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Free Petrol Pt III

Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, August 4th, 2016 - 25 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, Environment, global warming, infrastructure, political alternatives, public transport, science, transport, vision - Tags: , , , , ,

Free Petrol Pt I
Free Petrol Pt II

There are no schemes involving a price on carbon that can deliver the 10 – 15% annual cuts in carbon emissions we need. So let’s just be cutting that Gordian knot. If we can’t alter consumption and emission rates by putting a price on carbon, then why put a price on carbon?

Being surrounded by ocean, NZ is in a fairly unique position as only one of four developed nations that can unilaterally pursue a non-price strategy to bring about emission reductions of the order that we need. Most other countries will have to follow a multilateral route.

There are around 1500 petrol storage tanks around New Zealand. In every tank, whether a garage forecourt or a truck stop, there are flow meters, already subject to a degree of computerisation, that’s geared towards making sure that one litre of fuel is consistently delivered, regardless of whether it’s a cold day or a hot day.

Petrol and diesel for road transport, as well as fuel for heating flows through those tanks. The heating fuel doesn’t affect the scenario for transport fuel, but I’ll come back to that in another post. For now, I just want to focus on transport.

The volumetric throughput of each tank is known. If the idea is to reduce fossil use by between 10 and 15% every year – and that is the idea – then simply augmenting already existent hardware and running specific software in relation to the flow meters would appear to be the most direct way to achieve that goal

Programme pumps to cut out, when and if delivered fuel volumes set up a trajectory indicating an overshoot of pre-programmed parameters, that are in line with each passing month achieving a reduction of 1/12th of the required yearly reduction. When the trajectory is back on track – a function of time – then the pump can proceed to allow pumping of petrol/diesel. A large screen on each forecourt could display relevant information for the benefit of motorists.

On the off-chance I haven’t been clear enough – all petrol and diesel would be for free. Because the fuel is free, any sense of entitlement is wiped out – it acts as a levelling mechanism; ensures equity.

Drivers who formerly put $100 in their tanks can now use that money to go towards an electric vehicle, pay down debt or take the family on an overseas trip in one of those airplanes while they’re still around. It’s entirely up to them.

Trucking companies won’t last the 15 years. The days of long distance road haulage would be giving way to a renaissance in rail and shipping and (possibly) those airships of the previous post. Any trucking company would probably be best advised to take the savings they make on fuel and invest in fleets of smaller, electrically powered vehicles for the short road deliveries of the future.

Bus companies would be expected to channel fuel savings towards electric vehicles too. It’d probably be necessary to draw up a framework of compliance on that front. Otherwise, private owners of public transport (bless ‘em) might be tempted to take the money and run.

The important bit in all of this for most people – the crucial bit – is that car habits change at a rate fast enough to keep ahead of diminishing supply. At 1/12th of a 10-15% yearly reduction every month, it should be possible to do that with comparative ease for a few years or so at least….car pooling, share riding, cutting out frivolous journeys, taking public transport occasionally and then increasingly where it’s available would take us a long way. As will individuals inevitably prioritising fuel for the car over fuel for that jet-ski, or for those grunty outboards needed to power that weekend fishing trip.

And in the meantime, as indicated in the first post, that electrified public transport needs to be getting laid in and developed. Fast.

Somewhere down the line, it may be the case that smaller and more remote towns with no public transport would need to be bailed out – given a bit of extra time – by way of re-allocating some of the fuel allowance from a main centre. (ie -tweak the software) Or perhaps farmers will need some extra time to convert all farm machinery to electric – meaning that main centres adapt and change that much quicker.

As I said in the first post, our imagination and humanity are going to have to come into play.

All of this is do-able. Actually, even if we think it’s not quite do-able in the timescale we’ve left ourselves, then the physics of two degrees says that confounding our pessimism is the only choice we have.

