Friday, April 30, 2010

ARC release their 'transport vision' for Auckland

The Auckland Regional Council have published a 30 year 'vision' to address the city's transport woes. [See their report below]

They have been looking for ideas to "change behaviour and get more people out of their cars and onto public transport" ...mmmmm...let me think...


30-year transport vision in place for Auckland

Improving transport by train, bus, ferry, cycle and foot is a  major focus of Auckland's 30-year transport strategy.
Improving transport by train, bus, ferry, cycle and foot is a major focus of Auckland's 30-year transport strategy.

A new strategy setting the direction of Auckland's transport system over the next 30 years has been adopted by Auckland Regional Council (ARC).

Improved public transport, completing remaining parts of the strategic road network, improving walking and cycling infrastructure and managing travel demand are all seen as priorities in the Regional Land Transport Strategy.

"With the region's population forecast to hit 2 million within the life of this strategy, multi-modal investment is vital," says Councillor Christine Rose, Chair of the Auckland Regional Transport Committee.

"Auckland is critical to New Zealand's economy. Goods, services and people have to be moved efficiently and quickly around the region for the wider economy to thrive. Traffic congestion is detrimental to the economy as time and money are lost in delays. The strategy aims to overcome this by ensuring people have more viable travel choices."

Quality of life, health and the environment have also been considered in the strategy.

"Transport is the single biggest cause of air pollution in Auckland, particularly from car exhausts. Current travel patterns and car dependence have led to economic inefficiencies, and environmental, public health and social costs," says Ms Rose.

"The economic reality is that people need to travel to go about their daily lives. The strategy acknowledges this and encourages significant investment in public transport, local walking and cycling, completing the regional cycle network, and road network improvements such as enhancing arterial roads.

"This investment is required to free the city from otherwise inevitable congestion as Auckland continues to outstrip national population growth."

Public feedback has helped shape the strategy, which addresses ways to:

  • improve transport by bus, train, ferry, bicycle and foot
  • integrate transport with where people live and where they are likely to live in the future
  • change behaviour and get more people out of their cars and onto public transport, and to choose to walk or cycle for short trips
  • complete the strategic road network.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Belgian study predicts a big swing to public transport if it was free & improved quality.

A recently updated review of this study (published 19 April 2010) reveals that at least 22% of current car users commuting in and out of Brussels each day, would switch to public transport if it was free and frequent and of higher quality - including capacity, accessiblity & connections.
The study also identifies the mobility policies of companies that need to be 'adjusted' to favour public transport; eg - limiting parking privileges and the use of company cars.
This 22% modal switch would have a big impact on reducing chronic traffic congestion and associated problems. How long would it take for this percentage to increase substantially after the advantages of free, quality public transport were proven in practice? it did in the Belgium city of Hasselt where there has been a jump of over 800% in passenger numbers and traffic congestion is just a bad memory, since free buses were introduced in 1997.

The full report is available via the link below this summary.
[Fare-FreeNZ editor]

Commuting to Brussels: how attractive is ‘free’ public transport?


According to a 2001 study, 63% of people who commute to Brussels travel by car, whereas 17% travel by train. The mobility challenge is considerable given the fact that 360,000 people commute to Brussels on a daily basis. Furthermore, our capital city has one of the highest motorisation rates in Europe, with one vehicle for less than every two inhabitants. In recent years, Belgian cities have begun providing free or reduced-cost public transport. The question arises as to whether the implementation of such a system could help solve some of the problems in Brussels.

In the 37th edition of Brussels Studies, Astrid De Witte and Cathy Macharis (VUB) focus on the factors which determine the transport mode choices made by commuters who travel by train and by car, and on the influence of price.
The study shows that various factors related to access to transport modes have an influence on their use. Thus, having a car at one's disposal – and moreover, a company car – significantly reduces the likelihood of travelling by train. Home-work distance also plays a role, with the car being significantly more popular for trips under 30km. Finally, the level of income also has an influence on transport mode choice: as income rises, so does car use. Similarly, reimbursement of road travel costs by the employer strongly encourages car use.
Other factors exist which are related to the personal characteristics of commuters. For instance, civil servants travel by train more, and people with a high level of education are more likely to travel by car. Furthermore, it was observed that train use diminishes with age.
Finally, factors related to the experiences and habits of users were also pointed out. It is noteworthy that train and car users mentioned the same positive reasons for their choice: speed, price and user friendliness. The importance of habits should also be mentioned: after a few years, only drastic changes could prompt a user to modify his or her behaviour in terms of mobility.
In such a context, would free public transport provision be enough for a vast modal shift to take place? Only 9% of those who commute by car state that they would certainly change their transport mode if public transport were free. The remaining 91% mention many obstacles, leading us to believe that transport policies are not just a matter of fare policies. Better connections and increased speed and accessibility of trains are demanded by car users.
In order to reach the Iris 2 plan target for a 20% reduction in car traffic in Brussels by the year 2020 (with respect to 1999 figures), it is necessary to consider all of the factors which determine the modal choice of commuters.
Publication date
Project finished

