There Will Be Bikes...
(updated: May 23, 2008)
What? No update this week? I've been quite busy lately. And next week is worse. I haven't worked on the videos. I haven't been riding much lately, and I have no plans to go anywhere to ride, which kinda sucks if you have a site like this. So, I thought I'd write something else this Friday evening.
This week has seen somewhat of a tipping point in the Mainstream Media (MSM) where they are actually starting to use the words "peak oil". Much of the country is still completely clueless as to what's really going on, although it's getting harder to ignore. I've written about this topic many times before (Wilmington has a choice, and Good news and bad news..., Welcome to Vulgaria, The Gathering Hurricane, just to name a few), but now awareness is rising, thanks in part to rising oil prices. This is actually happening faster than I had expected. I had called for $300 per barrel oil in 2010-2012 timeframe. But it may be here sooner than that.
That is because things behave non-linearly in a complex system. Even small differences in initial conditions can lead to exponentially divergent outcomes. Which is why it is important to consider even small things that we can do. But after pointlessly arguing with people too ingrained in the suburban car-centric infrastructure that they can't envision a world not that way, and writing letters to our local leaders that I knew would amount to absolutely nothing (I tried anyway), my only satisfaction now comes from knowing that I am right as I watch the slow moving train wreck now unfolding.
America is screwed and have only ourselves to blame. We have a Congress that has just approved legislation allowing the Justice Dept to sue OPEC over high oil prices after first threatening them to increase production. Now there's another bill floating out there to open up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, which an analysis done by the DOE states that it would reduce the price of a barrel of oil by just $0.75. Clearly, this is a sign of desperation. Let the resource wars begin! It reminds me of a great bumper sticker I once saw: "How did our oil get under their sand?"
Pricing will force change upon our overconsumption. Nothing else seems to work. There are many ways to do it. But as long as our government remains as equally clueless as our general population, all we're ending up doing is more damage in the long run. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will literally go out the window as we attempt a last ditch effort to keep the current system of increased consumption forever by burning more and more coal, turning more food into fuel, and digging and drilling and extracting more; which will lead to exactly the outcome that this desperate act seeks to avoid - the complete economic collapse and die-off of our unnecessarily resource intensive living arrangement.
We are sending billions overseas every day that we could be spending here at home. All that money could be used for investment and jobs, right here. We still have the chance. $130 per barrel oil is still cheap. But people are in the denial stage. Next will come Anger.
The person I saw driving a Hummer merely looks like an imbecile today, but in a few years if someone is driving something like that they are likely to be dragged out of their SUV and beaten, or shot. You don't want to be driving a big SUV around when gas is $10 a gallon - a slap in the face of people who can't afford gas. Things are going to get really ugly.
Fortunately, there is a solution: bikes, which is the topic of this post. Yes, the good news is that you're going to be seeing a lot more bikes. So get ready and prepare by being good stewards of cycling. Show people how to ride a bike properly, help people learn to fix simple things, like change a tire or adjust gears and brakes. Convert people to bikes by sharing your enthusiasm for these marvelous devices - the greatest invention of the human race.
We've been doing a lot of good for cycling here in Wilmington. Just the other day two local news stations covered the Ride of Silence. Steve was interviewed and mentioned that Wilmington is not cycling friendly but things are starting to change. And now we have a critical mass ride that is going to start producing positive results in the community. We just have to keep pushing and remain determined. Maybe things will happen.
Here's what I'd like to see:
- For NC DOT to place a moratorium on all new roads. They are simply not needed anymore. Spending taxpayer money here is foolish.
- Use the tax money saved on the roads to re-stripe existing roads such as Market St. and College Rd. Use one lane for lightrail (or electric rail car or trolley) and use another lane for non-motorized transportation. You still have three lanes for cars (two-way plus center turn lane).
- Raise gas taxes (yes, raise them) or give a large incentive to switch to all-electric vehicles.
- Abolish all existing zoning codes in favor of ones that promote mixed use living that will reduce the need to drive all the time.
- Promote locally grown meat, dairy and produce, so we don't have to ship it from thousands of miles away.
- Provide incentives for personal wind and solar installations.
- Abolish all homeowner associations so that people can turn their yards into gardens, raise chickens and other animals.
- Build a high-speed rail line across the state, from the port to the mountains.
These are just a few of the things we can do. Or, we can do nothing, which is actually better than what we're attempting now...solving the wrong problem by focusing on business as usual and keeping all the cars running. Either of which will send us off the cliff, but at least doing nothing buys more time for the remote possibility that we'll actually face reality and get down to the painful business of actually solving the real problem.
