Today’s Headlines

  • Yes, New York’s Share of Federal Transpo Grants Is Heading Elsewhere (NYT)
  • Chicago to Use Money to Launch Nation’s Largest BRT System (Trib)
  • Thomas Friedman Blasts McCain and Clinton Over Gas Tax Holiday (NYT)
  • Truckers ‘March’ on Washington to Protest High Price of Fuel (NBC)
  • Westchester Hits $4/Gal; Albany Ponders Lower Gas Tax (Newsday, NY1)
  • MTA Announces Transit-Oriented Development Program (MTR)
  • L.I. Man Arrested After Yelling Racial Slurs in Fit of Road Rage (Post)
  • New Law Protects Traffic Cops From Angry Drivers (News)
  • More ‘Sustainable Streets’ Coverage (NY1)
  • JF

    The truckers said they want Congress to issue an immediate cap on gasoline, diesel and heating oil prices. They are demanding a $2 a gallon cap on all of the fuels.

    Yeah, they’re all for the free market and against “subsidies,” but when it’s their asses on the line they want Uncle Joe Stalin to protect the Great Proletarian Freight-Haulers. I want to hear Bill O’Reilly and some of the other media “libertarians” treat these truckers the way they treat other “welfare cheats” and see how long they last.

    But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy.

    But Tom, I thought that Vice President Cheney had a whole taskforce to set energy policy! Don’t worry, Enron will take care of it with their innovative energy-trading products!

  • Larry Littlefield

    (The truckers said they want Congress to issue an immediate cap on gasoline, diesel and heating oil prices. They are demanding a $2 a gallon cap on all of the fuels.)

    After all, the price in excess of $2 per gallon is gasoline taxing.

    My response — a long as transit buses, railroads and water transport are allowed to pay more, and therefore get supplied before anyone else, go ahead, make my day.

    Any people have an economics 101 view of what would happen next? I’ll give you a hint — it happened in the 1970s.

  • JF

    Apparently they’ll be here tomorrow:

    Truck drivers are planning a similar protest Thursday in New York City and another unspecified event May 5. Organizers said Wall Street is responsible for driving up prices with no regulation from Congress.

    In other news, many used car dealers are no longer accepting SUVs for trade-ins:

  • Josh

    Regarding the Thomas Friedman article, I think the focus on wind and solar for energy generation is misguided. Those are simply never going to generate enough electricity to meet the demands of our society (they just require too much space and rely too much on cooperative weather), especially if fully electric cars were to become a reality at some point. We really need to push for broader use of nuclear plants and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

  • I wish the truckers good luck outside of Wall Street – you can’t exactly drive a truck in front of the Stock Exchange.

    Why isn’t Detroit their first stop? Home of the automakers that have resisted fuel economy requirements

    Or how about Levittown? The first autocentric suburb for the masses.

    Or maybe Houston/Dallas since they are getting all the “windfall profits”.

  • gecko

    Josh, There is 6000 times more solar energy than the human race requires on a daily basis.

    For years, the Department of Energy (DOE) had posted on its website that a 100-square-mile concentrated thermal solar energy plant in the Mohave Desert could generate all the electricity required by the United States.

    In anticipation of the kind of damage the climate change crisis will cause, it is well justified that hundreds of trillions of dollars be spent to change the current global industrial environment to one incorporating an extensive solar industrial complex. This should have started decades ago.

    In addition to the energy required for business as usual (BAU) vast amounts of energy will be required for removing CO2 from the earth’s air and oceans and the production of sufficient water required for survival in many areas where huge numbers of people live with water systems that are rapidly and unsustainably being depleted.

  • Sign me up for buying real estate near an MTA station…transit villages are very cool.

  • Josh and Gecko:
    It is actually 100 miles by 100 miles (10,000 sq. miles) of desert land needed to generate all America’s electricity using solar – but this is still a relatively small amount of land.

    There is now thermal solar available off the shelf from a Spanish company and being built in California, whick includes a sort of “thermos bottle” to store the heat for several hours, which eliminates worries about occasional clouds in the desert and which lets it keep generating electricity for hours after sunset. This costs about twice as much as electricity generated with coal – which means that it actually costs less than coal if you factor in the environmental costs of coal.

