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Ambitious for transport

Written By: - Date published: 12:32 pm, August 19th, 2008 - 39 comments
Categories: transport - Tags:

Why are we spending $1 billion on Transmission Gully when by the time it is finished the price of petrol will be up to $10 a litre according to a study by the Australian CSIRO?

Look, we can’t expect better from National, they only just discovering climate change and that NZ isn’t only made up of Paheka males, but where is Labour’s ambitious plan for a more sensible transport future?

Once again, it seems if you want a solution, you have to look to Green policy; all the others are gradually playing catch-up. Now, if only they would stop acting like fruitcakes half the time they are on camera, the Greens might actually win enough votes to get their much-needed policies implemented in time.

39 comments on “Ambitious for transport”

  1. ants 1

    I can guarantee you that there will be a replacement for petrol whether it be bio-fuels, electricity, solar or hyrdrogen, there *will* be a mass market solution.

    The whole world and its major economies need energy to survive and prosper. Whoever gets to market first is going to have untold wealth as a result.

    Do you honestly think everyone’s going to go back to the dark ages and regress?

  2. Steve – yup. Absolutely. Do you have a link to the study?

    ants – I find your faith in the market quite touching.

  3. vto 3

    ha ha SP “NZ isn’t only made up of Paheka males” I’m sure you say half the things you do just to wind up.

    I’m with ants. To suggest that mankind has finally reached its technological zenith ignores history.

    Individual means of transportation will be around for as long as there is demand. And there is an eye-watering demand. The means of propulsion is the issue not the fact of propulsion. Do we really believe there will be no replacement for the combustion engine? As such imo the roads to transport the transporters will be even more necessary.

    It is at these times that an understanding of manwomankind’s development through history can point to the future. Ignore history at your peril.

  4. vto 4

    apparently, back in the late 1800s there was great fear among the luddites that, at the then current rate of growth of horse and cart, the entire surface of the planet would be covered in 6 feet of horse shit within 50 years!

  5. Um vto – history shows us we’ve only had the motor car for about a hundred years and they’ve only been freely available to the bulk of New Zealanders for about fifty years. Come to think of it it’s only been in the last fifty years that individual transport has been freely available to most people in the western world and there’s still a large majority of the world’s population that don’t have it.

    Oh and we’ve been around for what? A hundred thousand years or so?

    Jeez bro – if you’re gonna talk history you should probably understand it…

  6. Pascal's bookie 6

    vto, Ever heard of Easter Island?

  7. Stephen 7

    Easter Island didn’t have markets…

  8. Stephen 8

    Also:

    Why are we spending $1 billion on Transmission Gully when by the time it is finished the price of petrol will be up to $10 a litre according to a study by the Australian CSIRO?

    Are you getting ‘will be’ confused with ‘a possible scenario’?

  9. vto 9

    widen your blinkers robinsausage. I’m not talking about just cars silly. Man’s technical advance has been reasonably steady since as far back as written history (and a bit further) goes. 5,000 years or so. examples – transport, warfare, sciences, agriculture, etc. It has continued to advance during this time (with a few speed bumps along the way).

    Actually your micro-history of the car is in complete support of my own point. It is a history of rapid ceaseless advance. Why do you think it is about to stop?

    I think it is just plain dumb to think that the world of humankind is about to stop dead because oil may run out. And ignores all that history before oil.

    Technology since oil has been rocket-boosted of course. Effectively squashing perhaps some number of hundreds of years into about one. But the advance will continue – you would be a keen punter to bet against that.

  10. There are some particularly bad features about Transmission Gully. The supporting study indicated there would be “canibalism” of passenger transport users who would be persuaded back into their cars. This would mean an increased subsidy being required to run the Wellington train system as well as this monstrous pile of ashfelt being built.

    The economics do not add up either even with gas at $2 per liter.

    The trouble is the politics. TG was part of United Future’s supply agreement and Dunne has been a vociferous supporter of the project. If there is a National Government then no doubt he will provide them with support but TG will be his price. And they are that desperate that they would pay it.

    The one bad aspect of MMP is the parish pump politics that some (not the Greens) minor parties engage in.

    VTO I am sure there will be technological developments but there are none on the radar right now that will give us the ease and usability that petrol have provided, not at the current price anyway.

  11. Matthew Pilott 11

    vto, what you are arguing is that we should continue to build roads upon the assumption that future land transport mechanisms will involve large wheeled metal boxes containing a large and inefficient power source.

