Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
the future - I don't think so!
This is the Nissan Leaf. It's being marketed as 'zero-emission'. This is what our leaders seriously think will be the future of transport, along with biofuels, fuel cells, hydrogen and no doubt magic spells.
Let's get this straight. This vehicle is NOT zero-emission. Even a tram or train is not zero-emission. Even a bicycle isn't as it has embedded energy in its construction and maintenance. Nothing, short of walking barefoot, is zero-emission.
Our 'leaders' think we are stupid. We've been sold the semi-myth of global warming as the reason for all this faffing about looking for new 'clean' energy sources. They are TERRIFIED of Peak Oil, the only consolation being that they will not have to worry about the consequences. Even airhead George Bush lives off the grid.
We will almost certainly NEVER find a zero-emission energy source. Anything that helps produce energy or uses energy will have required energy to build it. How much embedded energy went into building this wonderful 'zero-emission' car for example?
And, more to the point, how is it going to run? Well it's 100% electric. So it will need batteries. Batteries need metals to work. Are they mined and transported with NO energy use? And will these batteries never need recharging? No, they'll need recharging very often as the range is just 100 miles! And the electricity needed to recharge them - that's going to be zero-emission is it? No, even if it's fuelled 100% by renewables including nuclear there is still loads of embedded energy in the construction and maintenance process. But of course they will just be topped up via the grid. That means burning coal and oil which produce tons of emissions.
The point is that energy in the future will be constrained. The easy energy has now all been used up. Every decision - economic, political and personal - in the future will have to take into account energy use and availability. Personal transport is unlikely to be anything more than bike, foot or, if you're lucky, horse. To keep freight moving, and people moving further than the range of a bike or horse, we'll need railways. To move perishables quickly we'll need railways. To get people to work or on holiday we'll need railways. To get people around towns and cities we'll need trams. Everything we currently move on our congested and crumbling roads will need to be moved by rail or horse. As cheap energy runs out it'll become harder and harder to seek out alternatives.
The main point is that we can do all we need to do in the future using pre-oil technology. That doesn't mean it has to be dowdy, utilitarian or boring. It can still be ultra-modern. But the principles behind it will be mainly pre-oil. Rail uses a quarter of the fuel to move equivalent loads compared to road transport. It's all to do with friction. It can also have energy delivered by many different modes, from using wires, third rails, conduits, stubs or batteries for electricity, to burning wood or waste for a new generation of steam locomotives. The linear nature of railways will allow plenty of methods of collecting and distributing renewable energy, from solar panels on telegraph poles to windmills at station and loco shed sites. Woodland can be planted alongside railways for future fuel sources.
Roads will die sooner than most of us think. As fuel becomes more and more expensive less and less of us will have the option of personal transport use. We'll be clamouring for public transport. Sustainable public transport. More and more freight will switch to rail, particularly as new lines are opened, taking pressure off the current network. The roads themselves will crumble as oil, a principal component of asphalt, becomes almost impossible to find. Roads may survive in towns, carrying a few underpowered and expensive electric delivery vehicles, but roads between towns will fall into disuse as we all take the train and tram. Their maintenance costs will rocket just as the tax take from a smaller and smaller number of functioning vehicles plummet.
This is the future. Rail will be cool, roads will become like our savaged rail network in the 1960s. For those who doubt that what we are proposing will come about, give this article some serious thought. If we all work towards building a sustainable transport network for the future - cycleways, canals, tramways and railways - then the apocalypse predicted by many (using the old scapegoat 'climate change' as the catalyst) will not happen. The future is, in reality, much brighter than that. The future is a New Somerset and Dorset Railway!