In the end, though, it will be a much richer way to live. We will be a better society, one that focuses on community and great living spaces where people interact positively. But we have to get past the first stage by recognizing the real problem and stop treating the symptoms.
Now for some really good entertainment, here is Kunstler talking about our living arrangement we got going on here in the US...
1. Ben said...
I would generally agree with most of that, except the part about raising gas prices to increase conversion to all electric cars. That's all well and good, because the electricity in my home (that would power my car) comes from magic. I currently have my house plugged into a jelly bean field.
My point is that we can only implement something like that if we have a renewable resources powering our homes, or else were just using electricity from Sutton Steam (coal) plant, just across the river to power our cars AND our homes.
It is one of those alternatives that takes just the right conditions to work in. Another thought, what about the more exotic materials that are in use to build electric cars? Don't they come from farther away, requiring more gas to get them there?
Granted, a normal car has parts from all over the world, but it's still more in an electric car.
The worst option we have is ethanol. Whoever came up with this idea had a scope of vision that was about as big as the hills in Wilmington. It's starting to become common knowledge that it takes about 450 pounds of corn to make enough ethanol to fill up one SUV tank. This is brutally mangling two birds with one chainsaw. We are going to take the entirety of the world's farms and turn them into corn fields, so we can power our cars and feel good about it, while people in 3rd world countries eat grass and starve to death.
This is why the bicycle is so great. It just capitalizes on the energy resource that we already have. FOOD. We eat the food, then go ride. And, a bicycle can last for ten years! And it's still way less to buy, and maintain then any car, gas, ethanol electric, hybrid, fuel cell. What ever.
I was on my way back from a bike trip to Oak Island. I was sporting my Discovery Chanel jersey that was the Best Young Rider version. So it said Skoda on the side of it. I was approached by a British fellow who said that he drove a Skoda. He said that they were relatively fuel efficient, they got about 40 mpg. This absolutely floored me. I was amazed that he was almost blowing off the fact that he has a GAS POWERED car that gets 40 miles to the gallon. He then said that gas was about $10 per gallon. I freaked out. He said it was a little less then 5 euros for what would be a gallon of gas (because they use liters). Just goes to show what the emerging trend appears to be
May 24, 2008 @ 10:44 AM
2. peter said...
Hmmm..Erol you give some persuasive arguements.For the most part I agree. Growth is the enemy of progress. I believe that the evolution of things to come will be birthed from grass roots organizations that will focus on solutions in a local environment. The heck with I'm from the gummint and I'm here to help you" The issue is really one of change and adaptability. We all must get together and find realistic, sustaining, non violent methods to the ever pressing madness. Positivity, optimism, a "judge slowly" mentality and fun on two wheels will keep us going.
May 24, 2008 @ 11:32 AM
3. SBA said...
I agree with you on the electric part. You don't want to just substitute one source of CO2 for another. That's why I work in the nuclear industry. You can also generate electricity from Solar to power your car: http://sealbeach.org/.
May 24, 2008 @ 11:39 AM
4. C Me Crash said...
I'm not really into the political trip so much, I just like to ride bikes, but I feel like commenting anyways. The problem is, people do not give a shit. Bottom line. When I see an Escalade at the gas station pulling a huge boat with 3 250 hp motors on it, it just shows me the mentality of our society. It is sad because these people would be so much healthier and mentally sharper if they sold the boat and got a bicycle. I loved it yesterday when I rode my bike to the beach and passed all the cars along the way, thats how bad the traffic was, it was beautiful to breeze to the beach in minutes without the frustration of the tourist traffic. Keep riding !!!!!!!!!!
May 26, 2008 @ 4:23 PM
5. SBA said...
Man, I couldn't agree more. I just don't know how to convince people that it will be better society in the future than what we have now. People will ride bikes more, interact, socialize, and communicate. People will work together and rely on each other's skills to get things done. We'll do things on a local scale, rather than farming everything out to the exploited poor in China and India. We won't be addicted to cheap Chinese made landfill junk, wasteful gas-guzzling cars, and incessant motoring. We'll stop referring to ourselves as 'consumers' and start calling each other 'citizens' again. Bring on the end of cheap hydrocarbons. The worst thing that can happen is for oil to get cheap again because it will only make life worse in the long run.
