat

Oil is still used for industry (heat and other uses)

Recreational vehicles using oil could be more easily targeted politically.

Cities could create larger zones than current open air walking blocks.
Free bikes like Amsterdam. Park at the periphery.
Use EZ Pass to target tolls and fees and larger vehicles.
Give away electric bikes or 2-4 person 3-4 wheel light electric vehicles.
Take away one lane and turn them into two lanes for the the light vehicles that
are 3 feet wide. Expand out from electric bike or regular bike or segway only or walking only zones. Downtowns, campuses, large warehouses, etc...
The light electric vehicles can be sub-$1000 and would be cheaper than hybrid car subsidies.
25-30 million electric bikes per year mostly in China. They have shown that the volume can be done and will be far more feasible than suitable electric cars. There 60+ mph electric motor bikes. Light vehicles could use ten times less batteries than a full electric car.

Easier to pass city by city zoning and other rules than pass statewide or national.
If you can't convince Berkeley or some other green friendly cities then you have no hope.

Nuclear power can only be used for international (and AK, PR & Hawaii) ocean shipping. Not viable for pushing barges up the Mississippi River.

And all ocean & river shipping combined is only 2.5% of US oil use.


I was looking at your table and I've noticed few people mentioned substituting oil by NG in heating applications (process heat, home and business HVAC and water heating, crop drying), which constitute 12% of US demand. More aggressive retrofit programs (boilers, furnaces, water heater) could certainly be implemented. Producing heat from gas is obviously proven and gas is certainly competitive at ±$4/MMBtu.

"Take away one lane and turn them into two lanes for the light vehicles that are 3 feet wide"

Great idea . However, road conditions otherwise should also be made safe so that very high MPG light vechicles can compete safely with heavywieght traffic. That probably means lower speed limits in commuter areas where traffic is not segregated.

9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs. A prize is now awarded for 100 mph vehicle. Similar prizes could be offered for other breakthroughs.

Was that supposed to be 100 mpg? It's only one key off on the keyboard.

Higher gasoline taxes would certainly be an incentive, but I see a couple of problems. The first is that it would have to be carefully crafted to avoid being regressive, and the second, much bigger issue is that it's politically next to impossible until people realize how much trouble we're in, and then it will likely be too late.

Sheesh the authors really dropped the ball on this one. I think they limited their choices to those that allow BAU; which we all know is no longer possible. I can just see them...writers and editors sitting around a table trying not to scare the public, instead coming up with feel-good solutions full of truthiness. Did they forget that it all goes back to seemingly unrelated, personal choices? What about personal sacrifice? Whatever happened to that? Why do all of the "solutions" from these mouth-breathers involve further consumption? SO many questions!

How about personal solutions like no babies(and humanely lowering the population), vegetarianism or limiting meat consumption, promoting bicycles, discouraging obesity, higher taxes on oil where the $$ is directed to specific purposes, guerilla gardens and other carbon offset techniques...

Like someone already said, we could all think of hundreds of strategies given the time...

God I love this place... TOD



I agree that we should work toward personal solutions. I'm a vegetarian (and my cooking is almost always vegan) and I don't drive much. My girlfriend and I are considering adoption rather than baby-making if/when we start a family. These are not hard things to do, but unless lots of people follow they won't make much of a dent. And not very many people will follow.

One of the problems is that a lot of existing policies actually promote high energy usage. Agricultural subsidies and tax breaks, especially (but not exclusively) for industrial meat production, and the complete lack of pollution regulation in agriculture, promote high energy usage and environmental destruction. You can promote vegetarianism. You can also promote better standards and enforcement of them in agriculture. The latter would probably take more chicken breasts off American plates than the former.

Look at this blog on adoption before making that choice--


Yes, Pretty dissapointing weak tea. All watered down legislative wish list stuff. The shame is even something this toothless has virtually zero change of getting passed. I thought the teaching people to drive better was particularly lame. And not because they don't need to learn how, but "don't accellerate hard" is pretty lame, and the typical translation is counterproductive:
(1) Conservation isn't fun, only sissies do it.
(2) They take it to heart, but accelerate like turtles, wasting both time and fuel (as they are stuck in lower gears longer).

I would concentrate on only two major behavioral changes here.
(1) Turn the engine off stupid! How many drivers park for an extended period of time leaving the engine running. There seems to be an irrational fear that if they turn the vehicle off they won't be able to restart it. Or perhaps they don't know a car battery can run the radio for several hours without running the battery down significantly.
(2) Avoid, hurry up and wait. Otherwise know as looking/thinking ahead, so you can avoid wasting the vehicles kinetic energy with unneccesary braking. In terms of stopping for red lights, this might be called just in time arrival (i.e. arrive at the light just after it turns green).

I suspect the factors that will reduce crude oil consumption the most in the U.S. are: high prices, high unemployment, shortages and rationing.

Me to.

The current price of gasoline in the US is €0,61
The current price of gasoline in the Netherlands is €1,59

So we pay more than double the price and still people drive their cars. Although they're a lot more conscious. Meaning they'll try and buy a fuel efficient car. Try and not live to far from where they work. Carpool. Etc.

I think the US government should start raising extra taxes on fuel and compensate on something else. Greener taxes.

The Netherlands covers ~16,000 sq. mi. It's smaller than West Virginia. The US covers almost 3.8 million sq. mi. Not that raising the gas tax is a bad thing, but it's not an apples - apples comparison.

Why is not apples and apples? Who says that if the country is bigger you should live further from where you need to go often? I recon you shouldn't live further from your work than you can reasonably cycle, say 15km-20km.

And besides that, you can work anywhere in the EU. So you can find work just as far from home as you like, but somehow we generally don't, or move to some place close.

You are assuming that people can just pick up and move at no cost. In the US, especially west of the Mississippi, many many people have great sunk costs where they live far away from their place of work--and to leave would require going into further debt.

I am not saying that normatively they shouldn't move closer...I am just saying it's not nearly as easy as you say.

"And besides that, you can work anywhere in the EU. So you can find work just as far from home as you like, but somehow we generally don't, or move to some place close."

Not so fast. In the US, people can move almost anywhere they like without encountering a serious language barrier. In Europe people are constrained by many language barriers. Also, internal EU border controls were only abolished recently. So the history is that people are somewhat accustomed to confining themselves to a small area.

In the USA you have a long history of scattering and traveling far and wide. Fewer and lower barriers. So yes, apples and oranges.

I think what you are really getting at is population density, and that it is easier to do alternatives with higher density. This is true, but it's no excuse for not having gasoline taxes. Australia is roughly the same size as the mainland US (lower 48?), but has the population of 20m, about equal to NY State. Fuel prices in Aust are about $1.50/gal higher than US, and the per capita fuel usage is lower, as are average miles driven, though not as low as Europe.
Canada is similar - slightly higher gas prices than US, more transit in most cities, and much lower population density, and less average VMT/capita, and less gasoline per capita.

So clearly population density is no barrier to using less fuel, or designing more efficient cities.

A good summary of studies on cities and car miles driven is at;

Yes, I know its the Sierra Club, but the studies they reference are the real deal.

The result can be summarised as this - total car + rail miles travelled in Aust, Cdn and European cities, on a per capita basis, is about half of US cities.
Even the average oft he US cities with rail system (NY, Boston, Chicago, SF, Philadelphia, Cleveland) was way above the average for the international cities. So clearly, the US cities can do better, if they want to.
Getting agreement from everyone on such change is a whole different issue, of course.

Although they're a lot more conscious. Try and not live to far from where they work. Carpool. Etc.

Doesn't seem so.

People don't respond well to punishment (higher taxes, slower speeds, etc.) Find better ways to reward efficiency. A fuel accountability chip for vehicles or tracking unneccesary consumption somehow. Use less, pay less. Give folks with higher mileage cars a fuel subsidy. Those that drive low mileage vehicles by choice pay a large penalty (to subsidize the frugal).

I am open to correction but I believe that Norwegian law discourages building houses on prime farmland.
Lack of food was the motive for the Viking expansion.

What is the ratio of oil for transport/oil for other uses?
This fact will skew our emphasis.

I am wondering if the mining of Trash Mountain on the east coast for long chain carbons might significantly lower oil abuse.

It might pay to re-visit The Report to the Club of Rome (2000).
All these mitigation endeavors work out well if we implement them in 1982.

1 - Get rid of the cars.

2 - Get rid of the cars.

3 - Get rid of the cars.

4 - Get rid of the cars.


12 - Get rid of the cars.

2,8m - Get rid of the cars.

This is the last war, the final war, the war between humans and the machines. The humans are stupid and the machines will win. The humans will starve and the few survivors will be slaves ...

There was a cornball 80s movie about this called Maximum Overdrive.

"Cars, Cows and Clearing" Prof James Lovelock

Carfree Cities and their design

Take a look at the US cities that are the most carfree.

Here is a list of carfree (or car-lite) places from around the world.

Not much sand kicked up.

The 'author' compared the reference design with Venice and found very little comparison. So what. Venice is unlike most other cities in the world. There are many other carfree (or car-lite) places I linked above. Of course, there is a Venice-like design variation (see below).

Where the heck IS this city?

Either it would be new (China has stated that it is getting ready to build many new cities) or it would be an adaption of an existing city, as shown here at Carfree.com, which has a comprehensive treatment on existing city conversion. The 'author' apparently didn't even skim the site...

Is this city connected to the outside world in any way?

The 'author' again misses obvious elements of the design (did he even read what he reviewed??), as the outer sections of each lobe are for intercity freight, passenger trains, bikeways, roads, etc. In fact, the website says "Of the 100 districts, the 18 farthest from the city center are "utility areas." These non-residential areas are reserved for various infrastructure requirements, heavy industry, and parking." Look at the gray districts below.

More inane comments passed over...this guy spent very little real time on analysis and appeared to want to get an article out fast.

