TCS Daily

The Conspiracy to Deny the Poor Mobility—and Opportunity

By Ivan Osorio - January 17, 2008 12:00 AM

Mobility is prosperity—a fact that humans have recognized since the dawn of civilization, when population centers arose next to navigable waterways. Yet this simple fact seems to evade many pundits, environmental activists—and even screenwriters.

Screenwriters? Yes. One of the most reprehensible hours in TV history occurred on March 18, 2001—the airing of the fourth episode of "The Lone Gunmen," the short-lived "X-Files" spinoff about three conspiracy-mongering oddballs who conduct their own investigations into government skullduggery—usually through sophisticated computer hacking—which they publish in a newsletter titled, of course, The Lone Gunman.

This one episode involves the covering up—by oil companies, who else?—of a car that runs on water. At the end of the episode, the three Gunmen, after much skulking around, find the car's prototype and test it—and find that it works!

However, rather than thwart Big Oil's machinations, the Gunmen decide to keep the car's existence under wraps, lest too many people acquire such an easy and inexpensive form of transportation, which would lead to an environmental catastrophe. Of course, this is functionally the exact same thing that the oil companies did, but it was done not for grubby profit, but to save the poor from themselves. Nice. 

That sanctimonious episode was fiction, but art imitated life last week in a way annoyingly reminiscent of it. On January 8, India's Tata Motors unveiled the Nano, the world's cheapest car, which will retail for about $2,500. A new means of transport may be good news for the poor—but don't tell green activists, some of whom are already complaining.

"There is this mad rush towards lowering the prices to achieve mass affordability," Anumita Roychoudhury of the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, told Britain's Observer newspaper. [Emphasis added] "If vehicle ownership increases very rapidly, we'll have a time bomb ticking away. When you lower the price that drastically, how will you be able to meet the safety and emissions standards?"

On what universe is "mass affordability" of something useful a bad thing? Well, maybe one as crazy as the one of conspiracy that the Lone Gunmen inhabited. Thankfully, most people don't inhabit worlds like that. As the Observer further notes, "These concerns are of little interest to millions of Indians who aspire to owning a car." However, some green activists and pundits do seem to live in such a world—and nothing's going to keep them from telling Indians what's best for them.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman reacted to the first news of the Nano's planned introduction with a hysterical call of "No, No, No, Don't Follow Us"—us being the industrialized West and the place to not follow into being access to one's own wheels.

"We have no right to tell Indians what cars to make or drive," Friedman admits. "But we can urge them to think hard about following our model, without a real mass transit alternative in place." And how might those alternatives come about? India, he says, "should leapfrog us, not copy us. Just as India went from no phones to 250 million cellphones—skipping costly land lines and ending up with, in many ways, a better and cheaper phone system than we have—it should try the same with mass transit."

Friedman can urge away all he wants, but the policy he proposes has little use for moral suasion. Approvingly citing Sunita Narain, direct or New Delhi's Center for Science and Environment, he says that, "India can't ban a $2,500 car, but it can tax it like crazy [emphasis added] until it has a mass transit system that can give people another cheap mobility option." Narain told Friedman, apparently with a straight face, "I am not fighting the small car. I am simply asking for many more buses and bus lanes." Taxing something "like crazy" is "not fighting" it? Could even the Lone Gunmen encounter such a conspiracy against simple economic logic as this?

Hopefully people concerned about transport in India—and other developing countries where Tata hopes to eventually export the Nano—will have no truck with such views. Vivek Sharma, a columnist with the Indian business website, says plainly  that Friedman and other critics of the Tata Nano are "barking up the wrong tree and some of their arguments are elitist and discriminatory."

"The less affluent cannot be denied the safety and comfort of a cheap four-wheeled vehicle, only because the existing infrastructure will come under further strain," says Sharma. "Any move to restrict the number of cars should apply to all vehicles, irrespective of their cost." Regarding safety, Sharma notes that Tata has too much of a reputation to protect cut corners on safety, and that many of the Nano's potential buyers are riding scooters today, which are less safe than any enclosed car.

