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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 03-17-07, 09:23 AM   #1
pedex 
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60 days

http://www.newcolonist.com/dim_ages.html

wont let me post the text, aaaaaaaaaargghh, anyway, thought it was worth the read
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Old 03-17-07, 09:38 AM   #2
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That's a fictional 60-day diary that describes how life changes if there's a sudden interruption in oil supply from the Middle East. Of interest to us is the writer's use of his bike.
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Old 03-17-07, 10:05 AM   #3
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Interesting read. Some of it reminds me of 1973 when there were lines for gasoline. I believe the US would be in slightly better shape if this thing happened today. Many now can work from home. There are fewer oil-dependent industries around. Although I expect your average head of broccoli would cost $10.

In this scenario, the bicycle would be a godsend for the US. Largely because the layout of most cities would make it difficult to walk to shops and work. You could bike 5 miles to pick up groceries from your suburban enclave. However, to make the trip by foot would take the entire day.
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Old 03-17-07, 10:26 AM   #4
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That sure looked like a piece written by someone who regularly posts on Bikeforums/Living Car Free. Own up, C. Haynes, what's your bikeforums screen name?

I was really surprised at Haynes' speculation about public transit. If fuel supplies go down by two thirds, of course transit operators won't be please at the rise in their fuel prices. But there will be so many people unable to afford to operate cars, that folks will be willing to pay whatever they have to in fares, to keep public transit operating and buying fuel. It takes a tiny amount of fuel on a per-passenger basis to run a full bus. All the passengers will easily be able to afford their share of the bus's fuel costs. Bus passengers (together) can pay for fuel much more easily than a five-person carpool or a single-occupant car. Put another way, the higher the price of oil, the easier it will be for transit organizations to cover their costs through fare hikes.

I also think post#1's article doesn't hit upon the most-likely cause for an incredible scarcity of fuel in wealthy countries like the USA. (Not that it claims to be a likely scenario.) It's nearly inevitable that the number of people outside the USA and Europe who want to buy lots of fuel will go up. Most of the world's people, after all, live outside the US/Europe and a lot of those countries are rapidly joining the petroleum-using, industrialized lifestyle.

Meanwhile supplies of oil will not rise. All it takes is a whole lot more people trying to buy the same amount of oil to drive prices up a lot.

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Old 03-17-07, 10:54 AM   #5
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Actually, I think C. Haynes' scenario would be more appropriate for a 5% drop in U. S. oil supply. A two-thirds drop would be cataclysmic.

The fictional diary would have been much more interesting if the protagonist had lost his job. At the most micro level, unemployment is the way in which people would be most affected by an oil supply problem.
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Old 03-17-07, 11:25 AM   #6
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Saudi Arabia stopping oil shipments would take about 10% out of the market, maybe 1-2% out of american imports if that much even. OTOH, if the straits of Hormuz and Suez canal get fubarred in the event, then somewhere around 60% gets taken out.
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Old 03-17-07, 01:09 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by pedex
http://www.newcolonist.com/dim_ages.html

wont let me post the text, aaaaaaaaaargghh, anyway, thought it was worth the read
Mr Haynes' article missed one very important point, the biggest oil source for the US is Canada.

The biggest issue, is a permanent drop in supply, however I expect the oil age, will end with a wimper rather then a bang. It will not be, that one day you can buy gas for $3.50/Gallon, and the next day, you can't get gas, it's more like the next day, that gas is $4/Gallon, the next week it's $6/Gallon, the following month it's $8/Gallon, the year after it's $15/Gallon. As the price goes up, people will switch to smaller cars, and reduce driving, which will help stabilize prices, also the oil companies have certain barriers that are tough to cross, price wise, because they know that going above that, will result in less sales. Less sales, means less profit, and we can't have that, can we.....
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Old 03-17-07, 02:06 PM   #8
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As far as mass transit and people being willing to fund the cost, it will depend on if they can even get the oil. I think at the first hint of dwindling supplies the government is going to step in and take what it thinks it needs first then the remainder will be distributed to everyone else. I saw a bit of this first hand after Katrina when I was in Mobile, AL. We were working at a manufacturing plant down there when the storm hit. After the storm hit the company we were working for was sending relief equipment and supplies from their PA location. The government intercepted and impounded two tankers of fuel that were headed for the plant to fuel the generators and provide gasoline for the workers to get back and forth to work at the plant. During the "shortage" at the time the local gas stations were charging $3 gallon and only giving you $20-25 worth. Pump line waits were exceeding 2 hours and that was only at the stations that were open. Having had prior experience with this type of thing before I had filled my truck up prior to the storm and filled some extra cans as a precaution.

