Monday, July 28, 2008

Eye on the prize

Eduardo Galeano in Upside Down lays out the case for the rapacious consumption of resources by they corporations and politics which brings to the unsustainable state of peak everything with a planet where life itself is imperiled. But politics won't address peak anything even when the benefits are clear.

Higher gas prices have reduced revenue for road widening, reduced VMT, reduced gas consumption, lowered fatalities, raised public transit usage, reduced pollution, etc. For years public officials were trying to raise public transit usage - now the buses and trains are running full and capacity is an issue. The Peninsula Traffic Relief Alliance reported at the Belmont Green Advisory Committee that all their last mile shuttles are running full. When will policy makers stop moaning and start cheering a ladder for $20/gallon along with some minor TDM strategies?

The GAC has asked for a 20 mph city that would enable NEV- Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, they max out at 25 mph, reduce pollution, enable hybrids to run on their electric motor, make the environment safe for walking and bicycling the two sustainable transport modes, and reduce danger to children, seniors, and pets/wild animals. Most streets today are 25 mph or less so that change the speed environment much. The few arterials like Ralston (25-40 but with schools and neighborhoods needing 20 -25), El Camino (35), and Alameda (25) within the city would show marginal changes. However teh difference for walkers and bicyclists would be immense. And the attitude of drivers on side streets like Monserat and Folger which could use 15mph are posted at 25 and get speeds in excess would be the main benefit.

Building local distributed power for water, sewer, and electricity with solar panels would also significantly the infrastructure load of cities. Wind can then be used to fill reservoirs near citeis which can run hydro at night when the wind is not blowing and recharge the NEVs.

Alternate thinking for significant resource consumption declines face daunting tasks as wind demonstrates. Coal and nuclear lures despite clear liability in pollution, waste, and liability and continue to enjoy subsidies which lower the cost of power delivery because the problems are exported to poorer areas (also documented in Upside Down.) The only bright line is that rising prices cause subsidies to exert a bigger force on the market in reduced subsidy or taxed areas.

Ignorant development of water, timber and land have lead to this unsustainable consumption state. Some universities are working to correct this with programs that involve a new approach to day-to-day living, and the reappraisal of the existing infrastructure to achieve genuine change and keep sight of where we need to go.

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