    If you’re going to play the ‘historical perspective’ card, the most obvious thing would be to question whether an advance will be a paradigm shift, as virtually every previous major advance has entailed.

    A new and sustainable advance in transportation will be unlikely to be a direct equivalent of the Internal Combustion Engine. If this is true, whatever it is won’t necessarily need roads. If it does, not necessarily in the same fashion that they are today.

    Imagine the NZ govt announcing a multi-billion dollar upgrade of our copper network in the late 1980’s – that would be pretty daft now, wouldn’t it…

    Because we have an overwhelming inability to make and accept an accurate assessment of the state of our reliance on ICE, we’re refusing to acknowledge the problem. The longer we defer action the more goop we’ll be in later.

  12. vto 12

    Pascals bookie, yes I have heard of easter island. Great surf there. But seriously, yes. Of course that is the speed bump on the highway of human endeavour and I do not doubt that that scenario is a risk. But it will not stop people travelling that highway, such is the nature of humans.

  13. 08wire 13

    Steve

    I think among the many reasons for continually improving our roading infrastructure – as well as massively upgrading our non-road transport – is that we want people to feel they **want** to switch to the train, not that they **have** to switch. If people feel the government is compelling them to switch by allowing the roads to go to shit, that will breed resentment and make it easier for a reactionary administration to pull the plug on public transport and throw all our eggs into the car (so to speak). If they feel they are choosing the more attractive of two attractive options, it is more likely to stick.

    Among the other reasons, I think “reducing congestion” is particularly important – as idling cars are dreadful GHG emitters. Sure, if there are no cars left because of gas prices, that would reduce congestion, too. But that simply isn’t going to happen – not until we get trains that go to the road-end at Otaki Forks, all the Martinborough vineyards, and the Top of the Bruce.

  14. But it will not stop people travelling that highway, such is the nature of humans.

    Yeah but vto – you’re assuming that humans will continue to travel that highway in personal transport.

  15. vto 15

    Mr Pilott, you are right and perhaps I should have explained further. Posts often short as I’m trying to work as well.

    But I was not arguing that we should build roads to carry v8s, I had in mind some sort of paradigm shift. Porbably a slow shift over a period of time.

    I agree that perhaps building the type of road discussed is not the best, but they will no doubt be useful anyway, in the same way as previous tracks were then used by horse and cart were then used by cars were then used by many many cars.

    I see many many many more vehicles on the road in the future. I see them powered on a sustainable basis probably solar driven battery type power or some such. They will be about the same size or slightly smaller than todays cars (obviously), be incredibly lightweight and go slower. I see the surface they travel on being smooth and flattish (obviously), hence the usefulness of todays roads. I see little demand above today’s for public type transport.

    The big issue is in fact today only the propulsion/pollution aspect of cars and roads. Nothing wrong with moving around tho.

    Putting the crystal ball away now.

  16. insider 16

    Steve

    That is not what the CSIRO study said. It was one possible but extreme scenario.

    “Modelling projected that if international oil supply continues to grow steadily, petrol and diesel prices will experience only a slight rise on present levels. However, if there is a near-term peak in international oil production resulting in declining future oil supplies, petrol prices could increase to between A$2 and as much as A$8 per litre by 2018.”

    A few very big ‘ifs’ in there.

  17. rich 17

    “acting like fruitcakes” = “advocating policies outside the Dom Post / TVNZ / mainstream party” consensus? Like not building a motorway that nobody will be able to afford to drive on?

    On a related topic, I believe that Nandor always wore a suit at Parliament, because that was how one was expected to behave. Where does Rodney Hide get off wearing his canary yellow costume?

  18. vto 18

    I also see cars made of rubber. Lordy know why they are made of crunchy flesh-tearing metal when rubber ones would simply bounce off each other and be both safer and more fun.

  19. Either we’ll have some other options by the time petrol hits $10 a litre (whenever that happens – not by 2018, you can bet), or the question of whether we should have spent a billion on Transmission Gully will be the least of our worries.

    Also: given how long roads have been with us, I’m picking the likelihood of their becoming redundant in the next few decades is not high. So far, no-one’s made a case to suggest otherwise.

    Matthew Pilott: your analogy re investing in copper wire in the late 80s is interesting. I’d say that in the absence of any clearly superior alternative to copper wire, it would be foolish not to continue investing in its upkeep. Further: following Steve Pierson’s line of reasoning, we should have actually discouraged investment in copper wire back in the 80s, so that people would be forced to think up ways to avoid using telecomms gear. As a proposed means of driving technological improvement, that approach has comedy value only.