And, as Barun Mitra of India's Liberty Institute notes, "[A]s more Indians learn to drive, the appreciation of basic road rules and etiquettes will improve, as drivers begin to realize that the purpose of the rules are not to hinder movement, but to facilitate it." Moreover, Mitra notes, greater mobility could help relieve congestion over the long term by allowing lower-density development, and that would encourage the building of new—and upgrading of existing—infrastructure. But that involves building, which the greens hate.

Sharma remarks, "Oh! Shouldn't his critics be happier if the car becomes costlier and beyond the reach of its target customers!" Sadly, it would. And unlike the water-powered car cover-up, the losses here would be quite real.

Ivan Osorio is Editorial Director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.




The left is never happy
The left drowns in misery and they impose it every time they get a chance. They are elitist snobs. So now they deny the masses the very path to prosperity and a better life to "save the planet". It is amazing.

I find it amusing that Chavez, the champion of the poor and communist (FARC) is sowing his own demise?

How? While giving away oil money to the masses his total ignorance of business and industry is straining the oil infrastructure. His machinery is wearing out and failing and they are not keeping it up.

Once the system collapses under neglect then what does he have to offer?

More proof of the failures of a centrally planned economy. More proof of the failure of leftism.

Imagine those greedy corporations actually doing a better job than those benevolent technocrats?

Oh, how the libs love taxation...
...because an unlimited power to tax, like the man said, necessarily entails the power to destroy.

Opportunity can be controlled, reduced, and yes, destroyed by that executioner-with-the-best-of-intentions, taxation.

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm?
The Tata is a big step forward. Why? Because globally, more people are entering the middle class than ever before, with what they consider good paying jobs in the city. And they all want what they consider to be a middle class entitlement-- a car.

If nobody invents a Tata they'll all just have to save up to buy a Takoma. Either way, the last drops of oil will ultimately get sold, burned and their residue put into the atmosphere. But with nine billion people driving Tatas it'll take a little longer than if they're driving Takomas.

US should copy India or Manila
Many companies have tried to start 'rikshaw' or pedi-cab type transportation companies in Las Vegas and NYC and even Santa Barbara.

In most cases, the taxi companies keep these entrepreneurs out of the market.

Why do the socialsts always push for more government controlled transportation like buses or light rail or ...?

Fuel Tax Conspiracy
The feds keep promoting hydrogen fuel. Is it because they can create an infrastructure to tax it easily?

How will electric powered cars be taxed when they use little or no gasoline?

DoT tax collectors check RVs to be sure they are not using fuel oil instead of diesel for autos.

Bottom line, how much interference in energy independence is the result of the feds and states not wanting to loose gasoline tax revenue?

Why must it be oil?
All sorts of ways to power a car.

The various ways to power a car
Actually, not yet. The only technologies we have to date to power a car are internal combustion and electric battery.

They amount to the same thing, emissions wise. You either burn short chain carbon molecules (natural gases) or medium chain carbon molecules (liquid fuels). Or, with electric, you rely on an electrical grid to recharge your batteries that more and more runs on coal. Any way you cut it, you're using up fossil reserves and converting them into carbon dioxide.

Which, of course, can easily be converted back into fuel sources again. The process only takes sixty million years ro so for the system to replenish.

But it's the best we've got right now. So lomg live the Tata, until something better comes along. Otherwise we'll have to ride our bicycles everywhere.

Public transportation
Most voter/taxpayers reject public trans dreams like light rail or bus systems, because they don't pay for themselves. They have to be funded in perpetuity.

Politicians like to come up with these schemes because it makes them look like they're doing something. They don't like just sitting there, year in and year out doing nothing. Because then they have nothing to point to when they run for re-election.

The schemes are also a boon to the friends of politicians, the developers. Because they're the ones who get the contracts if by any chance some scheme ever gets funded.

I don't follow your idea that it's ideologically motivated socialists who are doing all this. It presupposes an increase in taxes, which these pols don't like to bring up.

Nor do I find any evidence that taxi companies are squelching rickshaws or pedicabs. It's a nuche business, with only a handful of guys who like to exercise entering the business.

