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Lost highway

Written By: - Date published: 12:55 pm, June 25th, 2008 - 60 comments
Categories: economy - Tags: , ,

Petrol is over $2.10 a litre. The price will keep rising both with the ever upward march of the price of crude and the falling NZ dollar. Already, motorists are responding. Road usage in Auckland has fallen 3%. It’s fair to believe it is falling elsewhere too. The only reasonable conclusion is that the number of vehicles on the road will keep edging down as the price of petrol continues to rise.

So, why the hell are we spending $3 billion on two huge new motorway projects? The Waterview Tunnel in Auckland and Transmission Gully in Wellington add capacity to the existing network even as capacity demand is falling. That’s insane.

Yes, there is still congestion on the motorways out of the cities. But the solution is to take more cars off the road. Imagine if we put that $3 billion into public transport instead we could build a world-leading transport infrastructure with numerous small, comfortable, quick buses and faster, electrified trains.

Both major parties are stuck in a past of cheap oil. Those days are not coming back; it’s time we had a transport plan for the future.

[PS. before the Righties get all excited – no, this $3 billion couldn’t pay for National’s tax cuts. A motorway is built once, tax cuts are forever.]

60 comments on “Lost highway ”

  1. Wow, what a retarded post. We are sill going to need cars. People are still going to drive no matter what the cost. You know the Aussie is about to start mining oil deposits in rock and Canada is stepping up it’s sand mining operation. There will be oil for many years to come.

    200 years worth is predicted. The sands in Canada hold more oil that the arabs.

  2. Wow, what a retarded comment. No-oneis saying dig p the existing roads. I’m saying that the price of oil is going up and up and car use is decreasing, meaning there’s no need for massive new projects.

  3. Vanilla Eis 3

    Infused: and the Canadian sands are considerably more expensive to extract oil from. Which is what everyone is talking about when they say ‘peak oil’ – the planet will never run out, but the cost of marginal cost of production will be greater than market price. When this happens, production shuts down. Savvy?

    What SP is trying to say is that by strengthening the inter and intra-city public transport networks, pressure on existing infrastructure will ease. You don’t need to build a new highway if you can convince even 10% of the car-drivers to take new and efficient public transport. That way, the retards still willing to pay $4 a litre of gas can still drive wherever the hell they want.

  4. Vanilla Eis 4

    Bah. “but the marginal cost of production” – must have had two half-sentences in my mind.

  5. lprent 5

    infused: What grades are the oil you’re talking about? Your statement is basically useless unless you are simply trying to confuse the issue.

    From memory the Albertan oilsands are essentially tar. Great if you want to produce plastics, adequete for some types of heating oils, and absolutely useless for getting light fractions required for motor vehicles.

    What is the price for extraction and refining? That is the important question. There are hydrocarbons everywhere from coal deposits to the underwater frozen methane. Almost all of them could be converted into the petroleum factions we use for motor fuels, but in most cases the costs are orders of magnitude greater than what we currently pay.

    I’d suggest that if you don’t have any ideas on these rather critical questions (which is what I suspect), then your opinions just show you need some remedial science.

  6. Nedyah Hsan 6

    Ah, but there’s always going to be alternative fuel/energy sources coming out.
    Whether or not they come in the next 5, 10 or 15 years.
    If it takes 10 years, all thats needed is a few contractors to clear the weeds, cover over the cracks, and presto, new road for our water/urine/hydrogen/electricity fuelled cars.
    I suppose one could say it’s “forward thinking” in the “old style” but still.

    At least the buses will be on time, all the time, and wouldn’t have to cope with idiot drivers trying to overtake them as they’re pulling out.

    3 billion on a road is a shocking amount. Do we have monkeys counting peanuts dealing with the contracts? I hope we have some sort of penalty clause included, which always seems to be lacking.

    captcha: predict new; Oil sources perhaps?

  7. Vanilla Eis 7

    Nedyah: of course there are, but that doesn’t mean that investment in public transport can’t extend the life of existing transport infrastructure by reducing usage. I’d love to take the train north instead of driving (Especially if I get to avoid the Kapiti Coast highway and the Desert Road) but it’s not the most viable option at the moment.

    Captcha: and gasoline. Some of these are creepy.

