Comment 94874

By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted November 19, 2013 at 13:33:20 in reply to Comment 94841

Cheap energy can not end, and will not end- cheap fossil fuels won’t even end soon, as demand shifts to other types of energy.

An important trend very soon will be how cheap solar energy is now becoming- that sector is not far from making innovations that will make it extremely affordable. I know that oil is well-suited to fuel for automobiles, but we could make natural gas work, and we could make electricity work. We will, when necessary.

Cheap fossil fuel energy has already ended; it is artificially kept cheap through massive government subsidies. New sources of fossil fuels being extracted via greater expense in extraction techniques (fracking, oil sands, etc, none of which represent innovations but are rather only economically viable due to rising prices / revenues) result in lower Return on Energy Investment. Further, you have to decide which it is - either demand will shift due to impending innovations which will level the playing field, or demand will shift because it is "necessary" which implies supply side issues.

I really find it problematic when people say things like “cities cannot favour automobile owners at the expense of the less financially able members of the community.” It’s not a false statement at all, but to imply that people who use other forms of transportation are “less financially able” is not completely accurate.

What is so problematic about a statement that is "not false"? The truth hurts I suppose, but this is only one part of the argument against the car culture. The number of people taking transit out of altruism, environmental consciousness etc is rather low. Economics tells a much larger part of the story. The key is to decouple vehicle ownership from social status and expose it as a lie which discounts the costs and inflates the benefits.

If we could get it framed not as public transit investment to help poor people, but rather to help middle-class people keep from becoming poor (I really do think car ownership is a huge reason for bad personal balance sheets), that would be a much more honest and accurate conversation.

Considering that the middle class is a shrinking demographic, I do not see this being helpful except from a marketing "feel good" perspective. If the best way to convince people to discard a vehicle in exchange for public transit or active transportation is to couch that discussion in a comfortable fantasy about being middle class, then it is inherently dishonest.

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