Rail and the coming changes in transport
National Train Day was marked this year on May 10, so it’s not too incredibly late to mention two new books of note: John Stilgoe’s Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape that came out in the fall says that rail is “an economic and cultural tsunami about to transform the United States.” Maybe that’s a little grand, but rail is definitely on the ascendancy, since it can move people and freight at a fraction of the energy usage vs. petroleum.
Also, Radio Ecoshock‘s March 28 edition of its useful weekly podcast had a recording (skip to minute 11 for the presentation) by authors Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl at the launch event for their new book Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil. They are forecasting a grid-tied and electrified (increasingly from renewables) rail system among four revolutions coming in transport:
The high prices of oil could cause at least four kinds of transport revolution:
- Now, almost all transport is propelled by internal combustion engines. In the future, transport will be propelled increasingly by electric motors, using electricity increasingly generated from renewable resources.
- Now, almost all land transport is by vehicles that carry their fuel on board: petrol (gasoline) or diesel fuel. In the future, much land transport will be in electric vehicles that are grid-connected, i.e., they are powered while in motion, from wire or rails or in other ways.
- Now, almost all marine transport is propelled by diesel engines. Their use will continue but with assistance from wind via sails and kites.
- Now, air travel and air freight movement are the fastest growing transport activities. Soon, they will begin to decline because there will be no adequate substitute for increasingly expensive aviation fuels based on petroleum oil. Air travel and air freight movement will continue, but at lower intensities and mostly in large, more fuel-efficient aircraft flying a limited number of well-patronized routes …
The above excerpt and more are available at the book’s site.
The Q&A session of the audio is also pretty interesting. Among other topics, they discuss the coming contraction of air flight, and the pointlessness of airport expansions, like the one in Vancouver, B.C., in particular.