I do agree that the problem is going to come in slowly with increased pricing and decreased supplies. Kind of like the old allegory about cooking a frog, if you dump him in the hot water he will jump out, but if you start with cold water and bring it to a boil he will be cooked. Sounds to me like the general US Economy

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Old 03-17-07, 04:48 PM   #9
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It seems to me like a post-Orwellian first person narrative that attempts to appeal to the "right" of the political spectrum. With articles like these, I always have to ask myself, "Does this person actually ride their bike to work/shopping?". Moreover if he doesn't, I want to know why. I know that most people who live outside urban areas can not ride their bikes year round safely. In Massachusetts that is certainly the case. Our roads, never mind bike lanes, are in bad enough shape. There's a good book out there, and I've plugged it on these forums before, called Against Automobility. Basically, it's a bunch of essays about how cars, not simply gas, are ingrained in consumer culture. Everything from religion, sexuality etc. It's a crazy read.
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Old 03-17-07, 11:33 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Wogsterca
The biggest issue, is a permanent drop in supply, however I expect the oil age, will end with a wimper rather then a bang. It will not be, that one day you can buy gas for $3.50/Gallon, and the next day, you can't get gas, it's more like the next day, that gas is $4/Gallon, the next week it's $6/Gallon, the following month it's $8/Gallon, the year after it's $15/Gallon. As the price goes up, people will switch to smaller cars, and reduce driving, which will help stabilize prices, also the oil companies have certain barriers that are tough to cross, price wise, because they know that going above that, will result in less sales. Less sales, means less profit, and we can't have that, can we.....
I think so too. I also think that's why the author of the piece chose that unlikely scenario of a really sudden crisis. It allows him to compress the events that would take several years to happen into a couple of months, for the sake of the story.
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Old 03-18-07, 12:30 AM   #11
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I think that story, while providing light entertainment, doesn't even begin to describe the real carnage and anarchy that humans are capable of descending into when the social fabric starts breaking down.

He appears to be a single guy with reasonably good health, lives close enough to work and food to quite easily go 100% car free at almost no notice, and even manages to keep gainfull employment. Now, think about the 'nuveau poor' begging on the streets, as we read in the story.

Take middle class SUV pilots with an over inflated sense of entitlement and ego, a class that is either already armed or have the means to purchase firearms relatively easily. A class with dependents to feed. A generation of people that are accustomed to having someone else to blame for essentially everything. Now take away the very foundations of the life they beleive they have a birthright to, make them hungry and desperate while severy curtailing the effectiveness of local law enforcement - then tell them that this is not temporary but the new reality of life.

I don't think the 'nuveau poor' will be benign beggars described in that piece, I think humanity will quickly descend into a state of every man/clan/family for themselves by whatever means available to them, it will be bloody and gruesome. They'll be driven to the fundamental law of 'survival of the fittest' by hunger and disease - I don't care how 'cultured' or 'civilised' we think we are, If your neighbor is hoarding the food that will feed your starving child and all you have is a gun and no legal consequences then I defy you to stand by and respect his right to tell you to 'go get lost' while your child starves to death.
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Old 03-18-07, 12:32 AM   #12
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I think so too. I also think that's why the author of the piece chose that unlikely scenario of a really sudden crisis. It allows him to compress the events that would take several years to happen into a couple of months, for the sake of the story.
The problem with that is that things appear to be much worse then they really are. If the oil available were to drop 10% tomorrow, it would be catastrophic, if it were to drop 1% per year for the next 10 years, it would make it difficult for some, but most people would survive, some quite well. A relatively gradual drop in availability would see a lot of people switching to smaller vehicles: small cars, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles for example. The issue is that a 1% drop in availability would probably result in a 25% increase in price, if not more, this would likely see a drop in use of 1%.

