Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, August 4th, 2016 - 21 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, Environment, global warming, infrastructure, political alternatives, public transport, science, transport, vision - Tags: climate change, equity, global warming, petrol, roading, transport
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.