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Alternatives to Automobiles



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Alternatives to Automobiles

  • Bicycles/walking
    • 30% of all trips by bike in Amsterdam; 2% in Portland, OR
  • Busses
  • Trains
    • 15 x more efficient per passenger than autos
    • Amtrak ridership up, but receives 1/3 the amount of federal funding (adjusted for inflation) that it received 20 years ago
    • Speeds slow compared with other countries

Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Electric cars -killed by oil companies, automakers in early 20th century
  • Natural gas, gasohol, and biodiesel
    • Natural gas from fracking now constitutes ½ of U.S. fuel output, over-rated (est. -5% to +9% change in carbon emissions), carries environmental and seismic risks
    • Beware Jevon’s Paradox (Increased efficiency leading to increased overall energy consumption)

Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Solar cars
  • Hydrogen-powered cars
    • Byproduct = water
    • Problem: Hydrogen production requires fossil fuels
  • Telecommuting
    • Average American spends about 475 hrs/yr in car, 42 hrs/yr stalled or creeping along in traffic

US Energy Consumption by Fuel

  • Oil – 37%
    • peak oil production originally predicted 2014; new estimates much farther in future, but sources dirtier and more expensive/more dangerous to obtain
  • Natural gas – 24%
  • Coal – 22% - peak coal production 1920
  • Nuclear – 8.5%
  • Renewables (mostly hydroelectric and biomass; small amounts of geothermal, wind, and solar) – 7.3%

U.S. Energy Sources for Electricity

  • Coal – 51%
  • Nuclear – 20%
  • Gas – 17%
  • Oil – 1%
  • Renewables (mostly hydroelectric) – 9%
  • Electricity generation utilizes 40% of US energy

US Energy Consumption

  • Transportation – 29%
    • Note ships burn very dirty fuels – just 160 of the world’s fleet of 6,000 cargo ships create the same amount of smog and particulate matter as all the cars in the world
  • Industrial – 25%
  • Residential – 11.5%
  • Commercial – 8.5%

True Cost of Fossil Fuels

  • Global tax benefits and fossil fuel subsidies over $5 trillion
    • Higher than what governments worldwide spend on public health
    • If all such benefits and subsidies were stopped, 1.6 million preventable deaths/yr would be averted

True Cost of Fossil Fuels

  • U.S. = $550 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2012
    • vs. $120 billion in subsidies for renewables (excluding military costs)
    • Public health costs = 2X electricity rates

True Cost of Fossil Fuels

  • When subsidies and externalities taken into account, renewables look great
  • Even so, Peabody Energy attempting to rebrand coal as a cure for poverty

Petroleum Industry Profits

  • Mergers squelch competition, drive up prices
  • Record-breaking oil company profits
    • 3 of the world’s 10 most profitable corporations in 2016 were oil companies
    • Exxon: $45.2 billion in 2008 and $34 billion in 2016
      • 2008 profits largest in U.S. history (exceed GDP of 2/3 of world’s nations)

Belridge, CA Oil Fields Edward Burtynsky

Nigerian Gas Flare

The U.S. and Oil

  • U.S. consumes > 20 million bbl/d
    • Produces 5 million bbl/d
    • World’s largest crude oil importer
    • Ironically, greatest export in 2011 is gas, diesel, jet fuel, and other fuels
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserve holds more than 700 million bbl
  • ANWR contains 4.3 – 11.8 billion bbl oil
    • One year supply

The U.S. and Oil

  • 23 billion bbl under remaining U.S. territory
  • 2.5 million abandoned oil and gas wells litter U.S. (20-30 million worldwide)
    • Pollution, explosion hazards
  • Alberta Tar Sands (shale oil), Keystone Pipeline controversies

Oil and War

  • Countries that export oil are >40 times more likely to be engaged in civil war than those that do not
  • Gulf Wars I and II
  • The Future?

Coal

  • 33% of U.S. carbon emissions (41% of world’s)
  • Coal mining dangerous (explosions, cave-ins, black lung disease)
    • 48 deaths in 2010 from “accidents”/cave-ins
    • 75,000 deaths from black lung disease in U.S. (1968-2007)

Coal

  • Mountain-top removal damages ecosystems
  • Coal-fired power plants top source of mercury worldwide
  • EPA’s 2011 limits on emissions to prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 MIs, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma

Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • 100 million tons/yr from Powder River Basin (WY, MT; 40% of US coal deposits)
    • Purchased from public lands and to be sold cheaply to markets in Asia
  • 20 trains/day, each 1-1.5 miles long, each over 100 cars and powered by 4 diesel engines
  • 12 barge tows/wk down Columbia River
  • Amount expected to possibly quintuple by 2030

Risks of Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • Diesel Fuel
    • Produces 15% less CO2 than gasoline, but 4X more NO2 and 22X more particulate matter
  • Diesel particulate matter:
    • Impairs lung development; associated with asthma, COPD, heart disease, stroke, and cancers
  • Coal dust:
    • COPD, pneumoconiosis – black lung, contains heavy metals

Risks of Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • Noise:
    • Associated with fatigue, ischemic heart disease/HTN/arrhythmia, increased risk of stroke, exacerbation of mental health problems, fatigue, cognitive development, quality of life
  • Train traffic delays affecting emergency responders
  • Derailments, car vs. train accidents


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