Your "Life without Cars" references argue that we wouldn't need cars if we had carfree city designs/lifestyles, which I agree with.

I think you like the idea of "carfree cities." It's a noble sentiment.

Unfortunately, the design ideas of Carfree.com stink.

I think that, in your enthusiasm to support "carfree" ideas in general, you are also supporting Carfree.com's specific design suggestions even though they stink.

That's understandable and common.

Good. You got that far. Now it is time to raise your game to the next level.

Unfortunately, the design ideas of Carfree.com stink.

If you have valid criticisms of their design ideas, then we can evaluate said criticisms. So far, I've seen none; hence, I've no reason to assign any weight to your opinion. Before you do provide said valid criticisms, make sure you've read both books - otherwise, what else would you base your opinions on?

Carfree cities page: typical entertaining academic fairy-dust dissociated from reality.

US Cities: as they say about New York, which heads that list by a substantial margin, "great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." Several of the top cities also have off-putting crime issues. People who want to live that way are already doing so. Forcing others is a political non-starter for now.

Carfree/lite places: mainly a list of quirky places. As with New York, nice to visit, may or may not want to live there.

Bottom line: nothing here to attract anyone who wasn't already living in some such place, so little or no net societal change to expect from, say, pointing it out to the wider public.

Wow, PaulS is now channeling Yogi Berra!

NYC--nobody lives there cause it's too crowded!!

You are truly hysterically funny. Is it intentional?

In case you are not being sarcastic, consider this one of many polls that show that NYC is the top place where people want to live:


One sentence summary of PaulS' comment:

"I want suburban BAU."

might encourage more public transport

Does not pass the smell test for me.

Any proposal that does not increase the cost of the thing that you are trying to reduce is a waste of time. We must put a steadily increasing tax in place that drives consumption down faster than the depletion rate. The new tax revenue may not be spent on anything until the government deficit and debt is zero (because deficits will destroy the value of money in a post peak oil no growth economy).

Also, we must make better use of what we've already got. We cannot afford to scrap perfectly good cars for new efficient ones. In case you haven't noticed, the Greatest Depression is just around the corner. Therefore, a 35 mph maximum speed limit is a no brainer. You get much better fuel economy at 35 mph than 55 mph. Anyone caught exceeding 35 mph loses their car which will be sold to pay down the government debt.

Everything else is greenwash fluff.

Note that the above two simple and effective measures can be implemented with a one page law, and will naturally drive demand for all the other good stuff like mass transit, telecommuting etc. with no additional effort or expense by the government.

Yes man, that is exactly the answer.

I just read Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen, and he dares cross into policy suggestions:

"In summary, the backbone of a solution to the climate problem is a flat carbon emissions price applied across all fossil fuels at the source. This carbon price (fee, tax) must rise continually, at a rate that is economically sound. The funds must be distributed back to the citizens (not to special interests)-otherwise the tax rate will never be high enough to lead to a clean energy future."

As you say - a one page law. Not 1400 pages written by lobbyists.

...And hell will freeze over before this happens, because very few understand the details or scale of the risk. It keeps me awake at night.

I too am reading Storms of my Grandchildren. Very scary.

I keep vacilating between which is worse, peak oil or climate change. I tend to think that the last one I read about is the worst. I suppose they are just opposite sides of the same coin. Kind of like the debt we partied on for the last 40 years. The flip side to our debt will be one mother of a depression.

There is no free lunch. We've been gorging for a hundred years. It's payback time.

"I keep vacilating between which is worse, peak oil or climate change."

I recommend "The Long Summer" by Brian Fagan. It will do much to calm your fear of climate change. Then you can worry about peak oil in peace.

The short version is that climate has been all over the map for 15,000 years, and the last 150 years of peace and quiet have been the aberration. The Medieval Warm period was the last aberrant period. Climate zones are going to break loose and start moving again, and this is going to stir things up. This is going to change agriculture more than a little. That in turn will most likely rearrange entire civilizations, just like similar shifts have done before.

I ran across this paper on-line with the contrarian view.

Geological Evidence for Prolonged Cooling Ahead and its Impacts
Prof. Don J. Easterbrook
Dept. of Geology -- Western Washington University -- "

The sediment cores he studied imply a pattern that says we are in for two or three decades of cooling.

The Pacific Northwest set several records for cold temperatures in the last week. This sort of unpredictability is likely going to be more common. I haven't been able to ride my motorcycle to work even one day yet this year, and that is unusual.

"The short version is that climate has been all over the map for 15,000 years, and the last 150 years of peace and quiet have been the aberration."

Actually the last 12-15000 years (Holocene epoch) has been quite stable and it is that climate stability that has allowed human development.


Are you for real??

Climate change is a hoax because you haven't ridden your bike lately????

Oh, and you read one book with shady claims, and that must prove the every major scientific body in the world is wrong in their conclusion that AGW is real a very dangerous???




"Oh, and you read one book with shady claims,"

You might want to read the book before you make claims about shady claims. It has 246 references.

And professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is not exactly a lightweight position.

Whether "Climate change is a hoax" is not the point, (although I do wish some global warming would show up here. ) Quite the opposite. Climate change is the normal condition. To pretend that climate never changed until humans invented the industrial revolution is the hoax.

"It has 246 references"

oooooo, that's just a ginormous lots of references. That proves it must be really, really gooooood.

Again, I have to ask if you are truly for real.

Do you or do you not understand the following completely uncontroversial, well established points:

1) CO2 is a greenhouse gas
2) Industrial society has released hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere
3) Atmospheric concentration of CO2 has risen during this period from about 280 to 390 ppm
4) Global temperatures have risen by more than one degree in this same period

Which of these do you find hard to understand? Which of these dots do you find so hard to connect?


NOONE in climatology has been claiming that Climate hasn't changed prior to now. That's a red-herring. Maybe not yours, but someone fed it to you.

Actually, the IF of Climate Change IS the point. I'm sure the CC community would be glad to find out it wasn't as bad as they fear it's become.. but unlike Anthropologists, they are equipped to look at the very systems that have some chance of anticipating this situation, and their news has not been good.

Are you going to ask a psychologist to analyze your Renal Tumor Xrays for you?

I'd read from a few more salient sources before advocating a position.

To counter your motorcycle anecdote, the first junebug I saw this year bashed into my window screen on April 18th. It's been hot as hell down south for months now, I guess whether climate change is real or not depends on where you live.

Also, the Earth is flat. I know this because I just went outside and looked.

The effects of Climate Change are by far the worst; some of the runaway feedback effects are just horrifying. And they're actually happening now rather than in theory - methane increases detected from melting permafrost, sea ice area has plummeted, boreal forests dying and increased fires. Our modern forcing is orders of magnitude higher that anything in the past. This is rapid change.

Tax carbon as it sees the light of day.

Then reward the citizens with freebies.

"Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down."

(See how long it takes to get rid of that Meme"
Yes.I'm Evil.)

Funny, they did title it 10 ways to kick the offshore-oil habit. Using that ambition as the gauge, we might have notches on the dial for silver BBs, bronze BBs, and, I suppose ... these ten styrofoam BBs. I'm thinking here that depletion never sleeps, so "kicking the offshore habit" would begin to approach kicking the entire "habit" as onshore depletes with little more being found. And since they position themselves as an environmental group, I'm also thinking they'd want to be equitable about kicking the overseas offshore "habit" as well as the Gulf "habit". So:

1. A better "cash for clunkers" program. Sure, let's "kick the habit" by massively subsidizing the very sector of the economy that guzzles large helpings of the stuff. That seems to be how government likes to do things, subsidize lavishly to please a special interest and then moan and groan about increased usage. These guys must have been smoking Beltway exhaust fumes for way too long.

2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. Sure, let's put the transit lines that offer the least benefit (and are thus most endangered) onto the Federal never-never. The credit line is infinite. With good luck that might cover a week of depletion. With bad luck it might increase oil consumption by running even more empty diesel buses.

3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative. Fine and dandy for jobs already enroute to India. Might help a little bit someday in a BAU or BAU-lite world.

4. Smarter freight movement. Probably a little bit in there someday. But few trucking companies move empty trucks around for the sheer joy of it.

5. Smarter land use. Lots of potential in the far future, not so much for "kicking the habit" any time soon. Politically problematical unless forced by circumstances - those who want to live in the city and can afford it are already free to do it.

6. Smarter travel through IT. Sigh. See (4). Also no perspective on how insignificant 3 million gallons might be percentagewise.

7. Educating drivers. A little bit in this, on a non-compounding basis. Nothing new about the tire pressure.

8. A resolution saying...[who cares?] Yup, for sure, if there's one thing Congress knows how to do, it's to resolute up a storm. (While they're at it they can resolute the oil back down the blown-out well.)

9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs. Theater. How about real money or real markets? Or modifying the patent system to penalize games that stifle innovation, including sitting on stuff.

10. Efficiency "visibility." More "studies", i.e. more Beltway exhaust fumes unconnected to the real world. Little potential for help "kicking the habit" any time soon.

So maybe all this together might save a low single digit percentage any time soon, balancing as much as a year or two of depletion. It does seems like a very good guess about the range of actions that might actually sociopolitically feasible for the time being.

On the other hand it seems marginal even if offshore were merely frozen, much less "kicked". Against the stated ambition of "kicking it", i.e. shutting it down, it's mere piffle. (Now, whether it's worth "kicking it" artificially is something we've beaten to death elsewhere, so I leave that aside.)

Nice analysis. Whoever wrote the list is an uneducated idiot.

4. Smarter freight movement. It's probably the best one of the lot. And it could be done in many ways. Increase the capacity of the rail network. Build more RoRo platforms for trailers. Give an extra incentive for shippers to use rail rather than airplanes or truck to move stuff. Highway tolls. Gas taxes.

Perhaps. How about we just consume less crap to cut shipping energy.

