Every once in a while, I forget to update the blog — I posted all of twice last month. Sorry about that. (However, some inbound links meant that last month was actually a record for page-views — and I do have that annoying habit of rewriting old posts instead of writing new ones. Hey, it’s recycling!) Some bookmarks for future reference:
* Want a preview of the parking-based congestion pricing strategy that’s coming to downtown Chicago? Check out the SFpark Smart Parking Management Program, now being rolled out under the same USDOT Urban Partnership Program. SF MTA also focuses on the benefits to drivers, which (unfortunately) the press here has neglected. DC has also started a “performance parking” program around its new baseball stadium, although they’ve sensibly (per Shoup) taken the revenues and reinvested them locally rather than citywide. DC is also investigating similar ideas for its upcoming zoning rewrite. (h/t: PedShed)
* At first glance, a collapse in SUV demand (“Some desperate car dealers and consumers are willing to lose thousands of dollars just to get rid of their SUVs”) might seem like a boon for safety. And it will be, over the long run, as these monsters will make up a smaller proportion of vehicles on the road. (Engines tuned for efficiency rather than power should also dampen the deadly horsepower race.)
“The SUV craze was a bubble and now it is bursting,” said George Hoffer, an economics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University whose research focuses on the automotive industry. “It’s an irrational vehicle. It’ll never come back.”
As Keith Bradsher pointed out in High & Mighty, though, the bursting of that bubble will put cheap used SUVs into the hands of used-car buyers: a demographic group that is nowhere near as careful with their cars as the new-car buyers are. Millions of SUVs are reason enough to fear the roads; millions of SUVs with failing brakes and transmissions, driven by under/un-insured young drivers? Even worse.
One policy that could simultaneously (and rapidly) reduce gas demand and improve safety? A gas tax used (in part) to buy back and scrap gas guzzlers, as proposed by economist Philip Verleger and mentioned here in 2005. (Globe article via Streetsblog)
* The Dalai Lama is reputed to have once posed this koan: “What would the world be like if everyone drove a motor car?” Here’s a hint, from a Times article by Jad Mouawad:
William Chandler, an energy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, estimates that if the Chinese were using energy like Americans, global energy use would double overnight and five more Saudi Arabias would be needed just to meet oil demand. India isn’t far behind. By 2030, the two counties will import as much oil as the United States and Japan do today.
New oil “production” (extraction) is growing slowly, and yet demand is booming. Part of the result is skyrocketing prices, which will hopefully dampen demand. But will it dampen demand by the 11 billion of barrels annually we’ll need to restore market equilibrium?
global oil consumption will jump by some 35 percent by the year 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, a leading global energy forecaster for the United States and other developed nations. For producers it will mean somehow finding and pumping an additional 11 billion barrels of oil every year.
And, of course, discouraging words about the US.
What about the United States? The country has shown little willingness to address its energy needs in a rational way. James Schlesinger, the nation’s first energy secretary in the 1970s, once said the United States was capable of only two approaches to its energy policy: “complacency or crisis.”
The United States is the only major industrialized nation to see its oil consumption surge since the oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. This can partly be explained by the fact that the United States has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world, the least fuel-efficient cars on the roads, the lowest energy taxes, and the longest daily commutes of any industrialized nation. The result: about a quarter of the world’s oil goes to the United States every day, and of that, more than half goes to its cars and trucks.
So, basically, America’s cars and trucks consume about as much oil as all of China and India (total population about 2.5 billion, more than eight times’ America’s) do. Now, who’s to blame here?
* Mobilizing the youth vote: “They organized a whole bunch of young kids in bars to vote,” he said. “It hurt, of course it hurt. But I’m over it.” — Burt Natarus [h/t: Trib/Clout Street]
* Newest estimate on SmartBikeDC’s launch is late May, just ahead of my next DC trip. Fingers crossed!
* I seem to get a lot of questions about bike parking. Quick answers: to have racks installed on city sidewalks or in CTA stations, call 311. For recommendations for racks on private property, see this PDF pamphlet from CDOT & CATS.
* More headlines from our warmer future, showing up in today’s papers: record energy prices sending truckers and pilots onto the dole, panicked stockpiling of food in California, food riots worldwide. Funny how more energy bouncing about in the atmosphere does not, perhaps due to entropy (dang it), result in cheaper energy for humans.
* Seen in a Shell advertisement (Economist, 26 April), touting its gas-to-liquids and cellulosic ethanol:
More crowded cities means more fumes, more noise and more smog. So what to do?
At Shell, we believe the solution is a combination of cleaner fuels, cleaner engines, better public transport and better urban planning. We are doing our best with fuel improvements.