Thursday, September 29, 2005

alternative fuels

Last Week I attend a workshop in Raleigh, NC entitled Refueling America. The link goes to the PowerPoint presentations used by the speakers and now available online. The highlight was an address by the keynote speaker Paul Roberts, author of the book, "The End of Oil". Mr. Roberts is a gifted speaker well educated in the coming conundrum facing our nation as global oil production peaks and heads into decline. He was also a guest last week on the local radio program Charlotte Talks, hosted by Mike Collins. I add this note because this radio show has begun to address the issues surrounding peak oil with mulitple shows and I am happy to seem someone doing so locally. Other speakers at the conference presented information on alternative fuels such as ethanol and bio-diesel as well hybrid technology. As a land planner I found it interesting that only the medical doctor presenting concerns about air quality and health brought up the subject of reducing dependency on fossil fuels through the use of thoughtful land planning. You don't have to develop a new whiz-bang technology to power your car if you don't need a car, but I digress.

All in all I found the information interesting. Nothing presented convinced me that other sources of energy will be able to make up for the depleting petroleum supplies in terms of the amount of oil needed to fuel our current transportation habits. Most of the technologies seem like great ideas on a small scale but no single source or combinations of energies seem poised to take over our current circumstance. My take on the day was that it is important to understand the new fuels becoming available and to use them to transition to lifestyles of lower energy use. Do not however, let them blind you to the extraordinary changes set to take place in the amount of energy we consume and the way in which we consume it.

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