To read the full report - go to this link:

Document type
Urban Policy > Transport and infrastructure
Public transport

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Evo Morales tells people's climate conference in Bolivia: “Capitalism is the main enemy of the Earth”

Posted: 21 Apr 2010 04:52 AM PDT

[For more coverage of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, click HERE.]

Prensa Latina

April 20, 2010 — Cochabamba, Bolivia — Bolivia’s President Evo Morales Ayma condemned the capitalist system in the opening session of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth today.

Morales, speaking at the April 20 conference inauguration, started his speech with a slogan, “Planet or death, we shall overcome”. He said that harmony with nature could not exist while 1 per cent of the world’s population concentrates more than 50 per cent of the world’s riches. Capitalism is the main enemy of the Earth, only looking for profits, to the detriment of nature, and capitalism is a bridge for social inequality.

More than 15,000 representatives from five continents were present at the Esteban Ramirez Ecological Stadium in Tuquipaya when Morales read a letter to future generations to alert of the danger the planet faces.

The letter, written by Morales, said the Earth is giving signals by means of earthquakes, seaquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts and typhoons, so there is a great need to protect the planet.

In his letter, Morales called the attention to climate migrants, 50 million people going from one place to another, a number that could increase to up to 200 million in 2050, because of negative environmental impacts.

Bolivia’s president called on the peoples of the world to join together to face those who kill people and purchase weapons. If capitalism is not changed or eliminated, measures adopted to defend Mother Earth will be precarious and temporary.

Morales criticised the 15th UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a place where the voices of entire peoples and social organisations were not heard. “It is necessary that the UN member countries listen and respect the will of the peoples of the world”, he said.

He confirmed the creation of an alternative organisation of the peoples of the world in defence of nature.

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth will conclude on April 22 with the celebration of International Day for the Mother Earth at the Felix Capriles Stadium in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This is a Bolivian proposal approved by the UN General Assembly in 2009.

According to the Bolivarian Information Agency, taking part in the summit are the presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez; Ecuador, Rafael Correa; Paraguay, Fernando Lugo; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; and Bolivia, Evo Morales. Also present are two Nobel laureates: Argentinean Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu, among other personalities.

More than 50 scientists, social movement leaders, researchers, academics and artists have agreed to speak on 14 panels, including NASA scientist Jim Hansen; Bill McKibben, environmental journalist and leader of; Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva; best-selling author Naomi Klein; Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano; Miguel D’Escoto, former president of the UN General Assembly; Lumumba Di-Aping, former lead negotiator for the G77; along with leaders from leading environmental organisations and communities at the frontline of climate change.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Public transportation should be free - debate

Funding free transport for those people who commute for example would help to keep cities free of smog, and make them safer places to be. If you take for example the number of cars which travel towards the downtown area of major metropolitan areas on any given day with only one occupant, the wastage of fuel and the pollution this causes tells us that it is common sense to fight waste by investment in something worthwhile...Helium

Monday, April 19, 2010

World People’s Conference on Climate Change starts today

From Without Your Walls

At least 15,000 people from 126 countries are expected to attend the World People’s Conference on Climate Change which has been called by Bolivia as a response to the failure of the recent COP15 climate change negotiations.

As one of the few countries that openly criticised the negotiations in Copenhagen and has refused to sign the Copenhagen Accord, Bolivia has invited governments, organisations and people to take part in finding real solutions to fight climate change.

Auckland event, 3rd May:
New Zealander Sandy Gauntlett of Global Forests Coalition and the international Climate Justice Now! network will be speaking on what happened at the conference on his return to New Zealand.
For more details and to confirm your attendance [via facebook]click here.

