Thursday, April 9, 2009

Don't Lecture If You Can't Change Yourself

In an article on the new Indian auto sensation, Projjal Dutta calls for the United States to and other countries around the world to invest more in transit to change the future land use patterns that we know will result from all the automobiling that is in front of the Tata Nano. But he calls out the government for just doing the same as it always has in the stimulus package at 80/20.
As with many other issues, the world will expect America's "talk"--say, urging China and India not to become auto-centric--to be accompanied by "walk," at home. That, unfortunately, despite early glimmers of hope, is not happening. The stimulus bill has allocated about 8 billion dollars to transit, compared with 30 billion to highways. This is roughly in keeping with the traditional 80/20 split of federal transportation funds that have been enshrined since the Eisenhower days.
I agree. We can't just lecture other countries about what they should do when we continue to fund the same levels we always have. How are we supposed to solve the problems in the world if we can't lead by example.
The president's stimulus package has put dollar commitments behind promises about promoting green-jobs and increasing renewable energy generation capacity of the U.S. Yet, despite the concern and awareness within the administration, American lifestyles are inextricably linked to very high automobile usage. Until that bull is taken by the horns, climate change cannot be properly confronted.
This is why I keep harping on the folks at SF city hall in the Emerald Aristocracy. Fake green and gizmo green is not leading by example, its just delaying the inevitable. Check out the Forbes article, it's a good read.


Cavan said...

Kunstler is right when he says that we will spend trillions trying to sustain the unsustainable. And that will be money that could have been used planning for the future. It's a gloomy picture. Unless we adapt our infrastructure, we're looking at food shortages due to lack of shipping options within five years. That's on top of people being prisoners in their suburban houses (more than they already are) when they can't get enough gasoline to power their car. Electric cars aren't the solution, either. First, where will all that electricity come from? Second, no one has built an electric car with more than a 100 mile range. Therefore, it's not much good for shipping goods. This is a joke and we will be a collapsing basketcase of a country unless we do something. But that's not going to happen because understanding physics and economics tend to be poor qualifications to being elected to any sort of office. They also tend to be poor qualifications for any elected official actually listening to you. That is, unless you're paid for lock stock and barrel by someone who can grease the system. Then you get hailed on CNBC and Fox News as a visionary pundit, despite the fact that you're always wrong.

Sorry for being so negative. I'm a bit gloomy today, since it looks like my favorite sports team will be leaving the Washington DC region.

arcady said...

we're looking at food shortages due to lack of shipping options within five years.
Not really. If imports and car sales keep dropping, and autorack and container traffic along with them, then there will be plenty of spare capacity on the railroads. In fact, I think the weakest link of the supply chain is the last few miles from the store to the home, especially if it's a long distance and done by driving an SUV. I do think there will be some changes in where people live, and for some, a life in the exurbs or rural areas might not be feasible anymore, but I don't think society is headed for a total collapse just yet. Oh and Kunstler is a ruralist romantic.

Second, no one has built an electric car with more than a 100 mile range.
False. The Tesla Roadster claims a 220 mile range, and while it's not exactly your typical family car, they plan to use the technology to build something that is.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that Kunstler is a ruralist romantic, he's more of a small town guy.

Though we should thank Kunstler for bringing up the need to improve mass transit and restore our rail systems.

Alon Levy said...

The 80/20 split goes even further back than Eisenhower - even in the 1940s, about 75% of federal transportation money went to roads.

Alon Levy said...

Also, this is wrong:

The average Texan consumes approximately 500 million BTU per year, about six to seven times that consumed by a resident of New York City or San Francisco. This dramatic difference is not due to heating or cooling as one may think, although, urban buildings are remarkably more efficient. The difference largely results from level of dependence on the automobile.

The average Texan consumes several times the energy of the average person living in the suburbs of New York or San Francisco, too. Much of the difference comes from Texas's energy-intensive industries: oil, shipping, heavy manufacturing. New York and San Francisco, which are fully deindustrialized, do not have these.