  8. “In the words of Mary Beth Stanek, director of energy and environmental policy & commercialization at GM, “Developing and growing hydrogen infrastructure is vital to GM’s efforts to bring larger volumes of fuel cell vehicles to the market.’ ”

    GM Volt

    The car is not dead, fossil fuels might be dead but personal transport is not going to give way to mass transit anytime soon, especially in low density cities like Auckland.

    Bus riding Wellingtonian policy wonks might want to punish the rest of us by forcing us to ride buses ( in addition to just paying for them with taxation) with smelly Gold card holders but it ain’t gonna happen.

    [“smelly Gold card holders” charming. SP]

  9. Steve P: Isn’t $2billion of that $3 billion just a bribe for the Helen Clark’s Mt Albert electorate ? Now that is a bacon sandwich !!!

  10. So, why the hell are we spending $3 billion on two huge new motorway projects?

    Because road planners have to look at a longer term than what petrol prices are doing this month. Sudden price increases cause a shock that reduces demand. Give it a while and demand goes back where it was. The idea that this is the start of some permanent and significant fall in road usage isn’t very convincing – people are very resistant to reducing car usage long-term.

  11. T-rex 11

    Oddly enough, I agree with Bryan. In part anyway.

    Oil might be on the way out, but I don’t think personal transport will follow it.

    However, I do think that we’re not going to need new roads for a long time. Traffic density (in person/second) can be increased by an order of magnitude with smarter vehicle systems (i.e. take drivers out of the picture, because they suck). In the meantime oil will, as you point out, keep traffic densities down for us.

    No new highways!

  12. Stephen 12

    How is ruining your electorate with the construction and disruption required for a massive tunnel a “bribe”?

  13. Stephen: because it’s a lot less disruption than bowling 600 houses of Labour voters and digging a trench.

  14. Psych Milt : “Because road planners have to look at a longer term than what petrol prices are doing this month. ”

    Spot on.

  15. Stephen 15

    Are road planners looking at the RB’s forecasts then?

    From the Dom-post:

    The steeply climbing line is the price of crude oil, which has risen from US$33 a barrel to US$139 in four years. The graceful lines which curve downward are the Reserve Bank’s forecasts of future prices. In each instance the bank has been wrong. Despite its consistent view that oil is over-priced and will fall to a new “equilibrium”, the price has continued to rise inexorably.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4578022a6483.html

    From frogblog:

    May 2004, they said we would have a $26 per barrel oil price today. In May 2005 (Teal), they said today’s price would be $51 per barrel. In May of this year (Blue), they said we’d be at $56 right now.

    http://tinyurl.com/43ckba

  16. No-one is saying personal transport is on the way out. I’m saying the era of really cheap personal transport is over. People will still use cars, maybe not a hell of a lot less than now, but we don’t need to be adding capacity for that – we need more capcity for the people who won’t be able to afford to drive.

    Only fools like Byran think the price of petrol is going back to $1 a litre.

    electric cars etc – great, but you have to understand the amount of cheap energy that oil used to give us. Even a small internal combustion engine produces 100KW of power. Admittiedly most engines are only in use for an hour or so a day but, still, to replace those engines hundreds of thousands of times over with stationary electricity generation we would need billions of dollars of new capacity. No energy source is going to be as cheap as petrol was again (until we get fusion or something).

  17. Stephen 17

    So the bribe is that they won’t buy up and demolish 600 houses when currently more houses are needed? eh? I accept that it might cost less to do so, but sounds like a raw deal overall.

  18. MikeE 18

    What about private roads, that way those who aren’t big fans of private transport (such as yourself and many greenies I’d assume) don’t have to bear the cost of roads, while those who want them pay the full cost of the investment.

  19. roger nome 19

    To all the unfailingly moronic right wingers here – no one is saying that the car is dead. But everyone who’s in the know is saying that oil and therefore petrol are going to become more expensive.

    Essentially it’s a problem of supply an demand. The global economy keeps on growing at 4-5% per year, and while that growth looks set to slow, demand for oil will continue to outstrip supply – i.e. Economic growth in India and China will remain robust and less than one in 40 of their 2.4 billion inhabitants have their own automobile – and they all want one.

    i.e.