Free Petrol Pt IV

25 comments on “Free Petrol Pt III ”

  1. red-blooded 1

    I’m sorry, but I just see this as naive. What’s to stop petrol banking ad a black market arising from people with multiple vehicles filling up at different stations, depleting their stores and contributing to their shut-down? Why would people choose to use money saved on petrol to buy electric cars? Surely free petrol would simply entrench the use of petrol-consuming vehicles? Ditto with your rosy predictions around moving away from trucks.

    People always find ways around restrictions like this. If water was turned off after a certain amount of use, there’d be water banking and black markets.

    It’s nice to see some experimental thinking, but I’m simply not convinced.

    • Bill 1.1

      It’s a hard set sinking cap. So even if some people hoard, availability will drop by the required amount.

      Ways around hoarding.

      No self service.
      Laws around petrol storage to augment the ones already in existence.
      Social disapproval – tried lighting up a cigarette in a kindergarten recently? Used to be done.
      Hoarding could well come to be viewed in line with benefit fraud (remember the “dob in your neighbour” crap that flowed a few years ago?)

      And why are you going to tolerate someone trying to sell you petrol when you know it can be had for free, and you know that they essentially stole it from you in the first place?

      I’d imagine cops getting quite a few calls if someone tried to set themselves up to make a buck off the scenario I’ve outlined. And again – nothing to stop laws being passed and enforced.

      • weka 1.1.1

        Social disapproval seems key. I think of the war footing one too. Not that climate change is a war, but the way that communities come together for the common good in an extended emergengy. Government, local bodies, and NGOs can all have a role to play in promoting the public good meme.

        • Bill

          Do you think we could reasonably hold that economics is currently at war with the world and call for an end to the war?

          That’s a kind of rhetorical question btw. 😉

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      It’s extremely dangerous to store large amounts of petrol in an ad hoc manner. You’ll invalidate your house insurance for starters.

  2. brian 2

    I’ve been watching how much Auckland Transport cares about emissions as they reconstruct the on ramp to the south eastern motorway at stoddard rd they’ve simply widened the road to park more idling cars as they negotiate two sets of traffic lights to make a left hand turn, rather than just make a free flowing left turn to merge onto the on ramp. We make steel and concrete here heaps of unemployed labour, overpasses underpasses and roundabouts keep cars moving and prevent congestion.

    • Bill 2.1

      Not that I want to see congestion, but why invest time and materials to “keep cars moving” when the physics of 2 degrees says we can’t have internal combustion engines (ie – neither bio-diesel, diesel nor petrol) in 15 or so years from now?

      • Bruce 2.1.1

        Because when the cars are gone it will be such fun on pedal or eco powered vehicles powering it through the curves and zooming along the freeways. Buses with pedals under every seat no traffic lights, I think free flowing transport routes will always have a place.

  3. Pat 3

    tradable individualised annual ration…..that diminishes at the required rate p.a.to reach zero by 2030….if you use less you can sell it and invest in low/no carbon assets, if you use more you have attempt to buy someone elses share and pay dearly for the privilege…either way the amount of carbon emission available is diminishing but time (and incentive) to adapt is provided.

    • Bill 3.1

      So, assuming there’s a set level that can be calculated to apply equitably to all people in all situations, and assuming it can be applied across all businesses as well as individuals…and assuming an individual in a given position in a business can’t ‘bleed’ the business ration to use in a personal capacity…as far as I know, every time there’s a ration card, there’s human interaction and bribery or networks of those ‘in the know’ that build up. (There was always those who could mysteriously get eggs as it were)

      • Pat 3.1.1

        equity would be a given….oversight and enforcement also, but in any case the amount available within the country is controlled and (most importantly) reducing per annum

        • Bill

          Okay, let me try it this way. Why would that be preferable to a freely available resource that’s subjected to a hard sinking cap? Is there something I missed that means the scenario in the post doesn’t do all those things a ration card would do, but without the burdensome bureaucracy and with (as far as I can figure) no room for bribery etc?