Just after Katrina, the price here jumped to $1.35/L, just before a long weekend, well, you would not believe the number of bicycles and scooters that I saw, in the city that weekend, and nobody made the trek to cottage country. It was fortunate that it was in the summer, when bicycles and scooters are easier to use. It didn't take the oil companies long though, before prices came back down, due to lost business.

Heck, even this past winter, the number of winter cyclists has had a marked increase, where 4 years ago, there were none, this year I saw at least one a week, and many days saw one or more per day.
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Old 03-19-07, 12:07 PM   #13
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The best way to avoid a sudden supply crisis in the future is to conserve now, in the present. Everybody knows this, but only a few of us are doing anything about it.

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Old 03-19-07, 07:39 PM   #14
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As far as mass transit and people being willing to fund the cost, it will depend on if they can even get the oil. I think at the first hint of dwindling supplies the government is going to step in and take what it thinks it needs first then the remainder will be distributed to everyone else.
The government will get what it wants, yes. Assuming any oil goes to the open market after the government has taken what it wants, though, public transit will be able to pay a higher price than almost all but 1% (or less) of people who want to have a car for private use. Oil companies will sell to the high bidder (public transit and the richest of the rich) and not your average individual.
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Old 03-19-07, 08:00 PM   #15
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The government will get what it wants, yes. Assuming any oil goes to the open market after the government has taken what it wants, though, public transit will be able to pay a higher price than almost all but 1% (or less) of people who want to have a car for private use. Oil companies will sell to the high bidder (public transit and the richest of the rich) and not your average individual.
Well given the current status of mass transit in this country I don't know...I know the closest local bus system depends on government subsidies to continue to operate. With the latest round of fuel price increases (approximately $0.25 a gallon) they have already run into operating budget problems and are looking at cutting back on the number of buses per route per day. I hate to see what would happen with say a $2 or even a $1 per gallon increase in fuel costs. Given the shortsightedness of most governments in general I am not sure if mass transit will survive the initial onslaught of price increases or not. Eventually it will win out, but at what level of service? The town I live and work in does not even have interstate bus service anymore and we are right on the interstate and have two US highways running thru town. We used to get passenger rail service...back in the 50's. Regardless the future will be interesting, but hopefully not apocalyptic.

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Old 03-19-07, 09:23 PM   #16
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I agree that it is unreasonable to believe that it will be a sudden change. Although some wish for such a swift change, I think it would be terrifying! The people for one thing, losing their civility (as has been mentioned). Heck, even bicycles and their parts rely on some power source for their mass manufacturing, much of it may be petroleum. If the oil economy were to suddenly collapse, the results would likely be a catastrophic, economic collapse.

However, if things change gradually, people and systems will be forced to gradually changed, and adapt. However, having a typical consumerist attitude is not going to help things. I suppose what it boils down to is that we are going to have to be the change that we wish to see.

Think you guys don't make a difference? Think again! From your mere persistence and Internet presence, you are spreading the seeds of change to others, making others consider and even act upon those seeds. They in turn can influence others, maybe even their families. Every one person doing there part for change makes a difference. Every one is significant, because it is a collection of ones that any force of change is composed of.

By living our lives according to the ideals that we hold dear, others will take note, and that is how we will institute change.

Anyway, I'm getting rather off topic here, so I'll stop.
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Old 03-20-07, 09:04 PM   #17
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From your mere persistence and Internet presence, you are spreading the seeds of change to others, making others consider and even act upon those seeds. They in turn can influence others, maybe even their families. Every one person doing there part for change makes a difference. Every one is significant, because it is a collection of ones that any force of change is composed of.
I guess some would see this as being naively optimistic, but I agree with you. I remember (although I can never find the exact quote...) Emerson stating that a thought was mirrored throughout the universe. In the same way that I found a lot of support in BF that helped with difficult things like winter commuting or the idea of living without a 4-wheeler, I guess others can kind of get inspired by the sentiments we express here.... well hopefully.
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Old 03-21-07, 01:10 PM   #18
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One thing about the "diary" that rings true for me:

The narrator ends up better off than most other people, even though he was kind of a loser before the crisis occurred. There are two main reasons for this. The first was that he owned a bicycle and the second was that he was adaptable enough to start riding it right away. One reason that he kept his job as long as he did is that he showed up for work every day, even when less adaptable co-workers couldn't make it in to the office.
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