    The international energy agency reported reduced oil consumption in rich countries that make up the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, but noted few signs of slowing demand in developing countries, especially China and India.

    http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/10/news/international/iea_forecast.ap/index.htm

    Now, let’s have a look at the supply side. The task to keep up with demand is massive

    The world risks a supply “crunch” within seven years unless some 12.5 million barrels a day of new oil is added to the market, more than Saudi Arabia pumps today, according to the Paris-based IEA.

    No one is predicting that much extra capacity come 2015. Non-OPEC supply is set to peak in 2010, so it will have to come from the dictators of OPEC. Now, as a cartel you expect them to restrict supply and increase prices even if they have the spare capacity – but there’s no evidence that they do. So in any scenario the price of oil is set to keep increasing in the medium-term.

    More public transport, and less waste on roads thanks!

  20. T-rex 20

    Rather than re-argue every point with you here Roger I’ll just link to our last effort here

  21. djp 21

    I reckon petrol will get close to 1 NZD per litre (+inflation and assuming govt does not raise petrol tax) again.

    Oil futures speculation is what is driving the high price of oil.

    George Soros reckons about $60 of the current price of a barrel of oil is accounted for by speculators. Others are estimating from $40 to $90 per barrel.

    Even Obama just 2 days ago called for the Enron Loophole to be closed -> http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25318274/

  22. lprent 22

    Bryan:

    just a bribe for the Helen Clark’s Mt Albert electorate?

    I grew up in Mt Albert and I still do electorate work there.

    You are daft if you think that the people in Mt Albert want this damn road. It won’t help us with our traffic, it will just help the rest of Auckland.

    The best way of describing it at present is that the locals are getting resigned to it being built. That means the number of bodies doing an Arthur Dent will be less.

    It will cause an major disruption across the whole upper part of the electorate. It is going to make a major mess of some parks that I’m fond of.

    There is one motorway in Mt Albert already for the benefit of the westies. Personally I’d be in favour of dumping the damn thing elsewhere – but Auckland is a bloody isthmus. There are few routes and only one if you want to link to the north-western from the airport damnit.

    In short you can take the insinuation and shove it up where the sun doesn’t shine SIDEWAYS. We have to put up with it – we don’t have to put up with someone being a fuckwit about it.

  23. MikeE. I’d rather we do more productive things with our limited land in the major cities than cover it in unneeded roads.

  24. Incidentally, I was going to just go with the headlights on the dark highway pic from Lost Highway for this, but then I found the pic above. I reckon it’s awesome, great lighting. The larger version is a beauty.

  25. darryl p 25

    Just a thought starter, but let’s say that both roading projects are completed, which then allows cars/trucks to travel in and out of Auckland and Wellington at 70-100k per hour. How long would it take to recover the cost of the project through the fuel savings of all those cars/trucks on the road?

    At the moment coming into Auckland from the North Shore can take anywhere up to 60-70 minutes and the whole journey is spent accelerating in first or second gear and the braking to a halt a few meters down the road. A really inefficient use of petrol.

    But if all these cars can get from the North Shore to the city in 15-20 minutes going 70k in fourth gear then there is going to be a massive collective fuel saving as well as a reduced carbon footprint.

    Just a deferent way of looking at the whole thing…

    captcha: telephone koelble (not spooky, not relevant to post)

  26. roger nome 26

    T-rex:

    “Rather than re-argue every point with you here Roger I’ll just link to our last effort here”

    Didn’t we conclude that local driving would continue with much more expensive fuel, utilising light-weight transport (commuting), while much long-distance freight will move on to rail – which all means less maintenance needed, and a lower roading budget. That’s why I now advocate decreased spending on roading and more on public transport – particularly.

    djp:

    The reason for the so called “oil bubble” is that the market is expecting oil to be more expensive in the future, so the futures market goes nuts, which has a knock on effect for current prices. The market has woken up to peak oil, and the real scarcity/value of oil is now being reflected in its price. Any questions?

  27. Stephen 27

    darryl p, it might save money, but ironically the more people who make use of this fabulous new project, the less useful it gets because of congestion! So not much good I think.

  28. T-rex 28

    Roger – I think I agreed with you on oil, but not on traffic or energy availability, but then agreed again on roads (you thought there would be fewer trips, I thought there might be just as many if not more but that utilisation would vastly improve).

    Anyway, my comment above re: arguing with you was probably invalid.

    Public transport not roads – for sure.