Nuclear Power
Lets not forget nukes.

"Nor do I find any evidence "
You did not look.

"Pedicabs aren't unique to Las Vegas. Other cities, such as Denver, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, California, have embraced the modern-day rickshaws.

Santa Barbara even introduced regulations last year requiring drivers to get FBI background checks, identification badges and business licenses in an effort to make streets safer.

In Las Vegas, pedicabs operated for years without much notice. But they have proliferated in recent months, with companies cropping up in record numbers despite scores of police citations.

A random survey of drivers revealed at least seven companies with a fleet of more than 70 pedicabs.

Steve Osness, 24, who owns and runs Hawaiian Bike Cab, said more are on the way -- and he isn't happy about it.

"It's getting diluted. It's terrible," Osness said. "They hire anyone and send them out there. Everyone thinks they can start their own pedicab company."

Four companies have obtained business licenses in an attempt at legitimacy. They rent their vehicles to people like Bill Jones at a daily or nightly rate.

Not surprisingly, the taxi industry also oppose the pedicabs.

"They are a big nuisance," said Ron McGee, a supervisor with Nellis Cab Co. "They're taking our fares. They're a big-time safety hazard."

Huff, who has been in business for about two years, says his $4,000 pedicabs have single welded-frames and come equipped with rear hydraulic brakes and tight turning ability.

He says his pedicabs won't jackknife, unlike some others that amount to trailers hitched to bikes. "

Well, I asked exactly for this article and I received.

How will electric powered cars be taxed... California, they keep trying to mandate mileage sensors and thus tax people by the number of miles they drive instead of by the gallon of fuel used.

This was in reaction to the large number of high-mileage hybrids being sold in California. Sacramento flipped out when the tax revenue impact projections over the next twenty years was released.

Again, why must it be oil to fuel an internal combustion engine
Flex fuel vehicles can be cheaply made that can use ethanol, methanol, and butanol (the last two can be refined from celulosic or sewage waste byproducts) in any combination. Brazil has done it for mandating cars sold there with regards to ethanol/gasoline fuel combinations. Oil is not required.

A quibble with your excellent post about the left
You wrote "The left drowns in misery and they impose it every time they get a chance."

You're right that leftists impose misery everytime they get the chance, but you're wrong that the left drowns in misery. Actually the activist left typically lives in the lap of luxury. That Roychaudhury fellow who decried the Nano is probably driven around in a limo and eats in 5 star restaurants at the international conferences he flies to in fuel guzzling jets.

Roy is correct...
..with regards to the first three paragraphs he writes.

For those facts, I would just like to add that transportation studies have consistently shown that people aren't willing to walk more than a 500 feet or so to a station, so that limits a light rail system's natural customer base to a narrow corridor of homes/buildings immediately adjacent to the line. For suburbs, that just makes light rail a total boondoggle joke.

As for the Taxi Cab Conspiracy, Roy needs to educate himself. Hey Roy! Are you old enough to remember the jitneys (share taxis) a lot of cities and towns had in the '50s? They aren't around anymore -- guess why? The Taxi Cab companies banded together to get the local government to regulate them out of existence. There is a long historical pattern of this going on in various form. The street car industry colluded with the taxi cabs oftentimes as well.

Here's a current case of taxi cab rent seeking that is being fought by the Institute for Justice:

Mass transit strike
A few years ago some city had a mass transit strike.

Many entrepreneurs started picking people up and taking them where they wanted to go for a fee.

What an idea!

In the Philippines, small, private buses take routes all over the city.

No matter what the mode of transportation, there is a limit to number of vehicles and the number of people that can be moved at one time.

That would be one fast car.

Brazil has to switch to biofuels. Brazil doesn't have enough foreign currency to buy gas.

And Brazil has something hardly any other country does-- a still-pristine rain forest to cut down and replace with huge soy and sugar cane plantations.

Thos are the only reasons biofuels work for Brazil. If every nation on earth tried to solve its fuel problem by growing dedicated crops they would find there isn't enough cropland on earth to get the job done-- not that and grow our food too.

