Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Sunday, May 30, 2010
transport of the future!
From Mick Knox -
Will Algae oil be used as Fuel? Not at this price! $300 a gallon....
Last week when on duty at Dalston Western Junction one of the signalling technicians involved with the rebuilding of the line, closed in 1986, commented on the source of algae based fuels to replace fossil fuel based oil. This came about as we were discussing the rebuilding of railway lines and my assertion that for this country to have a hope in remaining competitive it will have to safeguard old routes and eventually rebuild them. Indeed the line from Dalston Western Junction prior to June 1986 ran into Broad Street Station, alongside Liverpool Street Station, and a quick Google search will reveal Broad Street was once a very busy station. Back in 86 a certain Mrs Thatcher didn’t like the railways and the old Broad Street Station closed and disappeared under the Broadgate development. As a long term cost saving exercise I argue this was indeed a folly, because under 25 years later the former trackbed is now incorporated in the East London Line extension, except of course there’s no Broad Street. Indeed a modern day Broad Street station, with the former frontage incorporated in the new office block developments, owned by the railway and providing revenue for sustainable transport, would have been a far better way to have spent the North Sea Oil bonanza.
Anyway, I’m back to oil, and the algae based oils as a possible replacement for fossil oil. Now I’m coming at this with open eyes, as well as being a railwayman I’m also a devotee of the internal combustion engine, especially V8’s...so I would like to hope that I can still drive my cars, bikes, etc in the future, but at what cost? An internet search produces an item advising that algae fuel currently goes for $300 a gallon! There’s going to have to be some development to bring that price down, isn’t there? Are weapons of mass destruction going to be found in Zimbabwe? Because if so, we could invade and secure the former wheat fields for bio-fuel production, or am I being too cynical? If so, the question arises, do we feed people or our cars?
Knoxy at Camden Box, on a nice sunny day...
Incidentally Broad Street once had fast services from Watford Junction and services off the East Coast Main Line, and was four tracks from Camden. How much better than trips round the Circle of Northern line today?
There are real dangers that these quests for a future fuel are taken too seriously. At best they are a scientific thought experiment, at worst they can damage serious attempts to find future fuel sources. The problem of course is one of economics and engineering. These wonder fuels generally do not scale up ie they could never be used to provide anything more than a tiny percentage of what we obtain so easily and cheaply from fossil fuels today. We've heard this week that a scientist has managed to produce a self-replicating form of 'life' and one of the wonders that we can expect from this 'huge step forwards' is that they will be able to 'create' new hydrocarbons from pollution! Great! So we're so desperate that we'll need to create pollution to convert to oil? How sad is that? And, on a more serious level, how practical and economic and undamaging would such a process be? And for what? To further damage the planet and us by keeping the dying culture of private persoanl transport spluttering on for a few more years?
The simple fact is that we had a perfectly serviceable form of fast transport BEFORE oil was even used. As the default option for the future rail doesn't need to be tested, we know it works. If ALL else fails, and some commentators think that it will, then we can still travel at reasonable speeds and carry huge amounts of freight by burning wood efficiently and running at least some of our future transport by using sustainable fuel to power electric trains and trams.