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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 03-10-07, 08:42 AM   #1
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Predictions for the fall of the Auto Age

I've been reading a book by James Howard Kunstler Home From Nowhere, which is mostly about urban planning and architecture, but this quote started me thinking

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Howard Kunstler in Home From Nowhere
Anybody who thinks we're going to be using cars twenty-five years from now the way we've been accustomed to using them in the recent past ought to have his head examined. That phase of out national history is over.

We characterize this period as the Auto age not just because driving machines came into existence -- they will continue to exist -- but because some quirks of history and economics made the mass ownerhsip of cars temporarily feasible in America, and in so doing imposed an unprecented, technologically tyrannical regime on every particular of our daily lives.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0684...15#reader-link

What are your predictions for the next 25 years? Will the car survive? Will you be driving a Hummer?
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Old 03-10-07, 09:36 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gerv
I've been reading a book by James Howard Kunstler Home From Nowhere, which is mostly about urban planning and architecture, but this quote started me thinking



http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0684...15#reader-link

What are your predictions for the next 25 years? Will the car survive? Will you be driving a Hummer?
I WON'T BE!...driving a Hummer.... I am inclined to agree with Kunstler's general assessments. I do think he is a bit of an alarmist. But the current transportation system was built on cheap oil and that is going away so something is going to have to evolve. I also think the US is going to take one helluva hit economically before it is over. Several countries are already stepping up to the plate and are taking the entire peak oil scenario seriously. Denmark is one that comes to mind. But in many ways Europe is way ahead of the US in oil availability issues. They are very dependent on imported oil and a lot of it is coming in via the USSR and their very unstable delivery system. For a look at what could happen in the US take a look at this report from Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the sudden reduction in oil. I don't think the transition is going to be very smooth in the US due to the sense of entitlement we have as well as the aggressive attitudes of some individuals. I think the solutions are going to be coming from the community levels, the federal government appears incapable of doing much of anything. Also the town I live in has rail service, the trains don't stop anymore, just blow thru on the double mainline. However the rail sidings do still exist and some freight is still brought in on rail. I think rail is going to the big winner in the future for movement of materials and products. I think life styles are going to roll back to something similar to what was seen in the 20's and the 30's. Small towns will thrive once again and people won't be traveling all over the place.

I personally am hedging my bets, I have no debt other than required taxes. We plant gardens, are working on raising small live stock (goats, chickens, etc) and have increased the size of our fruit and nut orchards. I also shop locally to try and help keep the local merchants in business. Because with the probable collapse of the trucking industry they probably will be your only source of anything. The town we have our small retail shop in has several small manufacturing concerns, I think this is going to be a plus in the future because we won't have access to the massive manufacturing base in China anymore and it will be cost effective to manufacture and market on a local level again. While the plants in question may not be making what we need right now, the skill set and the equipment exists to produce any number of items required for day to day living.

Aaron
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Old 03-10-07, 09:57 AM   #3
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^^^Mostly agreed

I just worry that we've dropped so much capital into roads, and so many communities have become entirely dependent on roads based distribution systems for goods and services that they no longer have the capacity to provide themselves. I'm afraid that learning how to plant a garden or raise a goat will be difficult, as most americans are really far removed from those generations.

And we will have to make huge investments in walkable communities and rail when the price of oil starts to bite. But what if the price of oil starts to bite when we are in a bad economic position, and what if we have no money to make the required investments? I sometimes thing that there will be masses of people stranded in far-flung suburbs and post-rural wastelands, with services from outside becoming increasingly expensive.

But then, we have tons of coal, and when oil get to around $100 per barrel, it becomes profitable to gassify it. Goodbye, earth.
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Old 03-10-07, 10:37 AM   #4
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One idea that has rolled around in the back of my head for quite a while is that we could convert quite a bit of the current interstate system to medium duty passenger rail and is some cases highspeed rail without grossly affecting partial use of it otherwise. The corridors are already owned by the government I could envision taking I-40 for example and converting one side of it to high speed coast to coast rail. You could build transfer stations at the interchanges closest to towns and have a local electric bus service/light rail bring people out to the exchanges. I agree that way too much of the GDP has been invested in the automotive infrastructure, but we will just have to figure out a way to utilize it in the future for other uses. In Europe they are using roadways and aqueducts that the Romans built over 2000 years ago Some amazing parallels there...