Except that cutting consumer spending would collapse the economy.

Most everybody has to be doing something to justify their trade access to resources. Right now a great many of them are engaged in selling us crap. If we want to cut back on that we have to find some other busywork for those people so they can continue to justify their dinner.

That's the whole point. We have to make less money and spend less money to deal with, oh let's see, human species overshoot, declining net energy, climate change, biodiversity loss, fish stock collapse, etc. There is no other solution unless we dramatically reduce human population via war, disease, or famine. Anyone offering alternate solutions is spouting greenwash, and I'm sick of greenwash.

Diverting consumption into investing in long lived energy efficient and energy producing infrastructure can produce both a "good" economy and move us towards a more sustainable future.


Perhaps, in the short-to-medium term.

But ultimately we have to create an economy that does not depend on endless growth, or that redefines "growth" so radically that the metaphor becomes useless.


Great analysis.

I use to have Grist as my home page but for all of the good green ideas they had, they always seemed to be trying to find a way of keeping the Business As Usual plan running. As much as I wanted to believe we could keep the BAU going in a greener form I came to realize it was impossible. This list is a way to keep the BAU plan going while trying to use less oil.

I think the jobs of the future will need to communicate locally not via teleconferencing, we will need to grow most of our food locally and not rely on the mechanized farm systems, we will have groups of people sharing one old beater of a car and not all have one that gets over 35 mpg. A simple local lifestyle is what will do the trick and it can be a much better lifestyle.

Obviously, it's impossible to "kick the offshore habit".

"1. A better "cash for clunkers" program." I like the efficiency market idea that Morgan Downey wrote about. It's dynamic, cost-neutral (to the taxpayer), technology-neutral, and fast. A fixed-threshold fee-bate scheme already seems to work in France. Now that the U.S. is the majority shareholder of GM and a creditor of Chrysler, this is a good opening to push that idea through. You have to kick them while they're down.

How can I help with the oil spill in the Bay Area? Which organizations can I donate money to?
Regarding the recent oil spill, i would like to know...

1)which organizations (environmental, etc) are taking iniciative?
2)is anyone suing the oil transport company or the oil company?
3)how can i help, which organization can i donate money to, or where can i volunteer.

Acai Ultra Lean

2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. The article notes that 59% of public transit networks have cut service, raised fares, or both since January 2009. More federal funding could help this situation.

It must be remembered that bus transit systems in the U.S. average about 32 passenger miles per gallon, and resource utilization theory says that in an optimized system each new bus added to the system will reduce that average fuel economy.

I agree that these suggestions are pretty lightweight. I actually support mandatory driver education, as it reduces car crashes

I know this has been mentioned previously on TOD, but how about "place of origin" labelling for oil? you don't actually track the physical oil of course, you allow retailers to buy the rights to sell different sources, same was as you can buy "green" electricity.

Right now, if your local gas station had one pump labelled onshore, and the other offshore (or Saudi Arabia, or iraq, etc) which would you buy?

Other ideas;

* Mandatory requirement for instantaneous fuel consumption readout in all new vehicles, and retrofit kits to be put onto existing vehicles when re-registered. When you floor it and see it go to 5mpg, you don't floor it very often.

* Relax the NOx emissions requirements so that European diesel vehicles can be driven here. We can save a lot of oil if we are prepared to wear a few more ppm of NOx

*Phase out all use of oil for heating and electricity generation

*Carbon tax on fuels, increasing to $5/gal equiv.

*offer free conversions (paid for by carbon tax) of any fleet vehicles doing more than 50k miles/year, to CNG/LNG, incl heavy trucks and city buses

* same again for trains (faster and cheaper to implement than electrification)

*Sales tax on vehicles based on mileage ratings

and, if we really want to kick the offshore habit, simply don;t issue any new permits for doing any new drilling. That is the most direct, effective and cheapest approach and would probably grab the most attention in the shortest time.

But the chances of that are about the same as the Deepwater Horizon seeing the light of day again...

I'd like to see a tax credit/other incentive for folks who buy cheap used mid-'90s Honda Civics, instead of sending those cars to the scrapyard and replacing them with stupid new cars bloated with luxury features everybody says they need but never end up using. 12-way power adjustable heated outside mirrors? Really?? A 'fridge in the center console to keep your Twinkies from melting? Seriously?

Oh, and make the used-Civic-incentive retroactive. I got mine about 5 years ago. If you want one too, better get to it, prices are going up and they're getting harder to find in un-Ricerized form.

We've still got our 1990 Civic, original owners, 180000 miles and still runing well. We'll probably keep it going for several more years at least.

An absolute and total push for bicycles, electric bicycles and low power scooters.

1) More bike paths + maps showing how to get to places through suburbs and paths. Safe, roofed places to actually leave your bike.
2) Relax any biking laws that cause more hassle than realistic use. Bikes get right of way on the road by law. Like pedestrians have right of way in England.
3) Bike safety courses for children as part of standard education. Free courses for adults.
4) Bike exercise programs. Americans are fat, they need them. Doctors should push bikes as the perfect low impact cardiac exercise.
5) Government studies showing how cars make you fat, stupid, infertile, whatever... Glamorization of bikes, unglamorization of cars. Advertising of bikes in major newspapers. The bike needs to be the new car.
6) Government needs to stop helping needy car manufacturers. ALL subsidies end. Including any fuel subsidies, hidden payments. EVERYTHING.
7) Drop the speed limit. Ignore the inevitable wingeing, it will save lives and make slower vehicles more popular. Espcecially in built up areas.
8) The government should grow a f'cking spine.
9) Mass transport overhaul. Spine needed.
10) Incentives for people that ride to work. Loose enough to cover all small vehicles including low power scooters. This can be dropped further down later if necessary to only include human powered vehicles.

Agree strongly with the last post The government needs to grow a spine and people need to get out of their cocoons. I am a 60 yo old fart but I can still do 50km a day in my commuting and I have a vege garden that provides all my greens and 70% of the rest of my fruit and veges. If the car was trashed, more land would be available for urban orchards and vege gardens, children could play locally and walk, there would be more people walking and biking so neighbourhoods would be better socially integrated. The price of liquid fuel needs to be taxed to at least $10 a gallon to pay for the motor car's social and environmental externalities. People would be healthier and better socially connected.
This list is pathetic. It would be lucky to reduce fuel consumption by a few percent.
As well we should seriously look at what is being transported. If we look at what we see in supermarkets, we would be better off if half of it wasn't there to poison us with overrefined excessively corn syruped and salted crap. We could do away with all the soft drink shelves and save us a mint on the health costs.

Now to look at the crap housing. The houses are built badly; over large and poorly insulated with little solar gain with their thermal mass on the outside if built in brick. In the hotter areas there are large windows to the west with little shading, black driveways and rooves and inadequate wall insulation.

Usage could be reduced to about 20% with improved physical and social health but it requires some government spine and the blackout of Murdoch propaganda such as FOX with its anti-science white-anting.
I am not holding my breath

I have a son in 5th grade and THIS ENTIRE WEEK is bike safety. They are actually getting all 5th graders out of the classroom and onto local city streets to teach them to ride safely. Kids without bikes can borrow one for the week (and helmets). They will properly adjust and do minor repairs on bikes brought from home.

Now this is a school program I can support!

Lurker chiming in .. love the list, but none of this is going to happen as long as big business is so deeply in bed with the government and doing many nasty things which shouldn't be mentioned here.

Automakers have for many decades been able to out-lobby the proponents of bicycles, bicycle paths, public transit, and more. Ditto for the oil companies and tire companies. Didn't all three of those industries team up back in the 1920s to put much decent public transportation out of business?

Shy of us being blessed with a benevolent dictator who cannot stand the thought of Americans using energy wastefully, none of this is going to happen.

It constantly amuses me how people say they live in a democracy, yet for all their voting, those with the power still seem to be big businesses who never even get to vote.

You want these things, campaign. Do so at the local level. This is a good time to be pointing out that bikes don't need offshore oil fed to them every day.

Actually I used to bicycle everywhere and did not want to have a car, but I had to stop when I kept getting almost run over by cars - and by aggressively-driven SUVs especially. Yawn, let me know when local campaigning for bicycle use has a deleterious effect on the spending of government monies for asphalt roads/highways and on the fortunes of the automakers.

Did you actually say "those poor, poor corporations .. they don't get to vote! How can they be in power?"

-Did you actually say "those poor, poor corporations .. they don't get to vote! How can they be in power?"-

No. We know why they are in power, the question is why there is no biking lobby since lobbying/campaigning is clearly successful at getting things done.

You want laws protecting cyclists, cycle lanes etc... this is a good time to campaign...the auto industry is not in as good shape as you think. I don't know if it will curb the government's car-love, you will have to do it and find out.

Or you can sit there yawning.

Welcome Lurker.
Come in from the cold.
You are among friends.
Find a place to toast your feet.

Richard Eis,

I have been in China a couple of weeks and have noticed the increase in electric scooters and trikes, since previous visits in 2008 and 2009.

For the rural poor, who migrate to the cities in search of work, the plain work tricycle is their mainstay of transportation and also, often their means to a living. Tricycles are used for fetching and carrying goods, portering and as mobile market stalls for selling produce, such as lychee fruit, sweet potatoes and the like. To many of the people on trikes, it is their most valuable possession - even though they sell new for under US$ 40.

There are now new electric tricycles very much in evidence. Some are purpose built and some are conversions of manual pedal trikes. With electric motive power it allows greater range, more flexability in hilly terrain and greater payloads to be carried.

I am tempted to import a Chinese electric trike to the UK. It would be idea for short trips - say the 1 mile to the supermarket or builder's merchants. The payload box on the electric trike would easily carry 250 lbs of cement or other materials too weighty to carry by hand.

