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Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil Paperback – May 1, 2010
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Modern societies now rely almost entirely on oil for moving people and freight. The impacts on transport of scarcer and more expensive oil pose major challenges to humanity. They require revolutions in our thinking about mobility, and consequent changes in all forms of transport.
Transport Revolutions analyses five episodes of rapid and radical change in the way people and goods have travelled. It examines the worldwide state of transport today, especially its energy use and its impacts, positive and negative. The authors then show, focusing on the United States and China, how ample movement of people and freight could be sustained beyond 2025 with much-reduced dependence on oil. Preparations for the end of cheap oil include:
- Substantial use of electricity to power land transport
- Use of wind to help power water transport
- Reduced movement of people and goods by air
- New approaches to transport planning, finance, and management.
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First and foremost, the title, Transport Revolutions--Moving People and Freight without Oil suggests that this book is one of the usual advocacies for alternative fuels, new technology, etc. While this may be true, to me the book's main value is its serving as an overview of the transportation industry from a nontraditional perspective. This ranges from the market share of various transportation modes to the role of transportation as a driver of economic activity.
Additionally there are some interesting concepts which go well beyond the usual suggestions of, for example, railroad electrification. These include the creation of a Transportation Redevelopment Administration and an even more radical proposal: a national ethos of shared sacrifice, a byproduct of which would be a focus on recasting transportation priorities.
Other interesting concepts include:
1. Focus on the value of time--for example, the past definition of cities based on how far one could walk by foot in an hour, and for the future, the redistribution of time as a way of inducing passengers to use slower, but more time-productive, modes of transportation.
2. Different perspectives for comparison of China with the USA, including the conventional comparison of transportation per capita but also the differences in leadership--China by engineers, the USA by lawyers;
3. Production subsidies involved in automobile manufacturing (as opposed to highway construction) in the USA; and
4. The relatively small role that transportation plays in the USA's national infrastructure budget.
It is important to note that I am writing this review based on a book purchased two years ago, and it therefore does not reflect the emergence of natural gas as a significant alternative. But most of its thought-provoking perspectives hold true, and this book remains both highly relevant and highly recommended.
Henry Posner III
Chairman, Railroad Development Corp.
This means high speed rail between cities to replace many road trips and most short haul air travel, plus urban rail systems to get around in metropolitan areas. But it also includes electric trolley buses and electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, including trucks. Reason: electric vehicles are not only efficient, but the electricity may come from a variety of renewable sources.
However they seem to have gone overboard in regard to "grid connected vehicles" when they prescribe Personal Rapid Transit. The problem here is that PRT is mostly just a concept, backed by highly questionable simulations and cost estimates. Experts who look at the fundamentals see costs that vastly outweigh the benefits, except in very limited circumstances, such as at Heathrow. And with big declines in air travel projected, even the airport application of PRT needs to be questioned.
But Gilbert and Perl are right on target when they say that the first order of business, whether in the US or China, is to stop digging ourselves deeper in the the fossil fuel hole. An example now gaining currency in the US would be "no new general purpose freeway lanes". Another is to stop all airport expansions.
Given the vast waste and luxury in US society, the US could certainly afford the $1 trillion cost that they project for the high speed train network. But finding the political will is another matter, as the costs of food and fuel skyrocket and credit bubbles burst and wars drain resources, leaving economic decline in their wake.
Nevertheless, we need more academics joining activists to tell the world that is is what needs to be done.
Likely. From "Transport Revolutions" very much data is revealed about vehicle fuels in a large range of transport use. Given perhaps a decade, as indicated for possibilities of China development, electricity will dominate.
It is also interesting to learn how the transportation scene in China compares with (and contrasts from) that in the U.S. As this book's authors say, China is the most populated of the world's less developed nations, and the U.S. is the most populated of the world's highly developed nations.