People who know about some of the underlying limitations of biofuels mostly ballyhoo the symbolic acceptance of some truly wasteful fuel like corn-based ethanol, as a token additive to a product that's mostly gasoline. Biodiesel and the like are great sounding alternatives, so long as only one or two percent of the fleet uses them. But if we ever had to rely on them they'd run out overnight.

You're good with numbers. Figure out how many therms the world fleet has to burn each day to do its work. Then figure out the net therms you can get from a hectare of cropland. I'll give you a hint. No other biofuel comes close to palm oil in efficiency.

Now posit that every hectare of tropical arable land on earth is given over to nothing but oil palms-- no orangutans, no parrots, no more wild places. Just oil palms. Assume that the people who lve in those areas can all eat Wonder Bread, bought cheaply from the US of A.

Calculate how much of our fuel requirement that will satisfy. Here's a hint: if every ear of corn grown in the US went into our fuel tanks it would provide 17% of our total fuel requirements.

The Philippine Jeepney
The Philippine Jeepney, or "jeep jitney" are elongated Jeeps that provide jitney service just as Marjon describes.

However, they are regulated in a way only a Roy would love. The fare prices are set (capped) by the regulators and since there's a lot of corruption, the number of licensed jeepneys gets 'issued' is quite large. So, soon you have all these jeepney drivers going out of business because there are too many jeepneys chasing the same business for the capped fare. In a free market, the drivers would be allowed to offer lower fares instead and so competitive efficiencies would be maintained regarding operating costs and what-not, but in the Philippines they are only allowed to go out of business until the glut clears.

The result is the ticked-off jeepney drivers organize and go on strike. It can be quite crippling to the local economy unless you are visiting foreigner who rides in regular taxis (like me) all the time. This whole process repeats itself in more historical cycles than shown in a season of Battlestar Galactica.

But they are fantastically convenient and economical, both for the individual and for society at large. I don't ride them much because I'm too tall to fit in most of them and everyone on board stares at me like I'm an alien or something.

A mass transit system that works
Here's an exception that proves the rule: Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC.

You have a very compact, European style twin city, with an affluent, educated population, interested in green solutions. You have a tax base that churns out a handsome excess of money. And you have no room anywhere to park a car on the street.

Solution? A fleet of busses that circulate around town nonstop, delivering passengers from any doorstep to any other doorstep, with no fares. It's all provided for with public money.

Very convenient-- just leave your gas buggy in the car port. Ride anywhere for free. All you do is pay your property taxes on a typical house worth about $3-400,000.

There are probably not many towns in the US where this solution would work. But it works here.

I stand corrected
I should have said they are drown in guilt. How else can you explain their behavior?

I meant for charging and the grid
Actually the USAF tried a nuclear powered bomber in the 1950's so they could fly 24/7. They actually built and flew it but never on nuclear power as nobody had the guts to load it with fuel for fear if it crashed the disaster would be immense.

In addition, it was so heavy it had no bomb payload.

It was scrapped. Another crazy idea.

Yeah, the biofuel thing is a ruse to get money for farmers. So is ethanol and burning ethanol produces some nasty by products.

There is no shortage of oil right now except for refining capacity.

All this is pablum and the solution is simple, drill and develop the sources recently discovered while working towards real long term alternatives in a sensible and market oriented fashion.

Any other approach is folly.

they like them better poor
A lot of this angst against the Tata car is just western liberal snobbery. They, like Mother Theresa, like to see places like India remain poor rural backwaters. Of course they are hyprocrits because usually guys like Friedman and John Kerry et al, don't actually want to ride public transpo themselves, but rather limos, and armoured SUVs.

Also, it's not only taxi companies that stymie innovations like the sensible Jeepneys of Manila, and baht busses of Thailand, but unions and government restrictions. For example think of any normal american city, with some main streets etc. What if you wanted to buy an old school bus, and just drive up and down one long route, or street? Do you think they would let you? Who would be the first to stop you, the unions or the municipal government? What if I had a large lot on the side of town and a couple horses. Could you hook up your buck board and drive a route, (probably at the same speed as the cars) and charge people?