Here is an example of the sort of tricycle that lends itself to low cost conversion to electric drive


These sell in China, in electric form, for the equivalent of $200

One company specialises in a conversion kit


In a declining petroleum society, we do not have to the stone age, but we could find a slower and more energy efficient pace of life with electric bicycle technology.


I already have an electric bike with panier actually. It's nice to cycle as much as i want to cycle while still getting to where I want to go.

I am seeing a lot more bikes now that summer is here. I waved or said hello to about 5 people on my work commute this morning.

The tricycle has the problem of being quite wide compared to a bicycle so can't go off road when necessary and also you will need the license, insurance etc... that you need for UK road vehicles.
114kg weight empty... That's a lot considering you are expected to supply some of the energy.

For England, an electric bike with a separate trailer may be worth checking out. That way you can use the bike for recreation as well. However if a tricycle suits your needs... it would be interesting to see how you got on in England.

Number 9 has a typo--it should read "mpg", I think.

Regardless of anything else, I'll just point out that the problem with tele/video-conferencing isn't making it socially acceptable. For those participants who think the meeting is a waste of time, there's no difference. For those who are trying to acheive things at the meeting, it's that there are a host of effects at meetings that are more important than just the words being said, eg, because you can look around very, very easily you can read body-language of people who have unspoken reservations about what's being said, very often important things get said in passing between individuals in the pre/post meeting melee (that doesn't really happen with videoconferencing), etc. Likewise telecommuting runs the risk of missing seeing the wood for the trees if there's no informal interaction.

That's not to say they're bad ideas, but that there needs to be a better understanding of what they're replacing in order to see how to make them suitable beyond just technological advances.

Regarding the poster's questions:

If you take the oil out of the ground, you will use it. Pricing will adjust so that it will be used. If production is 80mbd, then use will be 80mbd, no matter what programs are in place. Even if the U.S. doesn't use it, someone will, perhaps India.

Thus, the only real solution to reducing oil use (beyond the limits of production in an unconstrained scenario), is to reduce production "artificially."

A hydrocarbon tax, for example, increases the purchase price of fuels. This reduces the demand. Reduced demand leads to lower prices for fuel (wholesale prices, not prices+taxes). The lower selling prices for fuel producers makes expansion of production unprofitable, and thus production declines. Thus, ironically, a hydrocarbon tax would reduce overall fuel use (on a global basis) by making it too cheap to sell profitably.

Banning certain activities, such as offshore drilling, increases the price of production (fewer opportunities). This increases the selling price of fuels, leading to reduced demand and a lower level of production which can be done profitably.

Given the U.S.'s history of cheap fuel and easy motoring, I doubt that the high-tax solution would be pursued to an extent that significantly reduces demand. An offshore ban is possible, but really only effective on a global basis if applied on a global basis, including offshore drilling in Angola, Brazil etc.

Thus, the most likely course of events is reduced production due to geologic constraints, i.e. "Peak Oil.", leading to higher prices.

"If you take the oil out of the ground"

Excellent point. We have to start intentionally limit the amount of safely sequestered carbon we drag out of the earth and spew into the sky:

>starting most aggressively with the dirtiest--coal; the sooner we can move to a total ban all coal extraction, the better

>simultaneously but somewhat more gradually phasing out oil production--banning all off shore production would be an excellent start

>Finally, natural gas, too should be curtailed, starting with the sites that cause the most local disruption--poisoning local water sources--and the most leaky sites...

Unfortunately, the likelihood of such a necessary and commonsense approach being implemented look to be essentially nil at this point.

Direct quotas.

Give everyone an equal amount of coupons they use alongside cash to buy oil based products. Producers need to get a hold of these coupons for permission to take oil out of the ground. Implement a system allowing people to sell the coupons they don't use. Reduce the total number of coupons over time, at least 80% by 2050.

A combination of pricing adjustments, taxes and the ideas above all need to be used. However the problem will be political. One party is blinded by their opposition to anything related to tax hikes and any of the above ideas would be marketed as socialism or big government. In other words we are dealing with an irrational political group against a rational group that knows they will get killed at the polls if they support what really needs to be done. I would think that a type of cap and trade program is what we need but this has been demonized by a certain political party already.

Set a minimum mpg of 5mpg for personal transport. Raise it 1mpg every 6 months. When the limit hits the stated mpg of your vehicle, you can no longer drive it on the roads. Specifically include light trucks in personal transport.

All heavy transport is licensed and regulated - you've got to justify it.


Straight pricing or taxation doesn't work because those that need transport are not necessarily those that can afford it. The market is a poor mechanism. However by cutting off the low mpg vehicles, you hit the expensive first - which is just where it needs to hit.

This approach can have a faster and bigger effect than raising the average mpg of new vehicles, and can be tuned to larger targets (1Mbpd reduction in US usage every year).

This list is a joke. The difference that implementing all ten items would be only very marginal at best. Let's try a re-work:

1. "A better "cash for clunkers" program." Not an altogether bad idea, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Trading in a vehicle that gets 18mpg for one that gets 22mpg just isn't going to make that much difference. Trading it in for something that gets 35 or 40 mpg will. The design of the program needs to be focused on the differential in fuel mileage between the old and new vehicle, and only those trades that achieve the highest possible differentials should be subsidized. Furthermore, the program does nothing to incentivize what is possibly the biggest differential and savings potential of all: just getting rid of the clunker and not replacing it at all. A cash incentive could be designed to reward such decisions; tricky, but it could be done.

2. "Emergency funding for endangered mass transit." Doesn't go nearly far enough. We need far more than just "emergency funding" for endangered systems, we need a massive, long-term investment program. This needs to be a national priority of the same scale as the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway system, or the Apollo program.

3. "A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative." That might help a little bit. However, the real nut that needs to be cracked is providing people with jobs that are close to their homes. People are still going to have to travel to workplaces, so what we really need to be thinking about is how to co-locate those workplaces and residential areas closer to each other. We are about to see a huge glut in vacant commercial properties as the banks pull the plug on CRE finance. Federal incentives, subsidies, and grants to fund the conversion and repurposing of vacant commercial properties into residential so that workers are provided with places to live closer to their workplaces would have several big benefits.

4. "Smarter freight movement." We don't need a study, we already know what needs to be done; we just need to do it. Most long-distance freight needs to be moved by rail or barge rather than by truck. This can effectively done by increasing the motor fuel tax substantially, and turning all of the interstate highways into toll roads (prohibiting truck traffic on other roads to local deliveries only). Increased motor fuel taxes will also help reduce passenger vehicle traffic, encouraging people to stay home, carpool, or use public transportation.

5. "Smarter land use." See number 3 above. Again, we don't need studies, we just need to get on it. There may need to be some sort of federal mandate - federal dollars only go to states that over-ride their local zoning laws.

6. "Smarter travel through IT." Doesn't go nearly far enough. The real savings is in preventing people from having to get in their cars for shopping trips in the first place. We need to encourage a return of the milkman and a whole host of other home delivery services. These in turn need to be encouraged to work together to minimize wasteful duplication of effort.

7. "Educating drivers." They know what to do. Ignorance isn't the reason why everyone is speeding along. We need to lower speed limits, not just on the major highways but across the board; lower city street speed limits will make them safer for pedestrians and bicyclists and NEVs, too. These speed limits are worthless unless enforced vigorously. That can be partially self-funding through increased fines. Maybe requiring that transponders be installed in all cars and installing systems on all streets and highways to record violators would be more efficient and effective.

8. "A resolution saying efficiency is a new national priority." BS! The last thing we need is another d@mned "resolution" that sounds good and sits on the shelf gathering dust. In place of this, my list would mention carpooling here - something conspicuous by its absence in the Grist list. We need more of it - a LOT more carpooling. Now that we have things like websites and search engines and smart phones and text messaging, it should be possible to develop technologies that make it much easier and quicker to match up people wanting to carpool. A very little bit of federal money can go a very long way here. Carpooling needs to be strongly preferenced and incentivized, with reduced or no tolls, dedicated HOV lanes, dedicated cheap or free parking, etc.

9. "Prizes for tech breakthroughs." Yeah, and also more federal research dollars. A big incentive, though, could be the FedGov teaming up with state and local govs and with NFPs like the Red Cross to do some massive joint procurements with energy efficiency specifications. For example, if you want CNG or E85 or B20/B100 to be fuel options at service stations (thus encouraging manufacturers to make and buyers to buy such vehicles), you have the governments all get together and specify that they will only contract for fuel cards with oilcos that install these and make them available at all of their retail outlets. People have been worrying about that "chicken vs. egg" problem - that's how you eliminate it.

10. "Congress should fund the development of a National Energy Efficiency Data Center (NEEDC), which would study efficiency technologies." Well, yes, but more important that this point than the studying is the doing. It is time that we really got on with it. Simply mandate max efficiency retrofits for all existing gov't facilities, and max efficiency for any new construction, and make the design and results freely available.

And some other things:

11. Carter mandated that the thermostats be lowered in all federal buildings in the wintertime, and raised in the summer. No reason not to go back to that. Various federal carrots and sticks can be implemented to provide incentives for others to do the same.

12. We need a new Civilian Conservation Corps. This time, one of their mandates will be to provide the manpower to weatherize and insulate low-income housing, as well as federal, state and local gov't facilities. They can also install solar water and space heating systems. This new CCC will also help with unemployment, especially among young workers.

Replace our addiction to oil with something better... like....OPIUM! Yea, thats it.

Actually what we are addicted to is MONEY. Without it you die. Oil use is the best and easiest way to acquire MONEY. I could maybe live without oil right now but would be toast without money.

Missed one - take away Obama's plane

re: take away Obama's plane

Or at least one of them. When George W. arrived for a G-8 conference, here high in the Canadian Rockies, he showed up in TWO Air Force One's. The first one was a decoy, the second was the real deal.

