New Urbanism and Transit Oriented Development are the Solution
to Global Warming and Peak Oil
The debate about Global Warming and Peak Oil are over. The latest UN report confirms Global Warming is happening now, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and urges serious and immediate action to prevent global catastrophe. The urgent message is that we need to reduce our oil consumption by 70-80% as quickly as possible.
Positive changes have begun!
Awareness of the seriousness of the problem has spread rapidly around the planet. Global Warming and oil supply problems are now urgent topics of daily concern all around the world. Business leaders are asking for changes and new regulation. Governments are seeking solutions and ideas. Citizens want to participate in the changes, and everyone wants a bright future for their children and grandchildren. In America alone, more than 60% of the voters, the Supreme Court, over 400 cities, the US National Academy of Sciences, and numerous major US corporations all want change.
The solutions for reducing oil consumption are all around us. The research is complete and the results are in – it’s now time to quickly put the right solutions into widespread use across America, and around the world. At the same time, we need to stop investing in the systems that are at the root of the problem (sprawl, roads, cars, aviation).
Oil Replacements Are Not Economically Feasible
Creating a replacement for oil and continuing 'business as usual' is not possible. Biofuels have a very limited prospect, and compete directly with food production. It is questionable if biofuels even produce any net energy when all inputs of energy are added up: growing the crops (such as corn), harvesting, transporting, processing, and delivery.
The Real Solution is to Reduce Oil Demand
We need a replacement for cars. The transition away from cars can be accomplished by halting the growth of sprawl and roads, and greatly increasing the supply of trains and walkable communities connected to the trains - where people can live comfortably without dependence on a car. Walking and riding trains and bicycles are the replacement for cars. Communities need to be reconfigured to the scale and comfort of the pedestrian.
Compared to Europeans, Americans use 8 times more energy per person, per day. It can be stated that Europeans actually have a higher standard of living because they are not forced to spend countless stressful hours stuck in traffic daily. Their cities are dense, walkable, and beautiful, and they have extensive, state-of-the-art train systems going everywhere. Americans use 8 times more energy than Europeans because 90% of American communities are not walkable (sprawl), and we have not invested in a world-class national rail network the way Europeans have been for many years. We have invested our wealth in roads, cars, and sprawl – all of which waste huge amounts of energy, and are unsustainable.
With our new knowledge of the problems and solutions, we must now act quickly, and on a grand scale to redesign our communities and transportation systems to greatly reduce the need for driving and cars.
Our 10 solutions below help point the way for a better future.
Here is our proposal for reducing our oil use, and dealing with this emergency:
We are facing the most serious environmental crises in the history of the planet:
> Global Warming and climate change threaten the survival of the human race
> Peak Oil - World oil supplies are running out while our oil use is increasing rapidly
> Energy Security - Increasing global conflicts over the remaining oil -- "It's a fight to the last drop"
> Traffic congestion is rapidly paralyzing America and the rest of the world while wasting
millions of gallons of gas daily
> Out of control sprawl is devouring prime farmlands and pristine wilderness areas, and
creating the massive traffic congestion
While these situations seem impossible to solve, these 10 solutions solve all these problems at once:
10 SOLUTIONS that are feasible, sustainable, safe, and healthy:
1. An immediate and permanent moratorium on all new major road construction and expansions. (Every additional dollar spent building and widening roads digs us deeper into our dangerous oil / auto addiction, and increases global warming)
2. A huge increase in funding for Amtrak, and the rapid construction of a new nationwide train network. This should connect every city, town, and neighborhood with an efficient, state-of-the-art electric train network comparable to what is currently operating all across Europe and Japan. This should be built to transport both passengers and all the cargo now moved by very inefficient trucks. Trains are by far the most energy efficient form of transportation that greatly reduces global warming, saves lives, and encourages compact, walkable communities.
3. An immediate moratorium on the building of any additional sprawl. Sprawl is probably the single largest contributor to oil addiction and global warming due to it's very design (or lack thereof). Sprawl forces everyone to drive many miles daily for everything, which in turn requires constant road expansions, encouraging more cars and driving, and more sprawl. Its a vicious cycle consuming ever more oil, and spewing out more pollution, making global warming continually worse.
4. A major focus of federal, state, and local governments on New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and Transit Oriented Development - the revitalization and densification of all existing cities and towns across America into walkable, mixed-use communities, with pedestrians and bicycles given top priority over automobiles, and a serious focus on bicycles and trains as the major forms of transportation. Included would be millions of affordable housing units and high quality neighborhood schools located so all children can walk or bike to them.
5. The rapid tripling of minimum vehicle miles per gallon standards for all vehicles produced in America - accomplished by a quick and complete conversion of all automobile manufacturing facilities to the building of only hybrid, solar, and fully electric vehicles.
Government car purchases made each year should be switched to buying only hybrids and fully electric cars. It is estimated that the entire U.S. government purchases well over a million new vehicles each year - the sum total of Federal, State, & Local Government agencies, municipalities, counties, highway patrol, sheriff, police and fire departments, etc.
The real solution is to eventually stop making cars altogether by a phased retooling of the auto industry into manufacturing trains (much like during the second world war when they switched to building military equipment).
6. An immediate and permanent moratorium on all new airport construction and expansions, as well as an end to all aviation subsidies.
7. An immediate moratorium on the construction of any new coal fired or nuclear power generating plants. Contrary to industry proponents who say nuclear is a "clean energy" solution to global warming - nuclear power is far from clean. The waste it produces is the most toxic substance known to humankind, remaining deadly radioactive for many thousands of years, with no safe way to store or dispose of it, and no way of preventing it from being made into weapons.
8. The rapid construction of massive new solar and wind power generating capacity all across America, from large-scale installations to smaller neighborhood and roof-top units. Also, the immediate installation of new hydropower generating capacity in the form of coastal wave and tidal energy capture.
9. The rapid installation of full roof solar panels on every building in America.
10. The installation of hundreds of acres of organic farms throughout every city and town in America. In addition to this, the planting of millions of trees across America.
(James Howard Kunstler is a vocal advocate of new urbanism as a solution to peak oil.)