Waste fuel
"General Motors, eager to ensure a supply of fuel for the big fleet of "flex fuel" ethanol-capable vehicles it is building, has joined the rush into alternative energy and invested in a company that intends to produce ethanol from crop wastes, wood chips, scrap plastic, rubber and even municipal garbage."

"PRINCETON, MINN. – Each Holstein on Dennis Haubenschild's dairy farm chomps down 90 pounds of feed, yields eight gallons of milk, and produces 220 pounds of manure (including the shredded newspaper bedding) - daily. It's a pretty standard operation in the dairy industry.

But his 750 cows are also in another business with a different product line: Every one of the half-ton beasts generates 4 kilowatt hours of electricity a day. "

"Hydro supplied the entire hydrogen solution
for this fuelling station, including the on-site
production of hydrogen by electrolysis,
hydrogen storage, the compressor and the
dispenser unit. The station opened in April
2003 as the fi rst public hydrogen fuelling
station in the world, and three city buses
rely entirely on hydrogen from this station."

Here's an approach that may not be folly
A good reason for the popularity of the auto and the motorcycle is that they save individual's time. What mass transit advocates don't acknowledge is the enormous waste of time spent by individuals using mass transit. On bad weather days, I commute about 12 minutes by car to work. It takes about 45 minutes by bus, about the same time that it takes me to bicycle, and I get the benefit of the exercise. Mass transit wastes about an hour a day of my time. Instead of endless arguments about personal vehicles vs mass transit, why not explore ways of making it easier to live close to where you work? Why pay a 6-8 % commission to a real estate agent, plus real estate transfer taxes and new loan fees. Figure out a way to make it cost effective to live close to where you work. Seems like that would be a better alternative than transit.
just my two bits

Explaining liberal behavior
Guilt has something to do with it, but I think most leftists believe that they are the intelligent adults of the world and thus must be responsible for all of the poor and ignorant children around them. Since they think such deep thoughts and work so hard at taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor they think it only reasonable to make sure that a little of the loot sticks to their fingers.

dbt3481 - you are correct (ethanol is spelled "b-o-o-n-d-o-g-l-e) except that the cost of every alternative is substantially higher than even $3.00 gas. (And the Saudi's can drop that to $1.50 any time they want.) There are lots of ways to increase the cost of gas but the quickest is via a tax of about $3.00/gal. Then gas would be competitive with alternatives and the market can then work. It sure would be painful until the alternatives come to market, but I see now other way since I can't bear the thought of government mandates that favor one over another solution.

Taking a longer term approach
"There is no shortage of oil right now except for refining capacity."

By "right now" you mean "in the immediate term". Yes, this year and next we could use more refineries. And once the cost line for building a clean refinery crosses the price line for refined gasoline, we shall have them.

But in the longer term we're not finding any more major fields. If you look at the number of new oil discoveries as a graph, over the past hundred years, you'll be instantly converted to a believer in Hubbert's Peak. Despite record profits, for instance, the oil majors are spending less and less money even looking for new fields. Because they're pretty well convinced there's not much more out there.

The sources recently discovered will get us through a few more years. And they'll be exploited as much for the natural gas in them as for the oil. We'll increasingly be running short of that too. But in the slightly longer term, as the great fields of the Near East are tapped out, our main sources are going to be nonconventional oils-- tar sands, oil shales and such-- the low grade products that are more energy intensive to produce.

In ten or fifteen years this will all become increasingly clear to everyone. But for right now I think it's sufficient just to note that it was only back in 2003 or 4 the experts thought we'd be buying $40 oil forever.

The endless line of tail lights
Well, you're right. Despite the fact that the bus lines publish their schedules, some times people do miss the bus and have to wait twenty minutes for the next one.

Then there's the daily car commute. Not just the amount of collective time wasted looking into the next guy's tail pipe but the humongous anounts of gas consumed standing still are telling us there has to be a better way.

I'm with you, the logical place to start is in changing our paradigm for development. But today that's still a primitive art. Deve lopers naturallyh build where they know people will bnuy, and what people want is to sprawl out on the cow country, far from their place of work. The entire Front Range of Colorado's a good example, from Fort Collins on down to Pueblo. We vastly prefer a dispersed lifestyle.