    There are also systems being developed that use molten salt to store the heat for several days, which can keep generating electricity 24 hours a day.

  • In addition, the cost of solar thermal is expected to be cut in half in the next ten years, and then it will be cheaper than coal even without accounting for the environmental costs.

    The public discussion has too much focus on solar photovoltaic, which is good in specialized applications but which is unreliable when weather changes, and not enough focus on solar thermal, which is much cheaper and more reliable.

  • Ian Turner

    The US produced about 13 quadrillion (1.3 x 10^16) BTUs of electricity in 2000 but consumed 96 quadrillion (9.6 x 10^16) BTUs of energy in total in 2000. That is to say, electricity was only about 14% of the total. So as great as it is to find greener ways to make electricity, it’s not really going to resolve the energy issue.

  • gecko

    Charles, Thanks for the correction. Suspect what was meant was 100 miles squared.

    Ian, To repeat: There is 6000 times more solar energy than the human race requires on a daily basis. This clean, sustainable energy at least for about a billion years.

    Further, there is a huge amount of energy waste in space heating and cooling, manufacturing, and transportation; effective energy that can be recouped quite easily and very inexpensively.

  • Spud Spudly

    If the truckers are only willing to spend $2/gallon for fuel then they’re not going to have any fuel at all. Because Exxon ain’t going to sell it to them at a loss.

  • Ian: do you have a link to a detailed breakdown of how the remaining energy gets to the consumer? I have seen lots of breakdowns of the sources of energy (petroleum, coal, hydro, etc), but I haven’t seen a breakdown of how it is consumed (electricity, gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, etc).

    I agree that the technofix of solar energy is not enough in itself, that we also have to reduce demand through energy efficiency and by limiting consuming.

    A simple calculation: Since 10,000 sq miles of solar could provide all our electricity, and electricity is 14% of our energy consumption, 70,000 sq miles of solar could provide all our energy if it could be converted with 100% efficiency to hydrogen or some other substitute fuel. Since efficiency will actually be less, it would take over 100,000 sq miles to provide our energy.

    US energy consumption increased about 10 fold during the 20th century, and if that growth rate continues during the 21st century, we would need 1,000,000 sq miles of solar by the end of the century – over one-third of the land area of the US outside of Alaska. You would get similar figures world wide by projecting past trends for another century.

    So I think solar and other forms of alternative energy can support us in economic comfort, but they cannot support endless economic growth and consumerism – and we are going to have to deal with that fact in this century.

    The good news is that Americans could live better than we do now consuming less than we do now. Eg, I think everyone on this list realizes that American cities would be more livable and Americans would be healthier if we consumed much less gasoline.

  • gecko

    Some of the best things in life are free (or low cost) and probably also low carbon has weight such as the arts, education, communication, preventive healthcare, community and family.

    With endless growth and consumerism we are going to running out of environment long before we will run out of energy and it will probably be better for human civilization to realign priorities.

  • Ian Turner

    Charlie, my numbers are based on BTUs of fuel consumed domestically and TWh of energy produced domestically. I don’t know anything about the breakdown of energy consumption, but I suspect the data is out there for anyone who cares to look.

    Gecko, you have a citation on that “6000 times” business? By my numbers, if doesn’t jive with your Mojave desert numbers. Also important is the amount of energy required to build these solar plants and the amount of transmission losses we can expect.

  • gecko

    Ian Turner, Regarding “There is 6000 times more solar energy than the human race requires on a daily basis,” is a quote from a speech by Columbia Earth Institute’s Director Jeff Sachs; “A Solar Grand Plan” in Scientific American details their proposal and contains statistics at:

    “Solar energy’s potential is off the chart. The energy in sunlight striking the earth for 40 minutes is equivalent to global energy consumption
    for a year. The U.S. is lucky to be endowed with a vast resource;
    at least 250,000 square miles of land in the Southwest alone are suitable for constructing solar power plants, and that land receives more than 4,500 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of solar radiation
    a year. Converting only 2.5 percent of that radiation into electricity
    would match the nation’s total energy consumption in 2006.”