The objectives of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth are:

1) To analyze the structural and systemic causes that drive climate change and to propose radical measures to ensure the well-being of all humanity in harmony with nature

2) To discuss and agree on the project of a Universal Declaration of Mother Earth Rights

3) To agree on proposals for new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and projects for a COP Decision under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change that will guide future actions in those countries that are engaged with life during climate change negotiations and in all United Nations scenarios, related to: Climate debt, Climate change migrants-refugees, Emission reductions, Adaptation, Technology transfer, Finance, Forest and Climate Change, Shared Vision, Indigenous, Peoples, and others. These are split into 17 working groups, which will form basis of the final document of the conference.

4) To work on the organization of the World People’s Referendum on Climate Change

5) To analyze and develop an action plan to advance the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal

6) To define strategies for action and mobilization to defend life from Climate Change and to defend the Rights of Mother Earth.

Keep updated and participate:

You can follow what’s going on the following this blog, this blog and social network sites

Watch the conference live

US admits decline in oil production starts 2011

The French media ('Le Monde' newspaper) clarifies the message of Glen Sweetman's US Department of Energy report. It appears that next year, 2011, will be the beginning of the great decline in oil production - not 2012.
This could be fatal for New Zealand's business community, which has 'bet the farm' on huge numbers of fans arriving for next year's Rugby World Cup. A sharp jump in the cost of oil will rocket-up the prices of all goods and services - which are also likely to be subject to a degree of good old profiteering. Add the impact of 15% GST - and you have the real prospect of empty stadiums, hotels and venues.
Is this why the Auckland City Council is refusing to underwrite the gold-plating of Eden Park?

Washington considers a decline of world oil production as of 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy admits that “a chance exists that we may experience a decline” of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 “if the investment is not there”, according to an exclusive interview with Glen Sweetnam, main official expert on oil market in the Obama administration.
This warning on oil output issued by Obama’s energy administration comes at a time when world demand for oil is on the rise again, and investments in many drilling projects have been frozen in the aftermath of the tumbling of crude prices and of the financial crisis.
Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the DoE, does not say that investments will not be “there”. Yet the answer to the issue of knowing when, where and in which quantities additional sources of oil should be put on-stream remains widely “unidentified” in the eyes of the most prominent official analyst on energy inside the Obama administration.
The DoE dismisses the “peak oil” theory, which assumes that world crude oil production should irreversibly decrease in a nearby future, in want of suffisant fresh oil reserves yet to be exploited. The Obama administration of Energy supports the alternative hypothesis of an “undulating plateau”. Lauren Mayne, responsible for liquid fuel prospects at the DoE, explains : “Once maximum world oil production is reached, that level will be approximately maintained for several years thereafter, creating an undulating plateau. After this plateau period, production will experience a decline.”
Glen Sweetnam, who heads the publication of DoEs annual International Energy Outlook, agrees that what he identifies as a possible decline of liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 could be the first stage of the “undulating plateau” pattern, which will start “once maximum world oil production is reached”.
M. Auzanneau - After 2011 and until 2015, do you acknowledge that if adequate investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a first stage of decline in the “undulating plateau” you describe ?
GLEN SWEETNAM - I agree, if the investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a decline. If we do, I would expect investment in new capacity to increase if there is still demand for oil.
Glen Sweetnam acknowledges the possibility of a close-by and unexpected fall of world liquid fuels production in an email interview, after several requests of details about a round-table of oil economists that Mr Sweetnam held on April 7, 2009 in Washington, DC.

The DoE April 2009 round-table, untitled “Meeting the Growing Demand for Liquid (fuels), was semi-public. Yet it remained unnoticed and unjustly, as it put forward forecasts that are far more pessimistic than any analysis the DoE has ever delivered.
Page 8 of the presentation document of the round-table, a graph shows that the DoE is expecting a decline of the total of all known sources of liquid fuels supplies after 2011.
The graph labels as “unidentified” the additional supply projects needed to fill in a gap that is expected to grow after 2011 between rising demand and decline of known sources of supply that the DoE supposes will start that year. The declining production foreseen by the DoE concerns the total of existing sources of liquid fuels plus the new production projects that are supposed to come on-stream before 2012.
The DoE predicts that the decline of identified sources of supply will be steady and sharp : - 2 percent a year, from 87 million barrels per day (Mbpd) in 2011 to just 80 Mbpd in 2015. At that time, the world demand for oil and other liquid fuels should have climbed up to 90 Mbpd, according to the presentation document.
“Unidentified” additional liquid fuels projects would therefore have to fill in a 10 Mbpd gap between supplies and demand within less than 5 years. 10 Mbpd is almost the equivalent of the oil production of Saudi Arabia, world top producer with 10.8 Mbpd.