May 26, 2008 @ 5:17 PM
6. MLB said...
I think the way to convince people is to help influence them one at a time.I've always liked to ride but now I'm way more addicted than ever just by meeting other people who love it the same,the physical and mental health benefits,being introduced to other places to ride,the increasing awareness on the roads,and the helpful info from this site and at the LBShops.I did my first grocery store run yesterday on my bike with my 5 year old and we got many smiles and waves along with some good exercise.Who knows,maybe some of them will try it too.My next step was to modify my trailer to carry my kids,packages and maybe even my dog who always loved car rides.He collapsed my trailer yesterday so any advice on a good trailer would be helpful.I saw a kit by Wike but I don't know anyone who owns one.Keep up the efforts SBA and stay the course!
May 26, 2008 @ 8:13 PM
7. CJ said...
I agree somewhat with your arguments. Honestly, I’m still developing my own opinions but something that struck me is your comment about abolishing homeowner associations. That would be wrong to do because people spend their money to live in a place like that as is their right. I don’t mind individual families owning livestock, but if the rules say no, you have to follow it, you moved there with the understanding of those rules. If you move livestock into a residential area, typically, the value of nearby homes decreases (outside of other stimuli like the market) which is unfair to the owners of those homes who have the right to move away and sell their home and in a sense, a neighbor owning livestock is "damaging" their property.
Gardening doesn’t bother me as much due to the fact that it provides not only food, but it also can be a nice looking addition to a yard.
I do agree with the personal solar and wind idea in the sense that I don’t think that any sort of national solution will work, we have to make our own solutions because every person and situation is different. This is how it was done for thousands of years and ceased when mass production has come into play.
I don’t understand how you would sue OPEC...who is the ruling "judge"?
i dont like the idea behind raising taxes, that just wont work, what will happen is as it rises people will continue to pay for it until they run out of money and essentially hang themselves. And next to that, i enjoy cars. they are one of my hobbies and i dont intend to stop even if gas gets to be 10 dollars a gallon. Now granted while i may not stop, i will be slowing down, but it is something i love.
i ahve to say that i really like the idea of supporting local produce. to me it tastes better and is more affordable plus it is much mroe fresh. In addition my grandfather owns a farm that he rents out to a farmer and buying local stuff from him helps out my family.
but hey, thats just my opinion
May 27, 2008 @ 7:07 AM
8. MLB said...
I meant to comment on the alternative energy and local food production.Just like with the biking we've got to start right here and attempt to influence others.I live in a subdivision with a HOA and while I can't do much out front, we do have a vegetable garden in the back and water is supplied from a rain barrel behind my house.My neighbors across the street and to my side have the same setup.Next step is to retro fit my home for greater efficiency which could include solar panels (cost permitting).I don't know if I'm ready for raising chickens yet but I know there are farms in neighboring areas who sell a variety of locally grown meats and produce.We just have to support them by buying from them.
May 27, 2008 @ 7:47 AM
9. MLM said...
I live in Rural NC because at the time 14 years ago it was cheaper to get a home outside of town than in Raleigh. Now with the price of gasoline and the artificially inflated real estate market it is more costly place to live. I have given up on buying gas and decided to commute on the bike 52 miles a day round trip. It is more invigorating cycling those miles and mentally refreshing than I could ever imagine. Quite the opposite of the tedious monotony of crawling in traffic on I-40 to RTP. I hope that our communities will continue to become more friendly towards walking and cycling as well as supporting sustainable farming and markets.
May 27, 2008 @ 12:27 PM
10. peter said...
mlm...you are fortunate in a way that you have a rails to trails gig going on up there...a bike commuter situation to rtp...down here its backwards...not friendly towards bikes ( although if you ride a mtn bike,cruiser, urban or anything other than a road bike the cars give you a bit more room..strange....but i believe we need to adopt the bumper sticker logo...act locally, think globally..'cides, two things really put a smile on my face...bike ridin and kite flyin.
May 27, 2008 @ 2:01 PM
11. SBA said...
I think a lot of the price rise in oil is due to index speculation in commodities by institutional investors and hedge funds. There is still a lot of money out there and it has to go somewhere. First it was the dot com bubble, then the housing bubble, now it's a commodities bubble. So I expect commodities and oil prices to come down sharply, especially after the summer olympics. The US is in recession, and the 'consumer' is tapped out. As the US goes, so does the rest of the world, so these high prices can't last. But, when things hit bottom and start turning around again, prices will rise meteorically again. So you can't escape.
May 27, 2008 @ 10:17 PM
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