  29. Matthew Pilott 29

    MikeE – I’m going to have a punt with that one. Why not? Perhaps the cost of transport has got to where it is no longer a public good, but more like the inner lanes of the Moscow Boulevards during the Cold War – private roads for the elite (politburo), but on public property.

    Of course there are a few problems – how will we, the public, be recompensed for the land and infractructure costs that have been publicly funded to date?

    If you’re talking about privatising all new roads (i.e. cease taxing petrol, and let developers build roads as the market wishes) then that is better, but private industry competing to build roads that would be privately owned doesn’t strike me as useful. How much duplication would you get, instead of having one single authority which contracts out building, for starters? How do you stop ‘free loaders’, people getting cheap petrol but avoiding private roads?

    Given the inefficiency of private vehicles, I don’t mind that people who commute alone every day help to fund roads and rail, which public transport can take advantage of. Since the private car has caused so much damage to the global common, it’s all to sweet that the cost is being internalised. I think roads should be privately funded anyway, and the money raised from taxes go to CarbonZero transport initiatives. Not too feasible though…

  30. Matthew Pilott 30

    darryl P – the problem is that it will encourage increased demand for roading, as the service is better. Greater road capacity will eventually result in a greater carbon footprint – but I know what you are getting at. I’m sure a balance can be struck that assists drivers, without excessively increasing demand – but a major project probably isn’t it.

  31. T-rex 31

    Mike – I actually started to reply and then got distracted.

    So long as you pay ALL the costs, including what would usually be externalities (noise pollution etc), and the road builder is prepared to accept all the risk (rather than get a govt guarantee in case of low use) then go for it.
    Good luck selling THAT business model though!

  32. lprent 32

    T: You forgot something. They should purchase the land for the road at market rates (ie whatever the market will bear). I really don’t want state powers being used for the benefit of private enterprise.

    It’d be interesting to see what the cost of the road would be after all of that.

  33. andy 33

    The tunnel:

    Transit have a problem with the design, the idea was to trench down beside Gt Nth Rd from Blockhouse Bay Rd to the motorway.

    Then they figured out they would absolutely f*^k up a major artery to build well a major artery. The trenching would disrupt the traffic and the Waterview area so badly and put extra pressure on other suburban routes and basically gridlock west Auckland. It is a Hobsons choice going overland.

    If anyone has driven that route in rush hour, and knows the geography (very important in decision) they will understand that a tunnel is the best option, it is not a bribe. It is the most expensive but least disruptive.

    My bad analogy would be to block the harbor bridge to build another harbor bridge.

  34. Good post. The Wellington Regional Council’s report talked about the “cannibalising” of passengers from the train system back into their cars if Transmission Gully was built. It had the dual adverse effects of persuading people to drive more and making the passenger transport system cost more because it would be used less. The best course is to fund the Wellington rail improvements and develop “clean” electricity supplies. There will then be a savings on the capital to construct, the annual cost to maintain and a reduced need to buy carbon credits.

    Pretty simple really.

    Auckland’s motorways have recently seen a reduction in useage for the first time ever. We really do need to think about the future and that the current rules are no longer going to apply.

  35. Rex Widerstrom 35

    Lynn asks:

    infused: What grades are the oil you’re talking about?… From memory the Albertan oilsands are essentially tar. Great if you want to produce plastics, adequete for some types of heating oils, and absolutely useless for getting light fractions required for motor vehicles.

    Australia’s 60 minutes had an item on this recently (link to video and transcript – ironically an ad for a car pops out of the same webpage!).

    According to the transcript: “Now, to get the bitumen out you have to heat it up with lots of water at a very high temperature, then process it, refine it, and presto – synthetic crude oil”.

  36. MikeE 36

    “So long as you pay ALL the costs, including what would usually be externalities (noise pollution etc), and the road builder is prepared to accept all the risk (rather than get a govt guarantee in case of low use) then go for it.”

    I think that is a fair enough requirement for private roads.. so would you agree with getting rid of the parts of the RMA which make it nigh on impossible to do this?

  37. T-rex 37

    Don’t know enough about the relevant bits of the RMA to comment sorry, but generally the RMA seems to have delivered pretty good results in terms of consultation with affected parties etc.

    I guess you’re talking about compulsory acquisition. I’m not sure. I don’t fully agree with Lynn, because that’s placing a pretty unfair burden on privately owned infrastructure that’s not faced by public development, but on the other hand public infrastructure development has different motivation.