After the oil demand went through an air pocket in 2009, it is to rise afresh this year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises the OECD countries. Now set at 86.5 million barrels per day, the world consumption is slightly higher than in 2008, when the financial crisis stroke. All the growth of the demand is now coming from non-OECD countries. This growth should continue at a firm pace in developing economies over the next years, says the IEA.
According to the presentation and the transcript of DoEs April 2009 round-table, many oil producing regions should see their extractions diminish before 2015.
Non-OPEC conventional oil extractions (more than half of the world crude oil production today) should already be in decline, from 46.9 Mbpd in 2008 to 44.8 Mbpd in 2011, shows the graph page 8 of the DoE round-table presentation.
Total non-OPEC liquid fuel production has been stable since 2008, says the IEA in Paris. But the IEA does not provide figures dealing with just conventional crude oil extractions. In 2005, in the French newspaper Le Monde, the IEA chief economist Fatih Birol predicted that non-OPEC oil production would decline “soon after 2010″.
Till 2015, among the top 15 oil producing countries, only 6 will manage to significantly increase their liquid fuel production, shows the graph page 9 of the DoE round-table presentation.
7 of the 15 biggest producers are supposed to evolve towards substantial reductions of their outputs over a period starting in 2007 and ending in 2015 : Russia (- 0.15 Mbpd), China (- 0.2), Iran (- 0.4), Mexico (- 0.9), the United Arab Emirates (- 0.3), Venezuela (- 0.25) and Norway (- 0.7).
Iraq’s and Koweit’s supplies should remain practically flat.
The U.S DoE expects that the largest increase of production will need to come from within the United States : a 1.8 Mbpd boost over 8 years (from 2007 to 2015) that would equal to more than a quarter of the present U.S oil production. Since the early 70’s, U.S oil production has been steadily plummeting.

This huge U.S liquid fuel production increase should be achieved through what Glen Sweetnam described as “the ethanol ramp-up” during the round-table, according to its
This “ethanol ramp-up”, initiated during the Bush administration, may stand for even more than the 1.8 Mbpd increasing expected by the DoE, as U.S crude oil extractions have been decreasing for four decades, and because there are no fresh oil reserves of significant scale coming on-stream in Alaska or elsewhere in the ‘Lower 50s’.
One-quarter of all the grain crops grown in the United States already ends up as biofuel, according to an analysis of 2009 figures from the US Department of Agriculture published by the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington ecologist think-tank.
Will investments in new and “unidentified” oil projects be able to compensate for the decline of the existing sources of supply, in order to fill in within less than 5 years (between now and 2015) the 10 Mbpd gap between demand and identified supplies that the DoE foresees ?
It takes at least 7 years to get any new oil project running, acknowledges the DoE.
During the Spring 2009 conference, Glen Sweetnam said that the recent discoveries of ultra-deep oil off the shores of Brazil were “sort of the bright spot for now (…) till we get to the Arctic”.
OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri warned in February 2009 that out of the 135 projects due to come on-stream in the next few years, OPEC members have put 35 projects on hold to after 2013, as the “current prices threaten the very sustainability of planned investment”.
By 2007, despite huge profits, the top 5 international oil companies were spending a mere 6 percent of their free cash on exploration, compared to 34 percent on share buybacks, according to a Rice University study cited by The New York Times. Back in 1994, those top oil companies were spending 15 percent of their free cash on exploration. Many experts assume that this shift in strategy is forced by a lack of access to new oil reserves, while the world keeps clamoring for more oil.
The prospects of the Washington Department of Energy on oil now sound far more pessimistic than the kind of analysis the DoE used to release not so long ago. In 2004, under the Bush administration, the DoE published a study in which oil production was supposed to be able to rise strongly at least until 2037.
In 2008, Glen Sweetnam published for the DoE a long term base case scenario in which the “undulating plateau” was not to be reached until 2030, and would last until 2090 before world oil production would enter its final fall.
But Mr Sweetnam’s 2008 study also presented a “more unfavorable above ground factors” scenario under which the undulating plateau occurs during the present decade.
Glen Sweetnam, who is supervising in Washington the preparation of the next annual International energy outlook, now seems to wonder whether his “more unfavorable” scenario isn’t the right one, when he contemplates, in his interview with me, a decline of world liquid fuels production starting in 2011.
Such a sense of uncertainty cast by the Department of Energy is unseen. The DoE usualy stands among the most optimistic sources regarding the issue of depletion of world oil reserves.
Glen Sweetnam’s warning comes after a long set of warnings dealing with possible troubles ahead on the supply side of the world oil market. Those warnings have been emitted over the last years through a range of sound sources such as The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle (main daily newspaper of the world capital of crude oil trade), the CEO of Brazilian oil company Petrobras, a former n°2 of Saudi national oil company Aramco, an International Energy Agency ‘whistleblower’, the chief economist of the IEA himself, the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security, or legendary-wildcatter-turned-renewable-tycoon T. Boone Pickens.
Matthieu Auzanneau