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"Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
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Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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Old 03-10-07, 10:44 AM   #5
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As far as the people stranded out in the future wastelands...they are going to have about 3 choices, one is to move, another is to adapt and the final is to die off. I see few to no ways that the transition is going to be painless. Those of us that are looking forward to the future, and are adaptable are going to fare better than those that keeping doing things the way they always have and keep expecting to get the same results. An interesting parallel of what may happen is what occurred with some of the Balkan States during the break up of the Soviet Union. Some of the things that occurred there are quite likely to occur here.

On an interesting side note (at least to me) is a series of ads I have been seeing on a local television station in Charleston, SC. This guy (not sure if he a politician or not) is asking people to "tell" their legislators to vote for the Hydrogen Research bill so you can fill your car on water. Now if we go to a hydrogen based economy and keep things the way they are now we will be suffering from water shortages not to mention all the other associated issues.

We definitely are living in some interesting times...

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Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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Old 03-10-07, 10:50 AM   #6
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Concerning availability of fuel (fossil fuels) when the government shuts off supplies to the general public due to National Security (military uses huge amounts of fossil fuels) then the end will be at hand for American automobile use.

How to avert this end? Get serious about divorcing ourselves from fossil fuel use and get on with alternative fuels. Hydrogen, electric or whatever.

Some say hydrogen production is inefficient due to it taking more energy to produce than the amounts realized. Why not harness solar energy to provide the heat needed in the hydrogen production process? Any kid has learned that using a magnifying glass, paper can be burnt, ants can be set on fire etc. The point is solar power can be used even if it is as simple as a huge magnifying lens. Crazy theory, probably, but worth thinking about.
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Old 03-10-07, 10:53 AM   #7
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The next 25 years will be the twilight of the boomer generation. I predict the return of multi generational households. This will be in response to economic pressures on both retired boomers and their younger family members.

Suburban assets can't be simply abandoned. In fact, they will become critically important. There's no other asset base remaining with which to finance boomer retirements.

I don't think we'll see cars disappear, but with larger extended family groups, it's likely that there will be a decrease in cars needed per capita.
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Old 03-10-07, 10:58 AM   #8
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In the carless apocalypse we will build shanty towns on the freeways.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
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In the carless apocalypse we will build shanty towns on the freeways.
They've already started...

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Old 03-10-07, 02:32 PM   #10
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I don't think it has to be doomsday. Our economy is large and robust, even minus cheap gas. I think autos for personal transit are doomed. We'll continue to use internal combustion engines for some commercial transport, and continue to use jet airliners with fossil fuel. Most likely we'll turn mainly to nuclear fission to replace petroleum and coal. We'll expand the power grid to power electric vehicles for freight and mass transit. But there will probably be a period when we won't have enough energy to power cars or car-like vehicles.

I predict bikes and walking will be very popular in urban and suburban areas. So many of us don't like buses and trains.
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Old 03-10-07, 03:14 PM   #11
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In response to an early post about the gasification of coal...I don't think that is going to happen on a large scale. The coal will most likely be held in reserve to power electrical generation plants until other sources of electricity can be brought on line. I really think our hope lies in the ability to conserve and generate enough electricity for everyone. I have been looking along the lines of a small electric car for the immediate future, so far I haven't found anything that will serve my current needs, but that technology is growing. I may build my own while waiting on a commercial model. And before some one points out that all electricity does is move the pollution elsewhere, ,true BUT less total pollution is generated by one power plant powering up X# of vehicles than those same vehicles being powered by an infernal combustion engine. Another thing that is going to have to happen is people driving the insane distances they do for no reason at all. I was talking with one of the "soccer moms" at work. She puts almost 20,000 miles a year on her car! Getting back and forth to work and shuttling her kids everywhere. That type of use is going to end. We will might get back to the neighborhood schools, ball fields and a small retail area near every neighborhood. I have lived in many of those neighborhoods growing up and wish they were still available today. They do exist but in very limited numbers. I recall being able to walk to the butcher shop and the grocery store to get things for my mother. We played ball at the local park a mile away. Summer evenings we would WALK to the center of town to here bands play in the bank shell at the town park. Seldom do we see this anymore. That is what I hope to see in the future...

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Old 03-10-07, 03:17 PM   #12
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The only problem we have with oil is that we can't use it fast enough...
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Old 03-11-07, 10:48 AM   #13
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My predictions:
* the gasoline powered car will be replaced with much smaller electric vehicles that travel slower, costs more and spend a lot more time in the driveway. Most people will prefer to live without a car, possibly renting them when the needs arises.
* some genius will discover a way to contain nuclear fusion and cheap fusion reactors will provide most electricity.
* a trend towards denser urban development will move a lot of folks back into the cities.
* Walmart will invent a cutsy franchise called "Local Wally" that will specialize in hardware and dry goods. These will be on every corner in North America.
* people will start walking. In suburbs, advocacy groups will start demanding sidewalks.
* gardening will become as popular as football.
* most freeways will have bike lanes.
* your average cheapo bike will feature a cassette with 20 rings.