  38. lprent 38

    T: I think that the original comment said something about the private roads being for private road users – ie not for the common interest.

    Yep MikeE said

    What about private roads, that way those who aren’t big fans of private transport (such as yourself and many greenies I’d assume) don’t have to bear the cost of roads, while those who want them pay the full cost of the investment.

    If that is the case, then it should be carried all of the way on a private basis. That would include having to purchase all of the land that the roads were on. If you dig back into the history of roading, I seem to remember that was why private roading became uneconomic a very long time ago.

  39. lprent 39

    RW: Yep and that is why it is unlikely to become economic on any sort of scale at anything like the current prices for motor vehicle fractions.

    I’m not up to date with modern refining and cracking. But just doing some rough figuring out what the energy budget is for that kind of operation scares me. Doesn’t anyone learn any basic science these days. The reporter in your links certainly seemed a bit clueless. My guess is that at present they’re selling it as bitumen – you notice that the reporter didn’t say what they are marketing? It’d probably be good for plastics because those processes often use the higher carbon structures.

    If they stop at heating/bunker oil it is probably sort of economic at some point. The yield would be low but the energy budget might work and they’d be able to use the waste for roading.

    If they continue to cracking to get the lighter fractions for motor fuels, then they’re better hope that oil prices hit the roof. The stuff STARTS as bitumen which is the bottom end waste from most refineries – the yield would be crap with any known tech. I’d suspect that almost any other known technology would be economic before then.

    Hell – I suspect that growing whole forests for charcoal based engines would be more economic. I haven’t even looked at the environmental effects.

  40. T-rex 40

    Lynn, economically it’s viable at the current price. Amortizing plant costs over long term and improving processes are expected to deliver $30-$40/barrel for petroleum.

    Environmentally it’s a total mess – terrible solution.

    I wouldn’t invest in it. $40/barrel is still expensive as an energy source, electric replacements are going to beat 8 kinds of hell out of it. Demand will slump, and the plants will go back to sitting idle, just like after the last oil spike.

  41. T-rex 41

    On roads – Fair enough, but regardless of who’s funding it (private or public) it still ends up being for the interests of most at the cost of some.

    Making private enterprise face a cost which is just swept aside as “for the greater good” when a public entity does it seems unreasonable.

  42. Matthew Pilott 42

    I watched that doco as well – it wasn’t pretty. They talked about it as a great option for Austrialia (which has the equivalent, but trapped in rock, not sand, which must be even less economic), but I noticed no one gave figures as to how much water the process requires – not such a problem in Alberta, teeny, slight problem in Australia, apparently.

    As Rex said – they did mention ‘lots of water’. Imagine if you live with Queensland’s Grade 5 restrictions, and have 125 l of water a day (wash some clothes, flush the bog twice, cook dinner and do the dishes and you might squeak in with a 2 minute shower) to live on. Now imagine you need ten times that to make a barrel of oil. Sell that if you can.

    Problematic.

    T-rex – you said $40/barrel as a source, what do you mean by that? pre- or post-refining? How is that comparable to traditional oil sources (i.e. the wet stuff in the ground)?

    Rex W – that was on over here too on our 60 mins, in case you’re wondering. I’d heard about tar sands, was interesting to see them in a bit more detail.

  43. T-rex 43

    I’m not an expert – I did a brief study on it about a year back, sufficient to lable it a seriously weak solution compared to alternatives, didn’t look into it any further. I imagine the optimistic $30/$40 per barrel is assuming no limitations on other resources.

    More details are here. It’s a fossil fuel lobby device IMNSHO, “Hey, keep buying petrol cars, there’s plenty left”. If it replaces petrol in widespread use then it will be one of the biggest signs yet that we, as a species, are f*cking useless.

    Check out, in particular, the EROI.

    It is the single most inefficient and polluting way I can imagine of getting cars around. I would support electricity from coal over oil from oilshale by a LONG margin.