  20. randal 22

    ants thinks progress is only one way. the sooner the oil runs out the better and who said walking is regressive. only if you too fat and lazy

  21. Matthew Pilott 23

    Psycho Milt – after I wrote that, I realised it looked like I was calling for abandoning copper – that would be daft (because it’s still rather essential).

    I’ll try and explain further. What I was meaning was a huge investment to, say, double or triple the capacity and network of copper, hence ‘multibillions’. Another element is the development of alternatives (internet and fibre just starting to peek over the horizon), and the emerging idea that the network is reaching its potential.

    Steve’s position isn’t that we should have discouraged investment, but merely that maintenance should suffice – expanding the capacity of a network that is being made redundant by external factors dosn’t make sense. In your example, Steve would be advocating that because an evil genius managed to monopolise the market so phone calls were 20c a minute, then 30c, then 80c, then $1.99, then $2.16 (I’m sure you get the drift).

    If there was an alternative to phones, and no sign that our evil genius was going to let up (and increasing signs to the contrary) wouldn’t it be an idea to discourage phone calls?

    Espacially if another external factor was evidencee that phone calls were inherently bad for the planet?

    In spite of all I’m arguing, I am ambivalent. Probably still pro-gully (after all that!) – I think that we still require the network to be viable, and the immediate alternatives (namely public transport) don’t have the ability to negate the necessity for its construction.

    The only thing that gives me pause were the stats during the wee peak we had earlier ($2.16 a litre for ’91 – ‘wee’ peak, because that sure ain’t it, baby) – a 5% reducton in flows over the ngaurange interchange.

    If petrol prices continue to discourage excessive and frivolous travel then TG will indeed be a poor use of resources. it’s very hard to say what the short- to medium-term will bring – will the current roads have sufficient capacity? Would the promtion of alternatives be a better choice?

    Perhaps. I’m not sure. A kick-ass local PT alternative (monorail, light rail, trams) combined with an efficient high density regional/national rail system could do the trick.

  22. Edosan 24

    The green party is fine on camera.

    I often light candles while morris dancing in a frog suit.

    Kiwi dream isn’t it?

  23. Rex Widerstrom 25

    vto suggests:

    I also see cars made of rubber… rubber ones would simply bounce off each other and be both safer and more fun.

    I think there’s a convention somewhere that says rubber cars can only be driven by people willing to wear enormous oversized shoes, tiny hats, plastic flowers that squirt water, and face paint.

    I would have said “only by clowns” but then you may have got confused and thought I meant “only by people who think petrol will cost $10 a litre in 10 years time”. 😀

  24. Daveski 26

    As a work in Wellingon live where the train don’t go, I have a personal stake in this.

    I would argue however that one of the critical issues that TG is trying to address is the likelihood of Wellington being cut off in the event of a major disaster.

    I can readily accept that TG itself won’t be exempt from this but it would seem reasonable to assume that the Centennial Highway is more of a sitting duck, particularly in terms of slips.

    I do agree that improving the train service would actually help but that doesn’t address the issue of a single point of failure northwards out of Wellington.

    I wonder whether the peak oil will end up being the equivalent of how we were every going to spend all out leisure time? In the 1970’s Alvin Toffler and others saw the trend and predicted that we would all work less and have more leisure time as a result yet the opposite has happened.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that petrol/oil will continue to increase in price but nor do I doubt that over time new technologies will replace today’s transport.

  25. outofbed 27

    Fruit cakes at a National level yes I agree that pissed a few people off I can tell you. However at a local grass roots level we, the Greens are working hard and doing well.
    The local Ecofest was held in Nelson last week end and was extremely well attended as was the annual eco debate which was held between between Russel Norman Nick Smith and Marayn Street +(the mayors of Nelson and Tasman).
    Nick Smith and Marayn Street spoke well but with out doubt the winner on the night was Mr Norman.
    Which considering it was an eco debate on energy organised by Transition Towns he bloody well ought to do well.
    The Greens are in strong heart in the provinces and we feel that we will definitely grow our vote this election.
    Not sure about Auckland though 🙂

  26. Tim Ellis 28

    SP I suggest you read the report. It never made the prediction that prices would rise to $10 a litre. It’s a bit sloppy to quote that.