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Old 03-11-07, 11:11 AM   #14
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Total elimination of the middle class. People overthrow government.
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Old 03-11-07, 11:15 AM   #15
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My predictions:
* gardening will become as popular as football.

That and raising livestock.
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Old 03-11-07, 11:38 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gus Riley
Concerning availability of fuel (fossil fuels) when the government shuts off supplies to the general public due to National Security (military uses huge amounts of fossil fuels) then the end will be at hand for American automobile use.

How to avert this end? Get serious about divorcing ourselves from fossil fuel use and get on with alternative fuels. Hydrogen, electric or whatever.

Some say hydrogen production is inefficient due to it taking more energy to produce than the amounts realized. Why not harness solar energy to provide the heat needed in the hydrogen production process? Any kid has learned that using a magnifying glass, paper can be burnt, ants can be set on fire etc. The point is solar power can be used even if it is as simple as a huge magnifying lens. Crazy theory, probably, but worth thinking about.
Or how about nuclear? I realize many peope strongly dislike nuclear power but it makes sense, at least for a transition period until better power sources can be had on the scale necessary. That way you'd have electricity plus plenty of heat for the creation of hydrogen as a replacement for oil in cars and such.
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Old 03-11-07, 11:39 AM   #17
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Old 03-11-07, 11:52 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wahoonc
In response to an early post about the gasification of coal...I don't think that is going to happen on a large scale. The coal will most likely be held in reserve to power electrical generation plants until other sources of electricity can be brought on line.
I could see it happening that gasification would become pretty commonplace and on a large scale. Seems like it would be profitable enough once oil goes through the roof, plus the US has massive proven coal reserves.. Doesn't bode so well for the environment, but life as most know it may be able to stay on life support and linger on for another few hundred years that way..
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Old 03-11-07, 12:35 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrickag
I could see it happening that gasification would become pretty commonplace and on a large scale. Seems like it would be profitable enough once oil goes through the roof, plus the US has massive proven coal reserves.. Doesn't bode so well for the environment, but life as most know it may be able to stay on life support and linger on for another few hundred years that way..
I don't know about "massive reserves" there are some papers
that would indicate a peak in coal, similar to the peak oil by of 2010, having the coal peaking in 2035 that is going to buy us barely a generation. I think nuclear may be a stop gap solution, but you still have the waste to deal with, the current regulation and the hard fact it takes upwards of 7-10 years from deciding you want a plant to actually getting one on line. I suspect that could be improved on with fast tracking and single source design. But as far as I know that still has to be developed. Also the current design reactors use Uranium which is also in finite supply, by most estimate 35-60 years. Regardless of which avenue is chosen we are going to have to make adjustments to our lifestyles, whether in our lifetime or our grand children's life times the changes are coming.

Aaron
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Old 03-11-07, 12:44 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrickag
I could see it happening that gasification would become pretty commonplace and on a large scale. Seems like it would be profitable enough once oil goes through the roof, plus the US has massive proven coal reserves.. Doesn't bode so well for the environment, but life as most know it may be able to stay on life support and linger on for another few hundred years that way..
Coal gasification combined with carbon capture bodes better for the environment. In a Scientific American article last year, I read that this technology would be economically feasible now if there were a $30 to $40 tax per ton of carbon emitted. Clean power! Voila!
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Old 03-11-07, 03:42 PM   #21
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Don't hold your breath. There may be an end to the auto age simply because of natural resource limits, but it will be excruciating, for westerners generally and North Americans in particular. I'm carfree myself, but I'm literally the only person I know over the age of 18 who doesn't own a car, and for virtually all of my family and friends, the idea of going without one is completely unimaginable. In fact, I have a couple of friends for whom cars are an all-consuming passion, and these people are by no means uncommon in our culture. I teach middle school, and almost every single one of my students intends to own their own car as soon as they are legally and financially able to do so; when I bring up the notion of going without a car, most of them just laugh. In the minds of the overwhelming majority of people in our society, cars are not only an inalienable birthright, they're absolutely necessary for their survival. This is of course completely untrue and is simply the result of a lifetime of brainwashing by the oil and auto industries, but there it is. If given the choice between keeping their cars and leaving a livable planet to their descendents, I'm absolutely confident that almost everyone will opt for the car.