  44. Our June Oil Production Briefing Paper is out now. We look at why Saudi Arabia won’t be able to overcome its own internal demand, and also the myth that speculators are driving up the price of oil.

    http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/news/134/53.htm

    It is also worth noting there has been a 6% decrease in traffic volumes for the northern motorway in Auckland, where the new Northern busway runs along side. Conversely there was a 6% increase in traffic on the Manukau Harbour Crossing, where there is no effective rapid transit. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

  45. roger nome 45

    Rex:

    “Australia’s 60 minutes had an item on this recently (link to video and transcript – ironically an ad for a car pops out of the same webpage!)”

    That’s all well and good rex, but you’re talking two barrels of sludgy toxic waste for every barrel produced and nearly twice as much carbon per unit of energy produced. With demand for liquid fuel projected to near double in the next 30 years you’re talking environmental melt-down.

    Also, the energy required carry out the process is massive, and involves mainly natural gas, which is set to peak a decade or so after oil. To get around this people in the industry have been talking about constructing nuclear power plants expressly for the purpose of replacing the gas. Surely it would just be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to go the nuclear-powered, electric car route?

  46. Sheik Sensible 46

    Why the hell is is $2.00 plus per litre? Because the filth merchants in the present government thieve petrol taxes and GST from consumers. That’s why!

  47. Matthew Pilott 47

    Yes, non-road users should pay for roading, that’s only fair.

    SS – back to your sandbox, child, you’re not worthy.

    In credit though, you didn’t mess up your spelling or grammar, apart from the second “is”, where there should be an “it”. Well done on the apostrophe use, not everyone can get that right. Proper NZ spelling on “litre” too, and you got “thieve” correct – ‘i’ before ‘e’. So you’re not totally useless.

    I’d have used a hyphen for the “that’s why?” sentence but that’s more aesthetics, though it is a fragment in essence.

    Now try to put the effort given to your technical writing into some critical thought.

  48. frog 48

    Thank you Stephen, for quoting the Dom Post and my blog. I would love to croak that the Dom Post got the chart you quote from me. Then I had to explain it to them. :-0

    Anyone who thinks that pushing 2 tonnes of steel down to the dairy and back to pick up 1 kilogram of milk has a future is deluding themselves. Personal transport as we know it is history. Oil is the most energy dense, easily worked energy sources we have, and we are pissing it away doing useless work.

  49. T-rex 49

    “Personal transport as we know it is history”

    Could you qualify that please? I’ve had a similar argument with rogernome. I agree that the scenario you describe above is history (2tons for 1kg), but personal transport is a very broad term…

    And I’d actually argue that oil is a pretty crap energy source. We just happened to have developed a dependence on it rather than something else. That’ll change in time… probably not very much of it either!

    I’d expect oil to be essentially unused (as an energy source anyway) in 30 years, but energy to be more available than ever.

  50. Sheik Sensible 50

    Gosh Mr Pilott you ARE erudite. I bet you have a degree…my pick is a very routine BA which undoubtedly suits your employment and qualifies you for little else!

    The petrol tax imposed by the government was the intended focus of my contribution but I now perceive that ad-hominem peripheral nit-picking is your forte. Good luck to you.

    Please direct me to a blogg which caters for those of us who can acutely ponder issues rather than being a theatre for your school-teacher type rantings.

  51. lprent 51

    SS: From the juvie sarcasm (and lousy spelling). You look like a good candidate for Cline Heine et al or possibly WhaleOil. Look under Right blogs on the left. Just my opinion of course.

    Lynn

  52. Which petrol tax? There has been no increase in the excise (beyond CPI) in years, GST is the same, and the reigonal fuel taxes are not yet in place, if they coem in at all.

    In fact, the Govt’s revenue is dropping because of high petrol prices. Less petrol is consumed meaning less excise is gathered (it’s charged per litre, not on price) and the GST from extra spending on petrol comes at the cost of GST not being gathered from spending on other things.

    And don’t forget, police cars, ambulances, army vehicles, they all run on petrol or diesel too. Higher prices hit the govt and cut it’s revenue.

  53. Matthew Pilott 53

    SS, sorry, I didn’t think it was meant to be a serious comment or one that had a valid ‘focus’ as such.

    Don’t worry, the language debate is always a second to the politics, since I didn’t think you had much to contribute by way of political discussion I thought I’d resort to the grammar.

    A BA (or any other non-vocational degree) can get you into all types of gainful employment. Don’t take my word for it though, by all means.