    The Future Fuels report modelled four different scenarios and their impact on price. They specifically did not say which one was most likely. So there was no prediction. They simply conducted four models, based on different sets of conditions. Even the difference using different international market conditions in a peak oil scenario is huge. The models point out that if we’re in a peak oil market (and it doesn’t say that we are), the two variables are how fast oil supplies decline, and how fast the uptake of new technology is.

    In a peak oil, slow decline, fast technology response scenario the report indicates we’d be paying as low as $2 per litre of fuel. In a peak oil, fast decline, slow technology response scenario, we would be paying up to $8 per litre of fuel. At best, you can read into that that the future price range is uncertain. The most you could say about the report’s predictions is that if we are in a peak oil situation, we could be paying anywhere from $2-$8 per litre of fuel, depending on how fast oil stocks decline and how quickly we respond with technology.

  27. Tim. I have read the report. the figures in it are in australian dollars. currently 80 cents aussie to kiwi dollar… AU$8 = NZ$10, hence, up to $10.

    and I said up to.

    I’ve also read the methods used to make those predictions, the current price is at or above the high price scenario model

  28. Tim Ellis 30

    SP, I don’t think that is an accurate reading of the report. The report does not say that prices will be up to $8 a litre. The report simply maps four different scenarios. Saying that something “will be up to” suggests that the report claims that fuel prices will be up around that level. That is demonstrably wrong. The report says that if peak oil exists, and depending on the two variables, of technology uptake and oil decline, then prices will be between $2 and $8 a litre.

    The report doesn’t say that peak oil exists. The report maps prices on a peak oil scenario (which assumes much higher prices are here to stay), and a non-peak oil scenario (which assumes that current high prices substantially above US $60 a barrel are temporary). The fact that current prices are well above $US 60 a barrel doesn’t justify your assertion that peak oil exists. Nor does it justify you claiming that the most extreme price scenario mapped in the report is the likely outcome.

  29. Edosan 31

    Outofbed:

    I hope you’re right. I’ll certainly be doing what I can.

    Still, it’s never a good thing to hand the TV media stock footage like that.

  30. rave 32

    I look forward to parking my car on a railferry that runs from Wellington to Taihape, avoiding boring gullies (I know the limits of my cars transmission) swamps, rolling in it hills, and disembarking to motor through the great expanses of tussock and snowy peaks. I would prefer that to driving backwards through central Otago at avoid looking at windfarms as one of the currents ads suggests. I prefer the Waiouru-Te Kuiti strech where I would reembark on the King Country express to Auckland. If the Greens come up with something like that they have my vote.

  31. Draco TB 33

    Also: given how long roads have been with us, I’m picking the likelihood of their becoming redundant in the next few decades is not high. So far, no-one’s made a case to suggest otherwise.

    Nobody’s said that roads wouldn’t be used in the future – just questioned how much traffic will actually be on them and if this justifies building more and bigger roads.

    Matthew Pilott: your analogy re investing in copper wire in the late 80s is interesting. I’d say that in the absence of any clearly superior alternative to copper wire, it would be foolish not to continue investing in its upkeep.

    We were upgrading to fiber optic cabling in the late 1980s. There were even cabinets that were fed by fiber instead of copper. It’s interesting to note that over the last few years Telecom has actually been removing some of that fiber and replacing it with copper instead of doing to logical thing which would have been to upgrade the cabinet – ie, what they’re actually doing now.

    Maintaining the copper network is one thing – investing heavily in its expansion is another especially when that technology was already being replaced by a far superior one.

  32. damian 34

    to wade in –

    vto, one reading suggestion: ‘Collapse’ by Jared Diamond.

    the history of humankind is a history of one civilisation collapsing after another. technological development hasn’t been a smooth upward curve with a few bumps – it has lurched, up and down. our belief in the advancement of technology is in fact very recent: prior to the Enlightenment the feeling of general folks was that things were gradually sliding into doom and gloom, and life was much better in the past: they knew something of the Roman Empire, which was far more technologically and socially advanced (until it collapsed of course) than most of Europe during the dark ages.

    in fact, if you look right back to the Mesopotamian civilisation, which is the oldest urban-based civilisation we currently know about, emerging about 7000 years ago in what is now the South of Iraq — they based their food production on massive irrigation, which was the peak of their agricultural technology. back then the South of Iraq used to be green and lush, but through over-irrigation they gradually made the soil more and more salty, until they could not longer grow anything there, and they all starved to death, and their civilisation collapsed. the ironic thing about it is that they knew this was happening: there’s evidence that they switched from growing wheat/spelt (i forget which) to growing oats, which is a much more salt-tolerant crop, even as their irrigation schemes, which were caused the saltification, were being expanded.

    sound like familiar behaviour?