That said, I think that all but the very wealthy WILL eventually have to give up their cars, for purely economic reasons, but it isn't going to be pretty, and it isn't going to be over with quickly.
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Old 03-11-07, 04:44 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wahoonc
I don't know about "massive reserves" there are some papers
that would indicate a peak in coal, similar to the peak oil by of 2010, having the coal peaking in 2035 that is going to buy us barely a generation. I think nuclear may be a stop gap solution, but you still have the waste to deal with, the current regulation and the hard fact it takes upwards of 7-10 years from deciding you want a plant to actually getting one on line. I suspect that could be improved on with fast tracking and single source design. But as far as I know that still has to be developed. Also the current design reactors use Uranium which is also in finite supply, by most estimate 35-60 years. Regardless of which avenue is chosen we are going to have to make adjustments to our lifestyles, whether in our lifetime or our grand children's life times the changes are coming.

Aaron
Interesting article, I admit I haven't read too much about the subject. Just looking at wikipedia it seems like the US has a pretty good amount at around 250 billions tons of proven recoverables reserves, plus it seems an estimated 1,081,279 million tons of reserves. That's apparently (again all this according to wikipedia and my crappy math ) 4,786 billion barrels of oil equivalent. So if the US uses 46 million barrels of oil equivalent a day then that should come out to something like 280 years worth. Of course all that is a few years old, and using coal to replace gas would wildly increase demand.. But should still be around 100 years or so, and that's only the US's supplies. And as far as nuclear power, the last plant in the US having built in like what, the 70's? And taking about 10 years from conception, I guess would be based on cutting edge technology of the 50 and 60s.. Hopefully with all the advances in technology since then any new reactors could be hugely more efficient. The uranium supply is fairly low though, but a lot of that has to do simply with cost effectiveness. As the prices go up reserves go up as there's more incentive to go for the lower concentrations and harder to get supplies.

While all this is going on we can just keep our fingers crossed for fusion power.
Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
Proposed fusion reactors assume the use of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, as fuel and in most current designs also lithium. Assuming a fusion energy output equal to the current global output and that this does not increase in the future, then the known current lithium reserves would last 3,000 years, lithium from sea water would last 60 million years, and a more complicated fusion process using only deuterium from sea water would have fuel for 150 billion years.[16] For comparison, the Sun has an estimated remaining life of 5 billion years.
But who knows what can happen.. Just have to wait and see.
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Old 03-11-07, 05:06 PM   #23
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I gotta love fusion....I am 48 years old and I can remember that being the next "great" discovery right around the corner when I was in grade school I honestly think that the future is going to be a mix of things and some I am sure we haven't even thought of yet. I know that electricity holds a strong lead at this point based on some current reports of slow discharge capacitors and super conductors as well as the multiple means of generation. I have a brother that works on the research side of the super conductors, they have made some pretty surprising headway in the past 5 years. Getting them to work from near absolute zero into the just plain subzero range was a pretty big step. If they can ever make the break through into room temperature super conductors, a lot of loss and efficiency issues will disappear, and we would not need to increase generation capacity at all. For the time being I am working towards car lite, with that car being an all electric model. I think I may have found my base to build on today. Small wagon with a weak gas engine...wonder if I can get carbon credit for taking it off the roads

Aaron
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Old 03-11-07, 06:38 PM   #24
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Kunsler says that in the energy strapped future those Mcmansions in the far flung asteriod belts of suburbia will have multiple families living in them with crops growing in the front yard.
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Old 03-12-07, 12:04 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bragi
I'm carfree myself, but I'm literally the only person I know over the age of 18 who doesn't own a car, and for virtually all of my family and friends, the idea of going without one is completely unimaginable. In fact, I have a couple of friends for whom cars are an all-consuming passion, and these people are by no means uncommon in our culture. I teach middle school, and almost every single one of my students intends to own their own car as soon as they are legally and financially able to do so; when I bring up the notion of going without a car, most of them just laugh. In the minds of the overwhelming majority of people in our society, cars are not only an inalienable birthright, they're absolutely necessary for their survival. This is of course completely untrue and is simply the result of a lifetime of brainwashing by the oil and auto industries, but there it is. If given the choice between keeping their cars and leaving a livable planet to their descendents, I'm absolutely confident that almost everyone will opt for the car.
This is all very true, but look back in history. In 1910, it was almost inconceivable that anybody would own a car. Within 20 years, almost everybody in fact did own a car. And the rate of technology adoption is much faster now than it was 100 years ago.
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