  54. T-rex 54

    Sheik – What’s your problem with petrol taxes? Their level (which, as Steve points out, hasn’t changed – and in fact has reduced as far as total revenue is concerned) or the fact that they’re charged at all? How do you think roads should be funded?

    As of early this year(?) all funds collected through excise tax on petrol even go into land transport projects.

    What’s your beef? That roads should be free?

  55. Tane W 55

    T-Rex,

    I can’t speak for frog, but it’s worth noting he/she/it said “…personal transport as we know it is history”. Not personal transport per se, but rather the way we currently transport ourselves. I’m not certain of your discussions with roger nome, but I think you’d agree with that.

    I think the future is going to see a lot more walking and cyclying, more use of public transport, and the slowly decling use of personal vehicles for ‘special’ trips only. The distance and terrain types that people consider to be walkable will increase greatly, and we’ll become a lot smarter about combining trips. Earlier generations coped without cars, and while they did live in smaller, denser communities, they made things work. Or rather, things worked because they did live in smaller, denser communities.

    The problem of course will be in the transition from our current system of personal transport, to the future, low-energy one. People’s expectations are going to have to be severely altered, and this won’t be a pretty process. I almost pity the next party in government, because they’ll cop it in the neck. Also, a lot of people with very expensive properties miles away from anywhere useful are going to find themselves with something they can’t use and can’t sell. It’s happening already in the States (exurbs are the hardest hit by the real estate crash).

    So I think frog is right; personal transport, as we know it, is history.

  56. roger nome 56

    Sheik Senseless,

    the excise tax was put in place by the National Party in the early 1950s, so they could scrap the Labour Governmet’s plans to build first-class electric rail infrastructure in Auckland, and fund their new highways.

    Are you saying we should reverse that? i.e. cut the tax on petrol, stop spending so much on roads and start investing more in pubic transport? If so, I can only offer you my whole hearted agreement!

  57. roger nome 57

    Tane W –

    T-Rex thinks that electricity will take the place of oil. This would entail growing electricity generation at a rate of 10% per year for the next 30 years. He says Solar and wind can do it. Sorry Rex, but that’s head in the clouds stuff.

  58. Liquid Energy prices may indeed fall again for different reasons.

    The high price of oil has led to people innovating; and if they can make a bug which can take any organic waste, and turn it into crude oil – that’s sustainable oil at $50/bbl. It was never worthwhile researching with oil at $10/bbl, $20/bbl etc – as well as the difficulty in genetic engineering etc. But now, the economics are different and making bacteria with specialised ribosomes to perform bespoke chemical reactions is not science fiction.

    Let’s just hope that modified E.Coli doesn’t make it out into the wild – I bet soil laced with long-chain hydrocarbons would be microbially antisocial, to put it mildly. But what a risk in terms of patent law – one leaked bacterium could mean a market awash with back-yard oil producers. After all, individuals aren’t subject to being told they can’t use a patented invention they’ve “built” themselves.

  59. T-rex 59

    Roger – I think electricity in combination with new vehicles can replace oil in functionality. There’s no need to replace the energy equivalent. As I described in my last post under “ambitious for big oil” – linked to in my response to you above.

    We could supply energy for the majority of personal transport requirements in NZ by increasing our existing WIND generation by about 25%. A breeze – if you’ll pardon the expression.

    So in conclusion, I think personal transport will be more widespread than ever. Just different… and a lot better.

    At any rate, I don’t think we’ll need new roads. Just maintain the existing ones. So add my vote to upgrading the rail network.

  60. Kevyn 60

    SP, Which petrol tax? I think he meant the one appropriated by the Finance Act each year rather than the one appropriated by sole authority of the Land Transport Management Act. The latter one has been increased twice in recent years, unless your definition of recent years is “less than two years”.

    Roger. Since the “user pays” motor spirits excise duty was introduced in 1927.
    http://www.petroltax.org.nz/documents_1918-1953.html

    I can only assume your refence to a 1950’s National government is actually referring to that government’s response to the Roading Invesigation Committee’s report. The truth (according to Mr Goosman) can be found here:
    http://www.petroltax.org.nz/documents_1954-1999.html

    If the Labour Governmet’s had plans to build first-class electric rail infrastructure in Auckland then why didn’t they include that infrastructure in the regional public works plan published in the appendices to the Parliamentary Journal in 1947?
    http://www.petroltax.org.nz/images/AK-1947.jpg

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