Friday, April 16, 2010

Manukau Courier: letter to the editor

The following letter to the editor, written in response to the growing number of horrific deaths & injuries on our roads, was published in today's Manukau Courier:

Fare solution

Ten Easter weekend road death and dozens more people mangled in hospital as we waste billions on more new motorways that encourage even more road-clogged mayhem.

Bus fares have gone up and increased traffic creates more pollution and related health costs.

And now we're to add 5000 mammoth truck to the mix.

Can we please stop and re-think this dire situation?

Surely it would make more sense to fund decent integrated public transport systems than worsen motorway carnage and chaos.

And if we really want to dramatically reduce the bulk of the traffic; make it fare-free.

Roger Fowler
Fare-Free NZ.

Note: since this letter was written, a further two people have perished as a result of the Easter weekend road smashes. Why should we tolerate this madness?

"We should plan for free public transit"


How will we travel and transport our goods when the world’s oil supply runs scarce, and we finally accept that we’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels because of the growing climate emergency?

Some will say this is fear-mongering, since Alberta’s tar sands hold 173 billion barrels of oil - but the world uses 84 million barrels a day, and the tar-sands only contribute 1.2 million. Projections see production rising to 3.3 million barrels a day by 2020, not enough to meet the crisis, and that’s without including the problems of water supply, pollution, three times more carbon emissions than conventional oil, and the Mordor of Alberta’s boreal forest.

The International Energy Agency expects world oil production to peak by 2020 - and it is the world’s most conservative voice on the matter. Others think oil will peak well before then, causing prices to rise dramatically.

So back to the question - how will we travel when oil becomes a luxury?

It’s a question which every city and government should be addressing with extreme urgency, since you can’t build new transport infrastructure overnight. These things take time and investment.

There’s one school of thought that says we should shift our cars and trucks to natural gas, with all the shale gas that’s becoming available.

For climate change, however, this would be a disaster. As well as being a CO2-producing fossil fuel, natural gas leaks 1.5% of its content as raw methane, which over its ten year life in the atmosphere traps 100 times more heat than CO2, making it almost as bad as coal. Shale gas also requires a technique known as “fracking” which contaminates water supplies with nasty chemicals, and causes healthy alarms among local people.

When we look at the problem rationally, a clear set of solutions emerges. We’ll address personal travel first, and then mass transportation.

If we neglect to plan ahead...If we neglect to plan ahead...

The Swedish city of Lund has been investing heavily in bicycle lanes for 40 years - and Lund’s citizens now do 45% of their commuter trips by bike. For a BBC clip, see Copenhagen is at 33%, aiming to hit 50% by 2015.

When we assume electric bicycles with a 50 km range, safe bicycle routes and ample bike parking, 50% becomes an achievable goal. Lund, with a population of 75,000, has 160 kilometres of cycle routes and 5,000 downtown bicycle parking spaces. The long-term health benefits of more public cycling offset the cost.

Next up is public transit - and here we should be assuming buses that arrive every ten minutes, no more than 5-10 minutes from your home - as they do in Lund. For the main commute routes we should assume Light Rail Transit or Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated lanes that mimics the ease of LRT, but for a lower cost.

We should also plan for free public transit, with the cost being included in city taxes. When they did this in the Belgian town of Hasselt, ridership increased 11-fold. This all needs investment and planning.

When it comes to the future cars and light trucks, the solution will be electric vehicles (EVs) with a range of 100 km, powered by green renewable electricity; and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) which run on electric for all local trips with a biofuel capacity for longer journeys, which could come from biodiesel or biogas, made from organic wastes.

Every major motor manufacturer is working on its EVs and PHEVs. The Nissan LEAF may be first to market, with a price of $25,000, a running cost of 1.5 cents a kilometre (assuming electricity at 8-10 cents kWh), and a $150/month lease fee for the battery.