And so far we've been willing to pay extra for it. These little in-town developments that increase density at the center are popular with single guys, like lawyers and such who don't have time to commute. But not with anybody else. It's a niche market.

Locally what we're doing is throwing up new office parks out in the midst of the exurban sprawl, closer to where people live. So they can work, play, sleep and eat out somewhere that's just a zip code, and never have to come into town at all.

that's not what I said
I mention cellulosic sources. Methanol can come from sewage and agricultural waste. Butanol can come from similar sources. Ethanol right now has to come from food crops, yes. But by having multiple alcohol fuels usable by your typical car, it would only be PART of the fuel mix, much as it is today. And yes, we will have to import those fuels like we import oil today. But at least we won't be at the mercy of an ever decreasing number of supplier nations while at the same time boosting the economies of agricultural exporting third world nations.

The importance is in combinations of fuels being available. When one becomes expensive, consumers can switch to another. Brazil did not *have* to switch to alcohol fuels. Did you know that Brazil is soon to be a net EXPORTER of oil? OPEC is trying to get Brazil to join.

FlexFuel vehicles -- true ones -- will be able to use any combination of fuels in the gas tank at any time.

**** to riches
Waste-to-fuel schemes abound now. But not many of them make any sense yet. Thermal depolymerization is a dandy approach-- subject all your organic waste to pressure and temps required to cook them down into medium-chain carbon compouns, aka gasoline.

Only trouble, you use as much energy cooking the stuff as you create in the end product. Somewhat more, in fact, if the laws of thermodynamics hold.

That leaves manure-- a product we're always making more of. And there are a thousand very good processes that convert the stuff into useful energy plus biosolids. But none of them scale up.

Right now we have a few farms (mostly CAFOs) that run their own electricity from manure, via their methane effluent. But it's not very feasible even to provide electricity to a small town that way.

The future appears to be to consider this approach more of a way of stabilizing waste so it's not a health hazard, than it is a way to provide energy for the masses. But maybe in the fullness of time some magic solution will occur to someone.

Just because the oil hasn't been found, doesn't mean its not out there just means we haven't been looking.

Most of the world's oil wells have been drilled in the US. Why? Because in the US a property owner can get rich from the extraction of any discovered oil. That can't happen in most of Europe, Mexico and other nations because the oil rights are owned by the State. So, nobody is interested in exploratory drilling.

How can you be a socialist?
You are such a pessimist.

I thought socialists had this grand hope for utopia?

(Maybe that's why your ARE a socialist. Socialists believe theire is no future unless they are in charge.)

You wrote "Locally what we're doing is throwing up new office parks out in the midst of the exurban sprawl, closer to where people live. So they can work, play, sleep and eat out somewhere that's just a zip code, and never have to come into town at all."

Helpful to remember that the suburban "zip code" you're talking about typically has a shopping center larger than the typical town center had in 1950, and it has as many restaurants and light entertainment venues as the typical small city had in 1950. Couple that with TV and the Internet and the suburbanite is living in a city which has everything except the crime, the filthy streets and the taxes to pay the overbloated unionized municipal pretend workforce.

And our suburbanite can drive into the city occasionally when he wants to pay $30 for parking and $160 for two tickets to the opera or the symphony.

It is significant that US production has fallen despite the drilling
US drillers have managed to hold reserve levels constant, but even the intensive drilling has not enabled continuation of production levels.

The multi-trillion dollar global economic question is where the rest of the world is relative to the production curve and when the peak will be reached. Oil is not much more expensive than it was in the 1970's on an inflation adjusted basis. When the peak is reached the real price of oil may really begin to spiral up because the developed economies have dramatically reduced the energy content of each unit of GNP and hence can afford to and will bid whatever it takes. At what point the price rise will start to really bite into the growth of the economies of the developing countries is another interesting question.

Life on wheels
Everything you say is very true. But the whole plan has to still be seen as a failure from the POV of saving gasoline. Across America, either there are no sidewalks, or there are sidewalks with only the occasional dog walker or skate boarder on them.

