On Apr 4, 2005, at 1:47 PM, J.H. Crawford wrote:
> Hi All,
> On May 19-20 I'll be attending the ASPO meeting in Lisbon.
> This will be attended by all the big names in peak-oil studies.
> Some of these folks (e.g., Matt Simmons) have influence in
> high places.
> I've got a poster reserved for carfree cities and will
> take some flyers if I can get the ready in time. Does
> anyone have any idea what we ought to be trying to say
> to these folks?
OK, I'll brainstorm here and throw out some ideas.
The workshop has a couple of topics (
) where presenting the
idea of carfree cities fits in well. I think the most relevant are:
• Impacts of Depletion in Oil Importing Countries: The Demand Pressure
• The World Past Peak Oil Age
(BTW, the ASPO people are also interested in natural gas depletion.)
Obviously, the first one is mostly about CARS: though I don't have the
statistics (does someone on the list know where the stats are?) I am
pretty sure that the major use of cars is for transportation *within*
rather than *between* urban areas. Whatever the statistics, you
certainly have a huge chunk of demand right there.
The second topic is where I'm sure you are going to hear the
traditional alternatives of fuel cell, hydrogen, electric batteries,
compressed air, and biofuel etc. being raised as solutions. This is
*also* mainly about satisfying demand for powering CARS. This is where
the *other *alternative, reducing demand by reducing or eliminating car
use, needs to be brought up.
I would suggest:
1. A critique of alternative power sources whose motivation is
maintaining business with cars, especially within urban areas but also
for intercity transport (not to forget that none of the alternatives is
practical for air transport).
It is worthwhile to mention the implications of the Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment, especially given the scenario of using farmland
to grow fuel for cars: I wonder, for example, how much of the
rainforest to farmland conversion going on in Brazil is due to the
demand for fields to grow crops for ethanol? As for the other power
alternatives, the central question is when they could be made available
at a large scale, and *whether* they could be made available at a scale
similar to petroleum, and how economically practical it could be to
have a mixture of all these technologies at a large scale just to keep
the cars rolling.
Big point: somewhere along the line, we are all collectively going to
have to choose our priorities. Petroleum and natural as, as scarce and
ever more expensive resources, are going to have to be reserved over
the coming decades for applications more crucial than driving
2. Arguments for replacing autocentric infrastructure with (denser)
carfree cities and train-based intercity transport. Shifting away from
sprawl to denser urban areas should also have *some* (how big though?)
effect on demand for gas/oil for heating. If you can find the stats for
petroleum and gas consumption in urban areas, that would give some
indication of how gradually moving toward a carfree (and busfree) model
might alleviate the difficulties ahead.
(I would mention "In town without my car" days around the world,
downtown Copenhagen's gradual pedestrianization, Delanoë's and
Livingstone's efforts in Paris and London, the "Mont-Royal avenue
verte" movement in Montreal's Plateau district etc. to show that a
demand is there.)
It might be worthwhile presenting several alternative hypothetical
scenarios for impact on the post-peak transition based on how quickly a
carfree transition is made, what kind of city we are dealing with
(traditional compact European city vs an Atlanta or LA etc.). Bringing
this up as a set of hypotheses for further research might get someone
at the workshop interested in collaborating on an in-depth study that
would bolster the case for moving to a carfree model. The question of
topologies would be worth thinking about here. Cities with an already
dense urban fabric basically impose a topology on you, so the best way
to adapt New York, Washington DC or Montreal, for example, would be to
use a criss-cross grid. Older cities in Europe, Asia and Africa would
require another topology (cf. the Lyon Protocol). Suburban areas in
North America, Australia and others that have gone to sprawl might be
most suitable to variants of the tangent loops ("mandala") topology you
propose in the book: I think it would be an effective way of bringing
about densification (with its advantages) while at the same time
returning significant areas of land to agriculture or wilderness.
3. Of course, there are the other arguments for the benefits of carfree
cities at the human and social level, which go beyond the question of
how urban form and fuel demand interact. No harm in arguing that
carfree cities would overall be more humane environments than the
cities we have today.
Washington DC/Mount Rainier, Maryland