While the market for EVs and PHEVs is growing, we should plan for the conversion of regular cars to electric, starting Electric Vehicle Conversion Coops in every community.
Now add ridesharing into the mix, with commuters accepting it as normal, and carsharing, enabling households not to own a car but having access when they need one, as the 405 members of the Victoria Car Share Coop do today. Community Videoconferencing Centres will help too, enabling us to eliminate many trips to meetings.

So what about mass transportation - trains, trucking, shipping and flying? Trains - and high-speed trains - can be electric. For the rest, farmland biofuels are off the table, as we’d need three times the world’s farmland, but biofuel made by growing algae looks hopeful, as it requires 50 times less land.

For flying (5 million barrels of oil a day), New Scientist magazine suggested that growing algae-fuel would need 68,000 sq km, the size or Ireland, or 0.15% of the world’s farmland. To put this in perspective, we use 70% of the world’s farm and pastureland to raise animals for meat.

The transition to a green transport future is achievable - but we need to work on it now, both to accelerate urgently needed action on the climate crisis, and to do it before the oil crisis hits.

By Guy Dauncey, 'EcoNews' April 2010.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peak oil now seen as a "more immediate risk"

US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015

• Shortfall could reach 10m barrels a day, report says
• Cost of crude oil is predicted to top $100 a barrel
Total oil refinery
Surplus oil production capacity could disappear by 2012 a report from US Joint Forces Command, says. Photograph: Katja Buchholz/Getty Images

The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.
The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.
"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.
It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."
The US military says its views cannot be taken as US government policy but admits they are meant to provide the Joint Forces with "an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concept to guide out future force developments."
The warning is the latest in a series from around the world that has turned peak oil – the moment when demand exceeds supply – from a distant threat to a more immediate risk.
The Wicks Review on UK energy policy published last summer effectively dismissed fears but Lord Hunt, the British energy minister, met concerned industrialists two weeks ago in a sign that it is rapidly changing its mind on the seriousness of the issue.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency remains confident that there is no short-term risk of oil shortages but privately some senior officials have admitted there is considerable disagreement internally about this upbeat stance.
Future fuel supplies are of acute importance to the US army because it is believed to be the biggest single user of petrol in the world. BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said recently that there was little chance of crude from the carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands being banned in America because the US military like to have local supplies rather than rely on the politically unstable Middle East.
But there are signs that the US Department of Energy might also be changing its stance on peak oil. In a recent interview with French newspaper, Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, main oil adviser to the Obama administration, admitted that "a chance exists that we may experience a decline" of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 if the investment was not forthcoming.
Lionel Badal, a post-graduate student at Kings College, London, who has been researching peak oil theories, said the review by the American military moves the debate on.
"It's surprising to see that the US Army, unlike the US Department of Energy, publicly warns of major oil shortages in the near-term. Now it could be interesting to know on which study the information is based on," he said.
"The Energy Information Administration (of the department of energy) has been saying for years that Peak Oil was "decades away". In light of the report from the US Joint Forces Command, is the EIA still confident of its previous highly optimistic conclusions?"
The Joint Operating Environment report paints a bleak picture of what can happen on occasions when there is serious economic upheaval. "One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest," it points out.

Peak Auto?

... The question is whether or not we in the USA will wake up to this new reality in time to take advantage of the economic opportunities and needs of the new era -such as the need for American manufacturers of streetcars, for instance.
The really good news in this story is that this could be a transition to a time when the carnage from motor vehicle crashes will no longer be considered an accepted part of modern life. A time when our urban places will once more be designed for people and not be trashed to accommodate cars. And when the profligate burning for mobility of the earth’s finite store of petroleum will be looked at as a quaint relic of the past. A past not unlike the one now regulated to the movies where people smoked in doctor’s offices and on airplanes. A past that causes us to say: what were they thinking?...Norman Garrick on Planetizen

Monday, April 12, 2010

SMART-card: "Madness"

Let's learn from the bitter experience of the expensive "SMART-card" farce in Australia, with this timely report from Adam Butler:

Millions will be wasted on ticketing system

The NSW State Government just doesn't get it. They seem to think that it is OK to spend millions of dollars on a TICKETING SYSTEM. One that will not attract more customers or increase the capacity of the transport network. Read more here....

