Peak Oil and Transportation Alternatives

I’m a bike commuter.  I’ve said it and I’m proud.  Earthstonstation has a new post about why single-occupancy cars are such a bad idea for the future, with some important updates about Peak Oil and the folly of putting hope in new sources like tar sands:

The era of cheap oil is over. Are you making any preperation for your future transportation needs? The  International Energy Association claims crude oil output peaked in 2006. “All the easy oil and gas in the world has pretty much been found. Now comes the harder work in finding and producing oil from more challenging environments and work areas” according to William J. Cummings, Exxon-Mobil’s official spokesman.  Lord Ron Oxburgh, former CEO of Shell Oil says, ” It is pretty clear that there is not much chance of finding any significant quantity of new cheap oil. Any new or unconventional oil is going to be expensive”.

Some would have you believe that peak oil was a myth and is no longer a concern now that new types of oil are available in the Athabasca Oil Sands of western Canada, the Green River Shale Formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming plus the Orinoco Belt of Venezuela. Joe Carroll wrote this headline for the Bloomberg news service on Feb. 6th 2012 ” Peak Oil Scare Fades as Shale, Deepwater Wells Gush Crude“. He goes on to say “Two decades and four energy crises later, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that more than 2 trillion barrels of untouched crude is still locked in the ground, enough to last more than 70 years at current rates of consumption”. Whoopie! problem solved, 70 years worth of oil. Tell that to your grandchildren. Oh by the way what is the projected rate of consumption when considering the developing economies of China, India and others?

Earthstonstation has nailed some of the critical questions, but leaves out the social and environmental costs of accessing this remaining oil and continuing to release it’s fossil carbon into the atmosphere.  I also just watched the superb  2007 film A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (reviewed here and here).   We can’t keep this up much longer; we are already living in the “Age of Consequences,”  and the ride is likely to get much bumpier from here.

I disagree a little with Earthstonestation’s suggestion to get one of those infernal-combustion kit bikes.  Why burn gas, when electric motors can be so much more efficient, and oh-so-much quieter?  My electric bike has the advantage of being a very smooth ride, and VERY quiet. I got it 8 years ago (almost to the day), and it’s still my commute ride about 90% of the time. True, I’m fortunate enough to live in Santa Cruz county, which has a lovely California costal climate and a relatively bike-aware populace, but I am LAZY, and I still haven’t given it up.

Mine’s a Synergy Cycle from Electric Sierra, and the heavy old clunker of a thing can still do 12 miles between charges.  I think it cost me $800, minus a couple hundred because of an incentive the wonderful folks at Ecology Action were offering at the time. It probably costs less than $0.04 per mile to charge it, and when I have a place where I can install solar and/or wind, it won’t even have that electricity as a carbon footprint.  Newer models are lighter and go much longer on a charge, and many cost far less than a high-end non-motorized street bicycle.  Pedal when you can (it’s good for you), electrify when you don’t wanna sweat!

Honestly, I think a much bigger hurdle than the pedaling is the fear. Riding is scary – worse in some towns than others – because of all those big four-wheeled things.   I’m used to feeling like my life is in jeopardy once or twice a day.  It’s kind of like living with grizzly bears might have been.  Sometimes I think I should adopt the nickname “Dances With Busses,” since they move at about the same pace as me while we weave in and out of bike lanes should I happen to coincide with one.

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