Indy Star gives us a wake-up call

This editorial is quite appropriate here for my 100th blog post. The whole thing was beautiful to wake up to on a Tuesday after a 3-day weekend, but here are some choice quotes:

“On the individual level, this means conservation. Switch to a compact car. Reduce and consolidate trips. Join a carpool. Ride a bike. Take the bus. Walk.”

“When frustration and outright hardship over gas prices reach a certain breaking point, the developers of homes, malls, offices and factories may feel a pull back toward the central city from which so much wealth has been drained via suburban sprawl.

In Indianapolis in particular, the continuing need for multi-county commuting and relief from traffic congestion and fuel costs ought to accelerate the building of a regional mass-transit system and make the investment of tax dollars in it more palatable to the public.

The role of IndyGo, the woefully underfunded mass-transit option of the here and now, should expand with the growing disparity between the $1.50 fare and prices at the gas pump.

The state might rethink the virtually exclusive devotion of Major Moves money to road construction at the sacrifice of bus and rail.”

Whatever is done at the national level is unlikely to change the international reality of motor fuel as a high-demand and high-cost commodity. Election-year gimmicks for making it cheaper, such as tax “holidays,” would only exacerbate the problem of over-consumption.

Consumers are getting it, at least according to strong anecdotal signals from the motoring, real estate and industrial fronts in the Indianapolis area. Poked and prodded by higher prices in their day-to-day lives, citizens may look further into the inefficiencies of prevailing transportation habits and convert themselves, business and government into seeking alternatives. When it comes to mass transit, for example, communities similar to this one have shown that if you build it, they will come.

“We need to tell our story better, and we can tell it better thanks to these developments of late,” says Dennis Hodges, founder and director of the Indiana High Speed Rail Association. “Now that we have an ear, do we have the political will to carry it out?”

This editorial could be summed up this bold statement: Sprawl can not be maintained easily in a time of rising oil prices. I must give them credit, because the easy thing to do is to point fingers at environmentalists for not allowing oil companies to drill in ANWR or offshore. The cry for more drilling has become louder with each price jump; however, they seem to ignore geologic realities. From an article on oil in the National Geographic:

Yet even oil optimists concede that physical limits are beginning to loom. Consider the issue of discovery rates. Oil can’t be pumped from the ground until it has been found, and yet the volume discovered each year has steadily fallen since the early 1960s despite dazzling technological advances, including computer-assisted seismic imaging that allows companies to “see” oil deep below the Earth’s surface. One reason for the decline is simple mathematics: Most of the big, easily located fields—the so-called “elephants”—were discovered decades ago, and the remaining fields tend to be small. Not only are they harder to find than big fields, but they must also be found in greater numbers to produce as much oil. Last November, for example, oil executives were ecstatic over the discovery off the Brazilian coast of a field called Tupi, thought to be the biggest find in seven years. And yet with as much as eight billion barrels, Tupi is about a fifteenth the size of Saudi Arabia’s legendary Ghawar, which held about 120 billion barrels at its discovery in 1948.

Smaller fields also cost more to operate than larger ones do. “The world has zillions of little fields,” says Matt Simmons, a Houston investment banker who has studied the oil discovery trend. “But the problem is, you need a zillion oil rigs to get at them all.” This cost disparity is one reason the industry prefers to rely on large fields—and why they supply more than a third of our daily output. Unfortunately, because most of the biggest finds were made decades ago, much of our oil is coming from mature fields that are now approaching their peaks, or are even in decline; output is plummeting in once prolific regions such as the North Sea and Alaska’s North Slope.

There is no dispute that there is a good amount of oil in ANWR or off of our shores, but they simply do not contain enough oil to replace dwindling giants such as Ghawar or Cantarell.

Sprawl assumes that we will keep finding more oil. Or possibly, it assumes that we will find a substitute for oil very quickly. With global competition for oil rising, and the world’s most productive fields falling, those are two extremely dangerous assumptions.

Conservation is the best answer for us at this time. With much of our wealth spent on places where conservation is almost impossible, this will be a difficult transition. However, I believe that it is absolutely necessary.

Comments 6

  • Yup, I have started to ride the bus to work instead of drive from the southside – and actually it is pretty nice. People I have talked to about it are usually just scared to take the first step and try it – that or they know nothing about the route, etc.

  • Good for you. I love the bus. It’s much more enjoyable when traffic is someone else’s problem.

  • Great post.

  • Even at $5, gas won’t cost as much as the day-pass on IndyGo since I live and work in Center Twp.

    The issues will be the 20-mile runs out to shop or see a show in the ‘burbs and the occasional day or weekend trip to Cincinnati, Chicago, Columbus or St. Louis. Trips to the East Coast or Gulf are out of the question…it’s cheaper to fly for now.

  • While the gas prices hurt right now, they do seem like the necessary impetus to get people to re-think their consumption habits. Also in the Star today was an article titled “Oil crisis fears spawn survivalists”. These people seem to have an especially bleak view of the future but we admire the simpler life that they have made for themselves.

  • I missed that article, WYA…even searched for it online. Is this happening in Indiana, or elsewhere?

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