Relieving the state of the burdens associated with running a user-pays system by having free public transport will see us more forward in leaps and bounds....if only they'd get their hands out of their pockets and open their eyes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

5000 mammoth rigs add to road-clogged mayhem

Over Easter weekend 12 people perished in road smashes, and dozens more were hospitalised.
But during the same week the government announced that up to 5000 over-sized super-rigs will be permitted on our roads, with loads up to 53 tonnes each.
There are already too many vehicles clogging up our roads. Trucks are involved in 16% of all deaths on NZ roads, even though they comprise only 4% of the vehicle fleet. Another 5000 mammoth trucks will make our roads even more deadly.
More fuel guzzling trucks will also churn up our roads and waste precious fuel as we reach peak oil and peak asphalt .. and undermine rail freight services.

Peter De Waal comments:

The NZ Herald Editorial on Wednesday Apr 7, 2010: "Danger from heavier loads simple physics" about the proposal to increase the weight limits of trucks used on selected our roads does not raise any serious opposition to the plan.

The decision to use 53 tonne as opposed to 44 tonne trucks on New Zealand's 60-year-old fragile roading system is one based on faith, not economics.

New Zealand's roads were well-built, but poorly engineered. The lack of adequate shoulder areas and the sharp radius of turns throughout the system point to shortcuts in planning and budgets. Such fine details of road construction are lost on most commuters, as they drive small vehicles weighing only 1000-2000 Kg. Trying to punt a heavy truck around such bends, where you are totally committed to the line you choose at the start of the apex, is a different matter entirely.

Trucks are around 8 times less energy efficient than rail transportation. The price of oil is predicted to rise sharply after 2012, so any "efficiency gains" from the use of heavier trucks is likely to be wiped out.

A recent article by Kurt Cobb about future oil supplies, shows world oil production - currently around 86 million barrels-per-day (BPD) - will fall to 80 million BPD by 2016; 67 million BPD by 2020; and to 60 million BPD by 2023.

These numbers are based on research by Glenn Sweetman of the US Government's Energy Information Administration, an authoritative source. In the same period worldwide demand is slated to increase to 90 million BPD by 2016; 95 million BPD by 2020; and to 98 million BPD by 2023.

The highly efficient stock market will respond to this shortage by bidding up prices, to levels far higher than seen in 2007 when oil briefly reached US$147 a barrel. This will effectively shut-down world trade. So much for the National parties' optimistic predictions of ever increasing trucking volumes.

The problem of road wear will be greatly increased buy the use of heavier long-distance trucks. It will fall to ratepayers and families renting housing to foot the bill for strengthening bridges and frequently rebuilding broken-up highways. The materials required for this repair work are also rapidly increasing in price, such as the diesel fuel to power heavy excavators etc., but most importantly asphalt, for which a world-wide shortage has begun. See: The NZ government also believes that such excess weight vehicles can be restricted to a few specially-strengthened roads. The recent grounding of a coal bulk carrier in the Great Barrier reefs shows, with all it's potential for environmental disaster, that if money can be saved by taking a short-cut, it will be.

Given the oil and asphalt crises about to burst on New Zealand, it would be prudent to prioritise rail shipping, and limit the distances and weights trucks can carry.

The trucks themselves have a relatively short life span of around 10 years. Railway rolling stock lasts for decades. The New Zealand public are effectively paying for an entirely new transport infrastructure every decade. No wonder New Zealand is so far behind other OECD countries. The economic dividend of this waste is paid to trucking bosses and their political supporters, but the real political dividend is the individualism and atomisation of the workforce that small, highly competitive trucking companies create. No capitalist government, be it National or Labour, wants to see the resurgence of rail, and the rail unions.

I recently listened to an interview of Colin Campbell about his life-long career as an oil geologist and Peak Oil where he made the point that "China had it's economic boom at 5 seconds to midnight." The same blind subjectivism seems to rule New Zealand's bosses, who think their overdeveloped sense of personal entitlement and some vague idea of "New Zealand exceptionalism" will make up for a global energy shortage. "Yeah, right."

Such short-sighted planning, based only on the needs of the next quarter's profit report, are about to undo the current crop of leaders. But you won't read that in the New Zealand Herald...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tackling the myths about free public transport

The 'Auckland Transport' blogsite recently ran a posting from 'Chris N' which listed the many benefits of introducing free public transport. This sparked a flurry of correspondence, including a collection old cliches and myths penned by the blogsite host.