          I can’t immediately see how rationing via a card could be tailored in a way that catered to every individual and business need, and then reduced proportionately (ie – causing equal pressure to adapt) according to those initial needs. How would the ‘credit’ on the ration card be calculated?

          • Pat

            as i see your proposal operating (correct me if I’m wrong) it appears to operate on a first in first served basis and if the months allocation is subject to a run there is less (potentially none) available irrespective of personal previous use…..it is also as open to abuse as a tradable ration.

            A smart personalised card for a ration is used currently everyday by almost the entire population…its called eftpos….a variation of that poses no problem, as to allocation for industry/ag there are any number off approaches that could be applied but my choice off the top of my head would be they have no allocation above the personal and would need to purchase it from willing sellers, not difficult in the beginning but increasingly difficult as the years pass and is incentive to seek new models.

            • Bill

              There could be none available for short periods of time until parameters drop back within margins. And nothing prevents anyone going to the station down the road in that case. It’s not as though people are queuing up on the off-chance. All relevant info can be on display.

              I can’t see how it’s open to abuse – well, not very much. Nothing significant. No self service. Hoarding won’t be a goer. Maybe operators would default to only serving local and known people if things are getting thin on the ground. They can do that now btw. No-one has to serve you anything anywhere.

              How much is loaded up on a card in your idea. How’s it calculated? Does the supermarket worker who drives 50km to work get the same as the accountant who walks down the road to work? Do two people in the same, maybe low paying job, get the same allocation regardless of their travel needs?

              Does the trucking firm operator get the same as the supermarket worker to run their business?

              When you say “new models” – new models of what? Combustion engine vehicles? That will have a maximum life of something like 15 years if the aim is zero carbon?

              And how much would it cost to set up and administer?

              • Pat

                using consumption figures from 2008 we used approx 640 litres per person p.a. diesel and 732 litres p/p p.a. petrol so as a rough guide allowing for the growth in consumption since lets round that to 1000 litres p/p p.a. of each for the sake of argument…..take the first reduction of 15% and every man , woman child has the right to 850 litres of each fuel for the next year,( whether that is gifted or as a right purchase makes no difference) every purchase of fuel reduces that by the amount purchased as recorded on the card just like a bank balance….the allocation reduces in subsequent years.

                As we currently run the economy with approx 15% above that level there is enough available for business and industry in the beginning however they need to purchase it from the individuals allocation…..in the short term no major drama but if you wish your business to remain functional heading towards a low/no carbon 2030 you need to find a new way to provide your goods / services that doesn’t rely on diesel or petrol…..the alternative is no business, that is the new model to which I refer….the potential solutions are as many as the individuals creating them and undoubtably many will fail but some will not.

                The same applies at an individual level…..use the potential income gain to prepare for zero carbon 2030,

                As people and business find ways to operate without petrol/diesel they will be shared and mimicked.

                How much to set up and administer? No idea but any system will have those costs and this appears to me to require little in the way of either

                I can hear the cries of harsh and heartless and unacceptable but what is the alternative? As Anderson says he can see no other way than rationing (save failure)

                • Bill

                  Yeah Pat. Rationing works. And that’s what the post proposes.

                  Let’s say your rationing card could be set up. (I don’t think it can – not with any equity anyway). As access to the resource diminishes, your idea spawns an intense ‘dog eat dog’ world.

                  Car sharing cuts individual emissions, yes? In the scenario laid out by the post, it’s no skin off anyone’s nose to offer a lift – to work or wherever, if they are going that way.

                  In yours, what arises is selfishness, suspicion and jealousy. The person who paid $X per litre is going to much less inclined to enter into any ‘hand up/ help out’ relationships with those around them.

                  They paid top dollar to get from a to b – they’re entitled. So they might ask themselves…why didn’t that person asking for the lift make better choices? Are they just secretly sitting on petrol and free loading? Why should I? Fuck them…etc

                  And on the other side, there’s the possibility or probability of a range of ugly coercions attached to creating a dog eat dog world around an increasingly expensive and increasingly rare resource.