I guess he was worried about Alpine Arab terrorists with rocket launchers, unlike the rest of us who have to keep our eyes out for the grizzly bears and cougars. The grizzlies and cougars retired to a safe distance for the duration of the conference, and the demonstrators couldn't make it over the high mountain passes. City people, you know.

Why wasn't vegetarianism listed as a solution? With all the talk on this site in recent months about the sustainability of agriculture in a post-peak-world, it would seem that someone would notice that it takes less energy (oil) to produce and transport food for a human than to produce and transport food for the many animals it takes to provide meat for the same human.

Yes, we need to look at total footprint, not just oil.

No perfect way to measure that, but my favorite is www.myfootprint.org

Ultimately, though, activism is at least as important as 'personal lifestyle choices.'

What you say is true, but it isn't very realistic. Everyone isn't going to convert to being a vegan; however, maybe you can convert some to being a vegan and the rest to being localvores. Localvores generally eat a lot less meat which took less energy to produce (mostly because it is free ranged, sometimes because it is hardier and needs less "coddling", and for some because the ancient cycle of fattening and slaughter is obeyed, meat becomes more seasonal and rarer out of season).

While I hate to point to milk boards since they are such a disaster, the concept of state by state food control exists. Imagine a federal tax on interstate shipment of
meat or herds. Secondary consequences could be very useful, like the loss of "the one hamburger grinder for the whole US" which centralization and "efficiency" has brought to us. Land use probably changes a bit as well, now farmland is actually valuable in 10 acre chunks ringing the various towns and cities.

I think there is more potential in the locavore part, than the vegan part. Firstly, there is no chance of "converting" the majority of the population to vegans. We have been omnivores since, well, since we have been here.

But the locavore, well, that IS what we used to be. Fresh fruit flown from Africa is far more fuel intensive than local, grass fed beef.
Local food not only does not need transport, it does not need *refridgerated* transport and central storage. It also keeps food growing, and processing jobs, local.
Part of being a locavore is a willingness to eat seasonal foods, we can have most foods at some time of the year, and deal with it, instead of the current all foods at all times of the year.

My local Saturday farmers and artisans market lists, for each stall, how far away the stuff has come from. This simple act made a great difference.
A good start with processed food (other than to get rid of it entirely) is to label where it came from (at least the State) rather than just the head office of the processing company. Do the same for on the shelf tags too (probably more effective, actually). One local supermarket set up a locals corner, where only food made in this area (a 50mile stretch of coast near Vancouver) is stocked. It has been a great hit -
make it easy for the people and they will respond.

Do you know that BART station agents make damn near 6 figure incomes? http://tinyurl.com/ygwsykn

It is a freakin outrage that people put up with this. As I find myself saying many times, what the hell is wrong with... aww skip it. The point is you cannot put money into public transportation because the bloodsucking leeches will suck every penny out of you to the point where it is not any more efficient than a line of SUVs in a traffic jam.

Cash for clunkers was fail. No need for more fail.

#3 makes sense. Give businesses a big tax credit for telecommuting.

#9 is good too. My plan is: Have the government work with professors around the country to compose a 1000 question test covering 10 topics. Sociology, history, science, math, computer literacy, psychology, economics, etc. Then allow everyone to take the test and compete for prize money. Award $50,000 to the top million scores. This will effectively transfer a large portion of wealth to the most educated people, which would theoretically strengthen the economy.

My Top Ten Thriteen List of Ways to Reduce Oil Use

Not in order of importance

1) Raise gas & diesel taxes (and aviation fuel taxes) by 3 cents/gallon each and every month (with quarterly inflation adjustments) for 20 years. Plenty of time to prepare for expensive gas. Couple this with lower tax increases on other oil uses (5 year delay and then raise home heating fuel taxes a dime/gallon every July 4th).

2) Subsidize to high efficiency heat pumps (or wood) or natural gas for those burning oil and propane. Say 50% tax credit except low income. Require rental property to convert off oil before it can be sold.

3) Subsidize everyone to use natural gas & electricity more efficiently (electric utilities must use more combined cycle NG, less old boiler & straight turbine NG; tankless gas water heaters, solar water heaters w/NG back-up, better insulation, windows, doors, etc.). Start taxing (modest) NG and electrical use in 5 years (again time to prepare).

4) Tax plastics made from oil. $1/lb for starts. Special taxes for truly wasteful uses (grocery store & WalMart bags).

5) Electrify all 35,000 miles of railroad main lines in 7 years (OK, 8 years if there are snafus). Continue on with branch lines after that.

6) Add back double track removed decades ago, build rail over rail bridges, remove grade crossings, straighten curves, improve signals. Increase rail capacity by 400% and reduce trip times by half for the cost of two AIG bailouts.

7) Build 9,000 to 14,000 miles of upgraded track (mainly on existing ROW) that can handle express freight at 90 to 100 mph and passenger trains at 110 to 125 mph.

8) Subsidize either building new rail spurs to factories and warehouses or move same to rail sidings.

9) Sell interstate highways to private toll roads, that are not regulated in how much they charge, but are told that they will pay an excise tax on tolls collected that can increase to 150% in 20 years. (Collect $2.50, $1.50 excise tax, $1 to toll road owner).

Above should help transfer bulk of inter-city freight traffic to electrified rail.

10) In next seven to ten years, build Los Angeles "Subway to the Sea", NYC 2nd Avenue subway, Boston North-South Station link, 500 miles of new Metro (subway type), 5,000 miles of light rail and 3,000 miles of streetcar lines.

11) Subsidize TOD with 1/4% special tax credit on first 7 years of mortgage (must be within 1/3rd mile of a station). Add 1/2% "risk premium" for all homes more than 4 miles from Urban Rail stop, 1/4% for more than 2 miles.

12) $100/parking space/year tax on all commercial parking (first 3 spaces/business free). Increase by $50/year for 20 years. Tax can be reduced with $20/year credit ($10/year increase) for each bicycle parking spot. Special taxes on "big box' stores.

13) Redesign "enough" roads to make bicycles the preferred mode on that road. 4 lanes > 2 auto lanes + 2 wide bike lanes. Add LOTS of bicycle parking, trails, showers, lower urban speed limits, 3' minimum passing law, and billboards touting bicyclists as "True Patriots" and SUV drivers as supporters of evil.

Need more time to complete list, but these WOULD make a difference.


Some of this is interesting and good, but I see vastly more problems than value in your proposals:

1) Sounds good. I agree with something like this.

2) Instead of subsidizing, tax oil and propane. Industry and competition will take care of the rest, and the tax need never be repealed (a subsidy would need to be.) Requiring rental property to convert is a neat idea.

3) Instead of subsidizing, simply tax NG, heavy fuel oil, and coal used in power plants. Industry and competition will take care of the rest, and the tax need never be repealed.

4) I don't really have an opinion on taxing chemical feedstock to make plastics. But if you're going to do it, tax it at the feedstock level and don't try to add special taxes for what you think are 'wasteful' uses.

5) Electrify railroad mains - to what end exactly? Rail is private, run by private companies that are actually making a profit. It's also the most efficient transport system we have, but it faces heavy competition from trucks that aren't limited by the placement of rail stations. Forcing electrification at this time would serve only to increase the cost of rail and make it even less competitive with trucks. One gallon of oil used by rail is worth a minimum of four gallons used by trucks.

6) That rail was removed decades ago for a very good reason: it wasn't profitable. It should not be installed again until it becomes profitable. Simply adding the capacity will not make it profitable.

7) The reason we don't have express and commuter rail is because it's not profitable for private industry. It's largely not profitable because the government version is subsidized below the profit margin. If you want to make rail used and extensive, shut down the subsidized government version and allow private industry to compete for it.

8) No need to enact legislation. Raise road fuel taxes such that rail becomes more competitive and this will happen automatically.

9) This is one of the few cases where I would prefer government operation as opposed to private operation. I have never seen a private toll road that was the equal of a public toll road. In my personal opinion, it should be illegal to have private ownership/operation of a toll road. I have no hard evidence regarding this, merely personal observation from a number of different regions in the United States.

10) I disagree. Build it because it's needed, not because you want it to be used. This is a solution looking for a problem. It's much more effective to enhance the problem at a high level (via a high level energy tax) and force individual communities to respond in the way that works best for them, than to mandate construction of things that may never even be used.

11) No subsidy required, and there is already a built-in tax in place. The tax is that people who live farther away will pay more in time and resources to get to the central point. Make that cost increase by taxing transportation fuel oil, but let them figure out what they're willing to pay and where they're willing to live.

12) Bicycles and taxed parking are hardly the way to go here. By subsidizing bicycles, you're assuming that bicycles are a solution - but they may not be, depending on the community and circumstances. By taxing parking, you're assuming that automobiles are the problem - but they may not be, depending on the community and circumstances. Let communities determine the ideal solutions for themselves based on energy costs. Don't try to dictate specific behaviours.

13) Again, you're subsidizing bicycles as though they were a global solution. They aren't. Make cars trucks transport more expensive, and let people figure out what works best on their own.

The recurring theme in my arguments seems to be that you can't just legislate specific types of behaviour as though it's going to cure the core problem.

The core problem is that natural hydrocarbons pulled from the ground are limited and will run out; the only legislation required to address this problem is to raise the price of those hydrocarbons to the point that alternatives become viable. No subsidies are required; no special rules about mandatory numbers of bicycles or electrified railway are required; simply make those hydrocarbons more expensive than alternatives, and people will change their behaviour to reduce usage. The mechanisms they choose to reduce that usage are unimportant, so long as the end goal is met.

Forcing electrification at this time would serve only to increase the cost of rail and make it even less competitive with trucks.

I'm pretty sure Alan is not proposing that the railroads be forced to electrify with no government financial assistance to cover the cost.

7) The reason we don't have express and commuter rail is because it's not profitable for private industry. It's largely not profitable because the government version is subsidized below the profit margin. If you want to make rail used and extensive, shut down the subsidized government version and allow private industry to compete for it.