We drive everywhere, like the old cowboys rode their horses everywhere. We even drive on the golf course-- originally a means of taking a walk. We drive when mowing the lawn. We only appreciate wilderness areas when we can drive across them on snowmobiles. And around here we now have drive-in coffee shops.

Remember how they used to imagine people of the future back in the fifties? They thought we'd be like Martians, with great big heads and little skinny bodies. Instead we came out different: great blobs of lard sitting on our bottoms, with vestigial arms and legs that used to do work.

Fallen, like Icarus
It's a sad day, after doing such a magnificent job of expounding on the nature of money to me yesterday. And today, you're just making stuff up that sounds like it should be true.

I would suggest reading more stuff written by petroleum geologists. These fellows have figured out the conditions under which oil can be collected in a basin and capped so it doesn't escape. And the entire globe has been surveyed for likely spots. They no longer just get in a jeep and drive around.

There are undoubtedly many minor and medium finds awaiting us out there, especially in the deeper parts of the continental shelves. But I'll bet you won't find many people actually in the business who think there's another Ghawar to save us. The big oil pools are gone.

I was talking about exploratory drilling, not production
And even though most of the 'good spots' have been exploited years ago, there is still more exploratory drilling going on in the US of A than the total going on in the rest of the world.

The Peak Oil theory talks about wells already in production and those that are slated to come on-line (based upon discovered 'recoverable' oil so far).

And with oil prices high and likely to go high precisely for the reasons both you and Roy cite, there will be more motivation for more drilling.

That word again
It's your word. So I think maybe it's up to you to prove or disprove whatever point you want to make.

Since you variously think a socialist should be a pessimist, or an optimist, it probably won't be that hard. Just say any stupid thing that pops into your head, and label it with your anything-word.

You're over-reliance of the 'experts' is your down fall
"And the entire globe has been surveyed for likely spots"

"The big oil pools are gone."

Thats what they told the Brazilians when they invested almost 15 years and lots of money for deep sea drilling off their coast. The 'experts' told them that, according to fossil fuel theory, they would not find anything. The Campos basin oil currently being extracted are dated from deposits in Cenozoic Era dating back only some 24,000 years. Yet they hit the jackpot. And hit it again from further exploratory drilling, as announced last November with regards to the Tupi field.

Last, all credibility for the Peak Oil Theory has pretty much been shot to hell given the continual penchant of Peak Oil theorists to revise their doomsday predictions again and again and again and again.

At least M. King Hubbert got his crap straight.

Some issues of scale
Brazil's newfound offshore field is what we would think of as a whopper nowadays-- estimated reserves of five to eight billion barrels. That's a lot of oil.

Except when you compare it to demand. World production (the same as world consumption) has been pretty steady for the last several years at 27-28 billion barrels a year. So Brazil can keep us afloat at present rates of consumption for, oh, three months.

And demand will want to increase. We can't really rein in our own lifestyle. We've gotten so used to it it's integral to our very core. And who could deny the same riches to others? So in the world of tomorrow, demand will want to probably triple. All the emerging populations will have emerged, and will be making decent money and want to be driving cars too. Not to mention flying, etc.

But production is all but tapped out right now. The producing nations can't ramp up production a bit more, except in short spurts. What we're pumping today is expected to be our long-term sustainable limit-- until it starts to drop.

Let's anticipate a world that requires not 28 but 75 billion barrels of petroleum a year, or its equivalent. We can chop up all the cornstalks and feed them into the nachine-- but that will starve the soil. Agricultural land requires organics in order to be able to continue providing us with its bounty. If we try growing our crops in silt, enriched with fuel-intensive artificial fertilizers, we're not going to be able to feed ourselves.

Long term, this is a real crisis-- and the numbers tell the story. Short term, we'll be driving around for a few more years on Willie-diesel and corn cobs. But we'll eventually be putting it into golf carts and not into full size vehicles, because there are natural limits to what can be done with the wealth of a single planet.