Fare-FreeNZ posted this response:

Thanks for reconsidering the merits of free public transport.
But let’s have a look at some of the old myths you raise.
Your scenario of “a free ride on a very crowded and old bus each day” has never been part of the proposal advocated by proponents of free public transport.
Fare-free transit presupposes that the public transport system would be efficient, totally integrated, frequent and of a very high standard – using comfortable, modern low-emission vehicles. Such a new network would require at least three times the number of buses we now have in Auckland, plus a decent electrified rail service & support infra-structure for starters. Good user-friendly amenities for cyclists and pedestrians would also be a vital component.
It took the Belgium city of Hasselt several years to get it’s bus services up to a quality standard before they introduced zero-fares twelve years ago – and now everybody gets about the city easily, with no traffic congestion – which had been a serious problem previously.
Your tired old cliche about ‘vagrants’[on buses] would be easily overcome by engaging public transport ‘ambassadors’ to assist passengers and deter anti-social behaviour… again, as they do effectively in Hasselt. And there would be no incentive for assaults on drivers as there would be no cashbox to rob and no disputes over fares! The driver will be free to do his/her job – get everyone to their destinations safely.
[Chris N outlines other benefits very well... have another look at what he says.]
Yes, of course it will cost alot of money. But introducing fare-free, quality public transport would cost a fraction of the billions currently wasted on extremely expensive motorways that we all know will be clogged up again in no time – and, to make matters worse, now this government is allowing up to 5000 extra-super-rigs to churn up the roads and increase the road toll even more – and guess who’s going to get the bill for all of this mayhem? …not to mention the extravagant cost of these proposed new flash ticketing systems for the current inefficient, worn-out bus & rail system.
Supporters of the status quo and car dependency never seem to factor in the appalling costs of the carnage on the roads – another 10 people perished over Easter weekend, and another several dozen mangled bodies ended up in hospital. Then there’s the phenomenal rising health costs and human suffering due to pollution problems – much of which comes from the abundance of cars clogging our roads each day. There is also the issue of increased costs & waste of precious fuel.
No – we should see decent public transport as an important, free & easily accessible public service, with funding shared by all for the common good, like many other public services – not as some sort of burden.
It’s time to make major changes to get people out of cars and to let us get about the city in a civilised & sensible manner. Traffic chaos is literally killing hundreds of people and making city life unsustainable & miserable.
Much of our public transport is already subsidized by taxes and road user charges – why not up-grade it properly and cover the costs collectively? In Hasselt the residents rates decreased after free buses were introduced and the city flourished. Auckland too could lead the way as truly ‘world class, clean, green, pleasant city’ and a fine example for others. I’m sure that the resulting increased numbers of tourists would be happy to contribute to the cost of their ‘carbon-footprint’ by paying a special vistors’ levy to help with the nation’s transport costs too.
If your readers wish to follow up on these issues, there are dozens of free public transport blogsites around the world, and everyone is welcome to check out our New Zealand site
Email address:
For rational mobility,
Roger Fowler
comment posted on

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Popular protests, boycott threat & free shoppers' bus wins victory

Community action saves Mangere East post office

At the picket of the Mangere East Countdown store, community activist, Roger Fowler, receives unanimous support for a boycott and free shuttle service to a rival supermarket. Photo credit Manukau Courier.

When food giant Progressive Enterprises served an eviction notice on the Mangere East Post Office recently, they didn’t factor in the united outrage of the local community.

Progressive have a grand plan to demolish the Mangere East shops they own and build a bigger Countdown store on the site. Their four-weeks eviction notice on their neighbour was to be their first move.

When local residents found out, they called an urgent meeting at the community hall. Over 250 turned up to campaign to save their Post Office & Kiwibank, and set about organising a series of protest actions. Mangere MP Su’a William Sio, several city councillors, community & church leaders and the Mangere Community Board swung in behind the campaign. The walls of the shopping centre were plastered with well-read daily wall-newspapers with updates on the campaign. A community petition attracted over 6000 signatures.

Over 200 angry locals picketed the Countdown store and loudly endorsed a plan to boycott Countdown and run a free shoppers’ bus service to the rival Pak ‘N Save store in Mangere. The community centre offered their bus for a half-hourly free shuttle service.

After the rowdy lunchtime protest the Post Office manager received an email from Progressive bosses agreeing to drop the eviction notice, and offered a public apology and to meet with protest leaders. At that meeting the company also agreed to on-going consultations with the protesters regarding their development plans, and to offer the Post Office a prime position in the new Countdown store.

Progressive, is renowned for being arrogant & stubborn – remember their infamous lock out three years ago. But after just two weeks of concerted community protest action they were forced to back down.