                  And then there’s public transport. How does that even function, never mind finance its switch away from fossil in your scenario?

                  Or what about the rapid price rises in goods as fuel costs for business skyrockets.

                  Honestly? I think your idea would usher in a nightmare.

                  And besides, it doesn’t positively address anything that isn’t already covered by a free resource subjected to a hard sinking cap.

                  • Pat

                    “Let’s say your rationing card could be set up. (I don’t think it can – not with any equity anyway). As access to the resource diminishes, your idea spawns an intense ‘dog eat dog’ world.”

                    Any system that reduces consumption has the potential for selfish behaviour….with the individual ration everyone has the same allocation, why would that stop anyone from ride sharing any more than any other system? People with different incomes and outgoings ride share now.

                    “And on the other side, there’s the possibility or probability of a range of ugly coercions attached to creating a dog eat dog world around an increasingly expensive and increasingly rare resource.”

                    Imagine a forecourt where first in first served operates with the monthly possibility the fuel you desire(need) may not be available even though you (personally) haven’t used any previously that month….that is a recipe for ugly coercions.

                    “And then there’s public transport. How does that even function, never mind finance its switch away from fossil in your scenario?’

                    not necessarily….the fare could be a deduction from your allocation, obviously at an advantageous rate over personal transport.

                    “Or what about the rapid price rises in goods as fuel costs for business skyrockets.’

                    Can you describe ANY system that truly reduces fuel consumption at the rate required to reach anything like zero C by 2030 that is not going to cause price rises?…. there isn’t one.

                    As said , IF you are serious about the target there will be massive change required ….or we can carry on and pretend.

                    • Pat

                      being tradable there is nothing to stop me transferring some allocation to someone who provides me transport, be it through ride-sharing or otherwise….the key point is the overall consumption is restricted and diminishing.

                    • Bill

                      Can you describe ANY system that truly reduces fuel consumption at the rate required to reach anything like zero C by 2030 that is not going to cause price rises?

                      I did. It’s in a post called Free Petrol Pt III.

                      btw – how do you coerce a piece of computerised hardware into giving you petrol or diesel? And where do you get the idea of some monthly rush to the petrol station from? Go get petrol any day you want. Keep an eye on the forecourt displays. This petrol station has gone outwith its parameters and is temporarily down? Go to another one. Or come back later.

                      On the seriousness – of course I’m serious. Necessary massive change can be brought about in ways that cause intense shit to go down – or they can be ushered in with minimal possible disruption. I prefer the least possible disruption path myself.

                  • Pat

                    “I did. It’s in a post called Free Petrol Pt III.’

                    Then it is apparent we will have to disagree as that will cause price rises in my opinion as well. The fuel may be free and the initial reduction of supply can be met by prudent use of the resource but as time progresses it must impact output/productivity.

                    “btw – how do you coerce a piece of computerised hardware into giving you petrol or diesel?”

                    you haven’t used eftpos activated pumps?

                    “And where do you get the idea of some monthly rush to the petrol station from”

                    perhaps from this..”Programme pumps to cut out, when and if delivered fuel volumes set up a trajectory indicating an overshoot of pre-programmed parameters”….what does experience tell you happens when people think there is a chance there won’t be fuel available immediately? think about the queues and panic buying anytime there has been disruption to supply in the past

                    “I prefer the least possible disruption path myself.”

                    as would I…..and there we have it, two people who both agree the problem is serious and two diametrically opposed views on the path…multiply that by 4 million….or 8 billion

  4. gristle 4

    People often point to electric vehicles as the successor to petrol and diesel engines. A problem is that the electricity generation needs to massively expand to be at least double it’s existing size if it is going to have enough energy available.

    PVS at home will help but your car is often not at home during daylight hours.

    Large solar farms injecting into the grid and lots of charging points may be more useful.

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