  33. roger nome 35

    “I would have said “only by clowns’ but then you may have got confused and thought I meant “only by people who think petrol will cost $10 a litre in 10 years time”

    lol Rex. You may want to educate yourself before acting so cocky however. You can start here.

    Here’s a few choice extracts from that PHD Thesis.

    Almost 40 per cent of the total energy consumption in
    the world stems from oil (BP, 2006).

    The basic idea for this project is to make a survey of data for global oil reserves, production and discoveries.

    In the licentiate thesis Giant Oil Fields and their Importance for Peak Oil (Robelius, 2005) the validity of predicting the peak by the use of giant oil fields was shown. The next step is to construct a model for future production from the giant oil fields.

    In 1956, Hubbert predicted, using the bell curve and two different estimates of ultimate recovery of oil in the USA, that the oil production of the lower 48 states of the USA would have a peak between 1965 and 1972 (Hubbert, 1956). This prediction turned out to be true, since oil production in the USA peaked in 1970.

    The most mature oil area, i.e. the USA, and the latest big oil region
    discovered, theNorth Sea, are both in decline and have passed their respective peak. The conclusion is that all oil regions, mature as well as newer ones, will peak and then decline. For both regions, this has taken place despite a strong demand for oil and a high oil price.

    Although the number of giant oil fields is very limited, only 507 out of some 47 500, their contribution is far from limited. About 65 per cent of the global ultimate recoverable reserves (URR) is found in them. Historically, giant fields have been the main contributor to global oil production and in 2005, their share was over 60 per cent. Thus, giant oil fields are and will continue to be important for global oil production. However, the largest giant fields are old and many of them have been producing oil for over 50 years. The greatest number of giant fields were discovered during the 1960s.

    Forecasts, based on field by field analysis, for major new field developments, deepwater oil production, heavy oil from Orinoco in Venezuela and oil sands in Canada have been made since their role in future oil production must be considered.

    The giant oil field model is based on past annual production, URR and
    three different assumed decline rates. The results from the modeling of 333 giant fields are used in combination with the other forecasts in order to predict future oil production. Four different scenarios have been modeled and peak oil governed by the giant oil fields is a common result for the scenarios.

    The worst case scenario shows a peak in 2008, while the best case
    peaks in 2013 although at a higher production level. The production in the best case scenario increases more rapidly than a future demand growth 136 of 1.4 per cent. Therefore the production can be adjusted to follow the demand growth, resulting in a postponed peak oil to 2018. Thus, global peak oil will occur in the ten year span between 2008 and 2018.

  34. Kevyn 37

    Why are we spending $1 billion on Transmission Gully? Unfortunately Wellington does have a bad habit of getting the rest of the country to pay for their land transport. It happened with the Foothills Motorway in the 60s and 70s to the tune of $600m (current dollars) and the major rail improvements from the mid-30s to the mid-50s accounted for the lion’s share of the $2bn in petrol taxes spent on railway improvements nationally during that period. Unfortunately for Auckland this practice of diverting highway funding to railways led to a backlash in the early 50s and the practice was stopped just when the railways dept was finishing it’s Wellington upgrades and getting ready to start with Auckland. Because the backlash was mainly from rural areas the Auckland motorway alternative wasn’t given the same favourable funding that Wellington’s motorways enjoyed although the rate of construction did double from 1 mile a year in the early 50s.

    If we can get a guarantee that Wellingtonians will pay for TG then I don’t have a problem with it, although the climb from McKays crossing appears to be rather steep. Does anybody know what the gradient will be for that climb. I presume it will be less than the one in eight gradient of the Otira Gorge and Viaduct.

  35. vto 38

    damian ta. I was in fact somewhat aware of that and perhaps should take more care with my posts. My sunny dispositional sometimes gets in the way.

  36. Ron 39

    Hi guys, to help solve the problem:

    – roads are made of massive amounts of oil
    – (car) petrol is made of oil
    – oil resources are becoming scarce

    so why invest in long term infrastructures based on unsustainable resources???? it’s that SIMPLE!!!

    cheers guys

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