This kind of argument only makes sense if you ignore the government contribution to building and maintaining roads for automobiles. Those contributions also amount to subsidies.

Here in the UK we have an annual car tax and this is now based on the CO2 emissions g/km which obiously relates to mileage.
For the lowest band of < 100 g/km the tax is zero and for the highest of over 255 g/km the tax is GBP 445 per year. FYI the latest Toyota Prius achieves 89 g/km.

In addition for the first year the tax is double.

IMHO we should set a limit of say 300 g/km and ban the sales of new cars that exceed that limit starting from say 1 January next year. The following year drop the limit by 25g/km rinse and repeat.

Here's a couple more ideas:
For all new building ensure they are fully self sufficient for heating, e.g. insulated to German “PassivHaus” standards. This is for buildings in "cool" climates but I am sure designs can be done for "hot" climates.

Apply a tax on electrical devices over their working life that is equal to the cost of offsetting the electricity/CO2 down to the level of the best performing devices. This will encourage people to buy A class devices since now people often tend to just look at the initial price and others who have no interest in the running costs just the up-front costs e.g. landlords, builders.

Make all consumer goods have a 20 year life span and built to be easily repaired not thrown away.

1) Almost universally a good idea.

2) Bad idea. Public transit fails because it's not profitable, and it's largely not profitable because gas is cheap, space is cheap, and city government is inefficient.

As the price of oil increases over time, cities will become more densely populated, which should help make cars less attractive and make the budget case for public transport stronger. Until then, dumping federal money into a sinkhole caused by inefficiency will yield only greater inefficiency.

3) Good idea.

4) Mostly a bad idea. Rail and air freight transport right now are near optimum efficiency; government intervention is almost certain to damage that efficiency.

The only exceptions to this that I see at the moment is in the area of "public resource" constraints. The placement of rail lines, and the ability to construct new rail lines, is dependent on the ability to procure right of way and land from governmental authorities. Similarly for air tranport, airport access is dependent on the government.

Leave the remainder alone.

5) I honestly don't know how I feel about this one.

6) Improving things like traffic lights and road layout/organization could be pretty effective, if other cities are anything like the city I live in. However improvements like the 'left hand turn of UPS trucks' are unlikely to be realized due to government intervention and no attempt should be made to mandate them.

7) Most of the people I know already know this. They just don't care. I pretty much don't care, even though I know the numbers on it; I'm willing to pay that extra five cents to stomp on the gas and get around the retarded slow person driving in front of me. Quite frankly, the extra cost is worth it to me. If it cost five times as much, I would still do it.

8) Probably a good idea. Government agencies of any sort typically require an act of god to do something new or change existing processes.

9) Great idea.

10) Bad idea. Private industry already does this vastly more efficiently, quickly, and on a much broader scope than a government agency could do so. If you want governmental incentives to go faster, simply tax the offending energy source.

And taxing the offending energy source is in fact what the authors should propose if they really wanted to make a dent in the offshore oil habit. Why not simply an additional tax on all fuel expected to be used on a public motorway? The biggest energy efficiency/oil problem we face is that of transportation, cars and trucks in particular.

Rail fuel should be exempt; rail is stunningly efficient in terms of oil/energy usage, so long as it's left in private hands. The spread of private rail should be encouraged. It's also one of the easiest to upgrade to alternate energy sources, so if there is a hard oil shock/crash rail is least likely to be affected in the long term.

I suspect there should also be an exemption for jet fuel. There's simply no viable replacement for hydrocarbon fuels in aircraft; if they didn't use hydrocarbons made from crude, they'd have to use hydrocarbons made from something else, and efficiency of aircraft is already near theoretical maximum. Raising the cost of fuel for aircraft won't really result in efficiency gains other than changing flight plans (to reduce airspeed) and cargo composition.

One argument in favor of an exemption for jet fuel is that there would be more human transport due to the increased cost of road fuels. This would result in a small bias in favor of moving closer to major airports, as well as building smaller airports and flying less common routes. Increasing population density around transportation hubs will improve overall transportation efficiency.

Cars and trucks on the other hand should be hit hard. The incredibly low cost of individual transport is the reason we have sprawl that requires individual transport and that precludes effective public transportation. Raising road fuel rates would serve to concentrate communities and would drive tremendous amounts of research into fuel efficiency, alternate fuels, and alternate energy sources. This would also eliminate the 'need' for an ethanol subsidy, hopefully allowing biofuel research money to be diverted to more effective biofuel sources.

And taxing the offending energy source is in fact what the authors should propose if they really wanted to make a dent in the offshore oil habit.
Detiin, I am in complete agreement with you here. Tax the oil first, rather than subsidise alternatives. sometimes the alternaitve is no transport, as with RMG;s idea below about cash for clunkers, but not cash for new cars.

A fuel tax is simple, and unavoidable, except by not using oil.

I disagree with the tax exmptions for rail and air. Rail is already competitive with trucking, and will be more so with the fuel tax across the board - it does not then need further exemption. If they want to avoid the tax, then seek alternate fuels (e.g. LNG) or electrify, why remove the incentive for them to improve?

As for air travel, well, it should still be taxed, it is the same oil, after all. Otherwise, you encourage people to fly instead of drive, and what we really want is people to consider whether they need to travel at all. There is a LOT of discretionary air travel, which uses lots of oil. People flying across/out of the country on holidays should not get an exemption. If you want to avoid the tax, holiday locally.

IF we want to reduce oil use, then all oil uses should be taxed, both transport and non (heating oil).
It is simply a level of setting the tax high enough to make people change, rather than just complain. That would suggest at least European level taxes, but probably higher since we have a lot of catching up to do.

The net tax rate on petrol in Europe is of the order of 200%.

In the UK heating oil is taxed at 5%.

Aviation fuel in Europe is taxed at 0%

People still drive, and in the last decade SUVs have become increasingly popular.

It is cheaper to fly 200 miles than it is to take a train the same distance.

I have just read;
"...Democratic Senate and House leaders have agreed on a 300 percent increase in the oil excise tax, to 32 cents a barrel from 8 cents now.
The hike is as part of the tax and spending bill likely to be approved this week. So you can expect gasoline prices to rise down the road..."

32 cents a barrel So you can expect gasoline prices to rise down the road. - wow that's just huge, how are we going to live.

It's not even a token amount, disgraceful.

Sounds like the way to go in the UK is to run your diesel car on heating oil!

This just shows the folly of granting exemptions to fuel tax, if the objective is to reduce fuel usage (which, in the past, wasn't the real objective)

People who can afford SUV's or or Mercs etc will buy them and we probably can;t stop that unless they are outlawed altogether.

As for flying being cheaper, I wonder if that is a product of government railways and private airlines - are the private railways (operated AND owned), where they exist, cheaper? Still, there is something seriously wrong when a plane is cheaper than an electric (or even a modern diesel) over that distance!

While Europe is ahead, it is obviously far from perfect.

I think Japan is probably the best model at present for transport efficiency.


(Disclaimer: I should make it clear here that I do not consider "people must change their travel behaviour" to be a legitimate option. People matter too, and the future of energy should (and probably will) include a large budget for people transport. This is a part of why I focus on highway taxes so much more than freight and air transit: people -want- their personal local transportation, and they -will- get it. There is huge political pressure and funding for research as a result, and focusing taxes in this area is likely to produce the largest outcry and fastest development of alternatives.

As an example, if the prices in Wal-Mart go up 10% because rail freight became more expensive, people don't really care enough to write letters to their congressman. If airline prices go up, oh well, it's the airlines. For most of the people I've met, the common sentiment with air is "no point in complaining, it's not like they'll ever improve." But if gas goes up 30 cents, it's a Big Deal and all kinds of stuff gets done.)


I suggested the rail exemption simply because the oil use ratio relative to highway traffic is so absurdly huge, and because rail traffic can't be expanded quickly. So long as there's net movement of cargo from truck to rail, a rail tax would be fine; but with a 10:1 or higher efficiency difference, it would take a very small movement of cargo from rail to truck to wipe out other gains. Ideally, we should try to limit oil use in a way that also limits economic damage. In the case of rail, any cargo that can be moved from truck to rail results in a very large reduction in oil use while still allowing the cargo to get there.

My exemption for air fuel is on shaky ground at best. Mostly, I didn't think that the differential gain would substantially change things relative to the gains that could be achieved on the highways.

For air oil, consider that in short term (~50 years) airplanes will continue to burn hydrocarbon fuels. There simply is no substitute; not electrical, not nuclear, not solar: only hydrocarbons (or other energy rich chemical fuels) will suffice. What will eventually happen is that other chemical fuels (my bet would be on biodiesel) will eventually be used instead of petrochemicals; taxing it now would slightly help push development of biodiesel, but likely by only a small margin relative to highway traffic.

(I wonder how much "air travel being a complete disaster" limits the effectiveness of air fuel taxes. The incentive not to fly is pretty big - I will personally drive in excess of 450 miles before I will consider air transit for two people over driving. Those brave souls willing to use airlines for a holiday are absolutely going to have their holiday, pretty well regardless of price. If you're committed to losing two+ entire days to air transit, a few extra dollars isn't going to faze you.)

1. A better "cash for clunkers" program. Give people money for retiring their old clunkers, but no money at all if they buy a new one. Cash for clunkers was just a subsidy program for the car industry, not a real way to reduce fuel consumption. The U.S. doesn't need as many cars as it has. Just because a family has 4 drivers doesn't mean it should have 4 cars. They could travel together, just like in the old days. Kids could walk to school again.

2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. Emergency funding for new transit systems, to compensate for the last 60 years of neglect of transit and subsidies for automobiles. Big cities mostly have rail systems, which need to be expanded. Every medium-sized city should have a light rail system. Small cities just need new buses. All paid for by higher fuel taxes.