World oil reserves, as of today: about one trillion barrels recoverable remaining. Plus our own manure, plus the earth's vegetative cover.

The future is this year
There's one thing I've learned over the years. And that is you're in better shape listening to the experts than you are to the amateurs.

Let's take Peak Oil, for example. The theory was that it would occur in the first decade of this century. Instead, what do we find?

Production has been flat for the past several years, unable to do more than barely keep up with demand. And this losing battle is most readily expressed in the pump price, which has doubled. It was only 2003 or 2004 that people were predicting $40 oil into the forseeable future.

There's no chance anyone could ever bring the price back to $40 now. They're all pumping flat out as it is. Despite your unfounded assurances, there have been no doomsday predictions being revised again and again. There has been one prediction... and we're living it now.

Wait til Ghawar fails. That's going to be a real bucket of ice water in the face.

"a way to provide energy for the masses."
You tip your hand.

When individual entrepreneurs are solving problems, like energy needs, all you can do is throw rocks.

Socialists have this Utopian view of a worker's paradise where all the workers own everything and work together for their common vision.

Individuals, working for themselves, can't be allowed to succeed else it reduces the need for government control.

If farms can generate their own power, they don't need the grid.

If waste can be economically converted to fuel, local production can make people more self-sufficient and give less control to the government.

More options, more flexibility, more liberty, less socialism.

So you hope the GOVERNMENT can find a solution for the masses, but you must be critical of private efforts hoping they won't succeed.

How much does it cost?
It is NOT free.

What is the cost per passenger mile?

If it is more than a private auto, is it worth it?

Ethanol production uses less fossil fuel than gasoline.
Gasoline, diesel, CNG, ethanol, hydrogen etc. are all forms of energy which can be used for personal transportation.
Many claim more energy is required to produce ethanol that than what is delivered in the product. But that is not the correct metric for comparison.
What needs to be compared is the amount of energy required to deliver the fuel source to the tank per unit of energy in the tank.
Gasoline requires energy to create and deliver.

I finally found a study by Argonne National Laboratory which compares the energy required to get that unit of energy into your tank.

Their results show that 1 million Btu of corn based ethanol at the fuel station requires .74 million Btu of fossil fuel energy. 1 million Btu of gasoline at the fuel station requires 1.23 million Btu of fossil fuel energy input.

There are ample opportunities at many levels of the process to improve energy efficiency. Hopefully this is reflected in the costs to consumers.

Socialists want control. The automobile takes that away.
The automobile gave mobility and advanced freedom to the masses in the US. Freidman and his ilk hate it and want nothing more than to destroy it. Look at their replacement: MASS TRANSIT??? Mass transit is nothing more than mass control. The government controls where the transit goes, how it gets there, when it leaves and stops, how many can use it, what people can carry on it, etc. Nothing can be more socialists in its very design.

I hope that India and China do not follow the advice of these poor haters and instead give poor the ability to improve their lives through movement.

I also hope that India can adapt these cars to the comfort, safety, power and quality demands of us consumers and begin selling them here. More competition can only make our poor better off.

Wierdly twisted
"So you hope the GOVERNMENT can find a solution for the masses, but you must be critical of private efforts hoping they won't succeed."

Nothing like what I've said here. All the various ways we've developed to provide power will "succeed". They all work. They just can't provide as much power to the world of tomorrow's nine billion affluent consumers as they do now to 0.3 billion Americans, because they and we will no longer be sitting atop a sea of oil.

The planet's just not big enough to provide food for all those people plus enough switchgrass or soy to burn in our nine billion little Tatas of tomorrow. That's all I said.

Did your study also note that if we were to devote all the corn we grow to ethanol production, and not so much as an acre to food we would still only satisfy 17 percent of current demand for fuel? Because it should have.

Of course it's not free. It costs a lot. If you want to know exactly how much I'm sure you can look it up. But the people of Chapel Hill-Carrboro think it's both affordable and a good idea. There are many others who wouldn't.

"If it is more than a private auto, is it worth it?"

That's for them to say. Each community makes their own choice. And most places in America would not want a system like that. I brought it up because they were an unusual community.

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