3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative. A nice thought and one worth pursuing. However, putting in better public transit to connect people to their jobs would be more effective. Putting housing on the second and higher floor of businesses is even more effective. Just like in the old days. Not everybody should live in the far-flung suburbs.

4. Smarter freight movement. Electrify the railroads. The Europeans did it, the Japanese did it, the Chinese are in the process of doing it. Tax heavy trucks in proportion to the damage they do to roads, which is substantial. There's no point is subsidizing them any more, so they should pay full maintenance costs like railroads do. If shippers had to pay the true cost of road repairs, they would most likely prefer rail.

5. Smarter land use. Insist on a minimum density of 8 units per acre, which is about the minimum for a viable transit system. Ban local governments from setting ridiculously large minimum lot sizes and ridiculously large minimum house sizes. Allow people to build dwelling units over their businesses to house the owners and workers. Insist schools be located so that all students can walk there. Governments which do not comply get no federal money.

6. Smarter travel through IT. Smarter travel through discouraging people from driving. Stop building freeways. Make it hard to drive and easy to walk or bicycle. Insist all streets be pedestrian-friendly - i.e. narrow streets with wide sidewalks and lots of obstacles to slow cars down. Forget the traffic lights and put in roundabouts. Eliminate free parking and put a tax on parking spaces - if you park, you pay.

7. Educating drivers. Educating drivers through high taxes. Many people ignore what you say, but if you hit them in the pocket book they pay attention. High fuel taxes, high taxes on gas-guzzling vehicles, and congestion tolls on roads are good educational tools.

8. A resolution saying efficiency is a new national priority. Resolutions are mostly a waste of paper. Taxes and spending commitments are more effective.

9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs. The prize should be that you continue to do business. Companies that don't innovate should go bankrupt. They really should have let GM and Chrysler go under because their products were just not adequate for the 21st century.

10. Efficiency "visibility." The most visible efficiency indicator is the number on the fuel pump when you are done filling up. If you want high efficiency, the number should be really, really big. High taxes can make it big, and pay for the other steps above, just like in Europe.

One idea that is floating around in my feeble mind, that refers to the table on consumption percentages, is could we initiate a national yearly vehicle registration for personal vehicles in which the fees are based on vehicle weight?

We already have state and federal taxes. This would be an extension of that. Do you think this would lead to a change that might buffer the transition society faces over the long haul. I believe ultimately we have got to abandon our personal vehicles.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for listening to my third speech on our national emergency. As you know, in the first one I gave a statement of the problem: that we have run out of cheap energy, and simultaneously have seriously threatened our environment, and that the science behind this is overwhelming. That there remains no doubt whatsoever, in the minds of rational people, that this truly is our situation.

We have lived too long and too far beyond our income.

In my second speech, I outlined the potential for disaster implicit in the situation I had described in the first. You were horrified, and responded most vigorously, as I expected, but no one gave convincing refutation to my most dire projections, for a simple reason- there is none. The catastrophe that threatens is real, growing, and fundamentally, literally, unimaginable.

In response, you have demanded, not just lamentations and hand wringing, but leadership. I am the president of the USA, I was elected to lead, and I intend to do so.

As President of this country, and as of now, I am making the following declarations, effective immediately:

1) I declare a national emergency, and I assume the position of commander in chief, as is proper in such emergencies.

2) I will immediately appoint a director of resources, whose task it will be to see to it that our present capabilities in all fields be directed toward a change from carbon to sustainable energy resources, and as an imperative first step, this director will announce a rapid and certain rise in taxes, at the source, on any carbon fuel. This, along with similar moves, will allow the free market to be properly guided, by pricing, to the most cost-effective -in the full sense of those words- sources of energy and methods of using them.

3) And this next will be most controversial, but also most necessary- I am calling a halt, now, to any immigration to this country for whatever reason, from anywhere. As you know from my first speech, we are heavily overpopulated, and cannot become more so without increasing even more the threat of collapse. And for the same reason, I am asking for government regulations that make having two or less children a clear personal advantage, as indeed it is to us collectively.

4) I shall gather together the best ideas for further action, from all sources, and, in the immediate future, add to this initial list of imperatives.

I have one closing remark. Not every generation is called upon to be heroes. We are. And I will see us answer that call."

To the list of ten ways to feel good about doing nothing about the problem I suggest the authors should add "Visualize Whirled Peas"

On the other hand if we really wanted to start down the path toward sustainability that is rapidly receding from the realm of the possible we need to put a price on imported oil and carbon emissions that changes behavior.

The only way this could conceivably happen in a nation of self centered children is if they see immediate personal benefits that accompany the perceived pain at the pump.

1- A carbon tax and accompanying gasoline tax that starts out high enough to address the problem and progressively increases to a level that forces change.
2- Complete revenue neutrality. Distribute the entire proceeds of the Carbon Tax (Packaged as the American Independence Act of 2010) equally to every holder of a Social Security # regardless of their income or fuel use, therefore cutting administrative overhead to the minimum.

A $200 dollar check arriving in the mail every month starting on the day the Independence Act was approved would soon have people in Tea Party meetings demanding that big bad government not mess with their monthly Independence checks.

1. A better "cash for clunkers" program.
No one has money for a new car even with "cash for clunkers", and most of the 35mpg+ vehicles are in very short supply anyway.

2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit.
If mass transit is so energy efficient, why does it always have to be so heavily subsidized? For commuting, mass transit always involves running empty vehicles half the time, which greatly reduces fuel savings.

3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative.
This would help, but only marginally.

4. Smarter freight movement.
It isn't smart because the costs of being not smart are very low. A substantial fuel tax would make it smarter.

5. Smarter land use.
Zoning to manipulate land use was largely responsible for the subprime mortgage fiasco. Do we want more of that?

6. Smarter travel through IT.
Worth doing, but the savings will be trivial.

7. Educating drivers.
The best education involves the wallet. We need a fuel tax.

8. A resolution saying efficiency is a new national priority.
Has a Congressional Resolution ever achieved anything?

9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs.
The major breakthrough needed is repealing the laws of thermodynamics. I don't think it can be done.

10. Efficiency "visibility."
Another meaningless government program.

My answers:
1. None of these will give significant savings.
2. All except 1, 2 and 5 could be low cost, but the government does not have a good record at doing things at low cost.
3. To ensure continuing reduction in oil use, we need to have continually increasing price to the end user, and this can only be achieved with increasing taxes.
4. These ten measures can only nibble at the edges of oil consumption.

The largest oil-consuming sector in the U.S. is cars. Manufacturers have made great strides in improving the efficiency of internal combustion engines, but because fuel usage is such a small part of the cost of car ownership, the improvements in efficiency have almost entirely been absorbed in making cars and trucks which are more powerful and heavier, but at the same time cannot carry a heavier load. For example, the 1962 Ford Fairlane weighed 2900 pounds, carried six passengers, and went 16-19 miles on a gallon with a 145hp V8 engine. The 2011 Ford Taurus weighs over 4000 pounds, carries five passengers, and gets 22 miles on a gallon with a 263hp V6. While it is quite an accomplishment to get nearly 15% better fuel economy with a vehicle which weighs 35% more, the carrying capacity has dropped by 17%.

The low carrying capacity and high unloaded weight of modern cars is quite remarkable. The Acura MDX (the Consumer Reports top-rated 3-row luxury SUV) weighs approximately 4600 pounds, but only has a load capacity of 1160 pounds even though it has seating for seven. The old standard for passenger weight of 150 pounds would add up to 1050 pounds for seven passengers alone, and a full fuel tank in addition would overload the vehicle. With the average American adult now weighing over 200 pounds, advertising this vehicles as "7 passenger" seems a bit deceptive. Forty-five years ago I owned a 1960 Citroen ID19 station wagon which weighed less than 2800 pounds, had seating for eight, and a placarded load capacity of 1100kg (2420 pounds). It went an average of 25 miles on a U.S. gallon, and while acceleration was leisurely by modern standards it had no problem maintaining highway average speeds over 70mph and had a top speed of about 100mph. If a vehicle like this could be made half a century ago, why can't something similar be produced today? It would probably get 35 miles per gallon, or better, with a modern engine of similar power.

The best way to reduce oil consumption in the U.S. is to enact a substantial and steadily increasing fuel tax. This would encourage the purchase of efficient vehicles, and efficiency in the use of vehicles. As someone else has suggested, easing nitrogen oxide exhaust limits slightly would allow the sale of European-style diesel engines on a large scale, which would make efficient vehicles immediately available in large numbers.

I read this and just sighed with despair. Its all just BAU, with a little green tinkering around the edges.

For what its worth, I spent the last 6 years living in an off-grid community. We grew much (80%) of our own food, generated our own electricity, heated the houses with coppice firewood. We all had jobs in the wider world, trying to do useful things.

My background was renewable energy system design. But my degree is in Plant Sciences (plants are a great photon-capture device!) I spent a lot of time thinking and learning about energy flows and footprinting. Helped a friend who studied our way of life for a year for his PhD thesis. It was a thorough examination of our way of life. Hell, I even calculated that we could get 4 apples from Argentina or 3 from France for the same C02 . .

But while it looked good on all the stuff you could see, the real problem is the system it is embedded in. We consumed about 40% of the resources of the UK average.

But it is nowhere near enough to get by with a zero-FF scenario. We basically just ship too much stuff too far, including ourselves

I look at this list, and think, this guy simply doesn't get it. Modern humans have been running a complex agricultural society for 11,000 years now. People back in the Bronze Age were no different from us. They had tax-collectors, useless government officials etc.

So, 11,000 years of human/animal powered agricultural society. The FF-based model has been running for about 150 yrs. How much longer? Another 100 at most.

So I say, OK, this list , when you've done all that, how long will that new 'tweaked' system work? 20yrs? 80? 100?

No,no, no. The real question is, how can you see things working in another 1000 years time? Lets design a system for that. It is going to be like that anyways So lets plan for it rather than just let it happen.

For me, the fundamental one is land distribution. I am now a farmer. In 1940, 40% of the population worked on the land. Now it is 3%, with FF substituting for the people. (Thus freeing millions up to make iPods, Credit Derivatives, and even drill oil wells to free even more people up in an ever accelerating spiral of consumption. )

Over the next few (how many? 20-30-50?) years, we will have to move back to 40% actually doing real work to create food from sunlight. That's 24 million new farmers needed in my lifetime in the UK alone.

How the hell are we going to achieve that?


Hi Ben from Wales, Ben from Delaware here,

Your question:
For me, the fundamental one is land distribution. I am now a farmer. In 1940, 40% of the population worked on the land. Now it is 3%, with FF substituting for the people. (Thus freeing millions up to make iPods, Credit Derivatives, and even drill oil wells to free even more people up in an ever accelerating spiral of consumption. )

Over the next few (how many? 20-30-50?) years, we will have to move back to 40% actually doing real work to create food from sunlight. That's 24 million new farmers needed in my lifetime in the UK alone.

How the hell are we going to achieve that?

I've been thinking about that a bit as i walk to and from work. Here are some brief thoughts:

Getting people back to farming will probably follow one of two paths; either the land distribution problem is resolved fairly (for both the owner and the new farmer), or it isn't.

If the resolution is fair, then we end up with private ownership of plots (40 acres and a mule) and collective governance of resources like water (and mostly avoid tragedy of the commons type situations). Thus future agriculture looks like what we had in the Midwest US and rural Brittan through the 1930s.

If the resolution is not fair, we end up with feudalism, or worse.

I think that if a move towards farming comes about voluntarily, we MIGHT end up with the fair resolution option. If the move towards farming is involuntary then we probably end up with feudalism or slavery.

Your thoughts?

I can't see what all the drama is about.
In another ten years we're all going to be flying around in electric powered helicopter-cars with carbon fiber bodies and anti-gravity skyhook capability.

Sheesh, what a bunch of worrywarts.

I have an idea, why not do all these things (well some of them at any rate because a few are truly retarded), keep drilling for oil and simply import less from the Saudi's and Venezuelans.

What a novel idea!

The American way of life is the eleventh commandment given by God. The way to cut oil use, materialism, and consumerism is education, education, and education, bordering on brain washing.

How about changing zoning laws? Let people have small (non-polluting) businesses in their homes.

There are a lot of good ideas and I want to propose another one.

Add a surcharge to the price of gasoline and diesel fuel so that the floor is $5/gallon at the pump. Take the proceeds from that surcharge and use it to fund another "cash for clunkers" program where there needs to be a minimum of 20MPG difference between the vehicle being junked and the vehicle being purchased.

This will encourage a tremendous amount of work to make things more efficient.

All ten suggestions are far short of what is needed to change the way we approach living on earth.
Cars in cities go an average speed of 19 miles an hour. One hundred years ago when there weren't any cars the idea had promise but today we are in a fine kettle of fish.
Perfected one hundred years ago the bicycle is the pinnacle of the industrial revolution.
Most healthy adults can ride bicycles at 15 miles an hour while using energy at a caloric equivalent of 1000 miles to the gallon. If you eat locally grown organic food then your bicycle runs local organic food. Of course cars haul more stuff than bikes and some of us can't use a bicycle for practical reasons. But most of you sit in enraging traffic as single occupants of these alienating steel boxes on trips of less than five miles.

I say these things in an effort to point out the incredible disconnect we find our selves with. That disconnect is found in inhuman out of scale use of energy we all have very little chance of holding in a balanced perspective. The 1000 mile to the gallon caloric equivalent has began to bring this into focus for me. A thousand miles of bike riding is nothing to sneeze at. But these goes to show the incredible energy content of a gallon of gasoline.

good rollin

1) NO : new cars take energy to be built. You would need to have this building process to be much more "clean energy intensive" for a cash-for clunkers scheme to make sense. This is not the case today, and by far. Remember : one of the Mantra of the Oil Drum is that we should optimize the use of the scarce remaining fossils that we have left to switch towards a fossil free economy

2) YES : but the important question is how it is funded. For me, the best is to fund it using locally levied road taxes (such as the urban toll that one has in London or Singapore)

3) YES, YES, YES : but one has to recognize that very high quality is needed for it to work effectively. People prefer meeting in person because non-verbal communications are essential. Think HD, Think automatic reprocessing of eye position so that participants really have the impression of looking at each other, etc..

4 and 6) MAYBE : but be careful of over-optimizing the transport system. What you gain in optimality, you can loose in robustness.

5) YES BUT VERY DIFFICULT IN PRACTICE : Zoning laws create scarcity rents. If these scarcity rents are distributed to incumbents (such as the lucky, or politically connected, person who manages to own the piece of land that will be declared fit for a multi-story building) you have two unwelcome side effects :
- the emergence of a landed rentier class, that is therefore incentivized to be unproductive, something bad in an energy scarce economy,
- property bubbles, as the rising prices from scarce offer due to zoning are interpreted wrongly as rising prices from stronger demand because the place became "more efficient" from a productivity standpoint.
The only solution is to consider that the scarcity rent is a tax, that should be collected by the public authorities only. In practice, it means that the government must be and stay the landlord I.e. it should sell only relatively short term leases (30 to 70 years). Changes of destination of the land during any lease that modify its value should be very heavily taxed. Singapore is the best example that I know, but, lately, the government still has succumbed to the temptation of distributing the scarcity rent to existing leaseholders. It is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for a democratically elected government to enforce that because the "rentier class" quoted above is made of a majority of voters (old or middle aged, high and middle class).

7) YES

8) YES, Words. words, words...

9) YES Prizes are a great way to stimulate entrepreneurship

10) YES

Having just read the OP, and none of the comments upthread, I just have to say the perspective is more of the same BAU crap that won't work. I don't know how many times you can explain exactly why greater efficiency and more complexity are just two more ways to distract the herd as you drive it over the edge of the cliff...

God forbid that anyone should be advised to change their behavior.

(on edit) and the why, at least of my perspective, is that I've watched every efficiency increase in my lifetime turned to the purpose of growing the economic impact of a given resource. In other words, its a trick to fuel economic growth and add a little more whiz-bang to the American lifestyle, because that's all the PTB can imagine as a goal.

I'd like to draw attention to this article from Stars and Stripes:

U.S. military’s civilian overseas employees use more energy than locals
Figures show that Americans can pay up to 200 percent more for utilities than the average German family.


This seems to suggest it's lifestyle, more than geography, which determines energy use.

The thing I find disconcerting is the bureaucratic mentality, as evidenced by:

"Going to a lump-sum payment for utilities under the LQA with the intent that employees could pocket any savings is inappropriate, as the employee is not authorized to be reimbursed for costs not incurred," she said. "Anything contrary to this would be tantamount to obtaining public funds surreptitiously, which is unlawful."

The thing is that the government makes the rules, and the government can change the rules to anything it wants. It obviously wanted to encourage inefficient use of energy, although the legislators may not have thought of it in those terms. Bureaucrats just follow the rules whether they make any sense or not.

In my past career I usually recommended organizations change the rules when they didn't produce the desired results. Of course I was thinking as a business analyst rather than an accountant. I didn't follow the rules, I just made them up. After upper management put their rubber stamp on the recommendations, the accountants thought they were some kind of commandment from God.

Hi! Once all you folk in the old colonies have got over the diversion of your mineral energy supply into the Gulf of Mexico, could we have a few thoughts on why the price of oil is so low, while demand is probably increasing as your summer driving season approaches? N

Denial: Simple, literal disbelief that the tragedy, whatever it is, is real. Denial is disbelief even in the face of hard evidence. Nobody wants to have a tragedy happen to them or to a loved one, so the immediate emotional response is simply to deny it. This isn’t rational, but it’s what normal human beings do.

Anger: After getting past denial, once a person confronts the ugly fact that the tragedy is real, comes anger. Simple ire and rage that this tragedy should have happened at all, or often, that it has happened to them personally.

Bargaining: Once the anger passes, bargaining is the natural inclination to try to strike a deal with whatever authority figure is relevant to the tragedy, be it God, a physician, a policeman, an insurance adjuster, whoever. After anger, people will try to negotiate their way out of the tragedy in one way or another. This, I must add, should almost always prove to be a futile exercise.

Depression: Denial didn’t work; the tragedy didn’t go away by ignoring it. Anger didn’t work; the tragedy can’t be scared off. Bargaining was a flop; what’s done is done. With all strategies for un-doing the tragedy exhausted, the natural response is to be sad about it. This can range from being mildly bummed out to full-blown clinical depression, but this is what comes next.

Acceptance: Finally, when all is said and done, a person moves to acceptance. The person comes to a place where they may not be happy about the tragedy, but they’ve accepted the immutable reality of it and have decided to move on with their lives. This is when the person starts to act again, to really live again, by making the best of their situation


Where are you on this spectrum?
It seems some need to move into depression.

Hello All,

Oil price shocks and price manipulation by OPEC have cost our American economy dearly—about $1.9 trillion from 2004 to 2008—and each major shock was followed by a recession.

Are electric cars the American 'transportation' of the future?

Who is http://www.byplug.com/ ?



The lack of a national Mass Transit system other than the federal/state/local highway system was one of my oldest son's first comments after studying in Germany last year. We were discussing the different methods of travel available in Europe vs USA at the time. He thinks cheap oil led to decline in the railway system plus it left no desire in DC to invest in the future with a state of the art system such as parts of Germany benefits from. I think it is still viable, but we will just have to delay that manned trip to Mars. I don't like to admit it, but my family wastes a lot of energy. But we do try to conserve and I'm sure we going to get better at it.

55 MPH Speed Limit would cost very little to do. The only problem is how many people would obey that speed limit? I mean, seriously.