Electricity and Rail Can Solve Our Energy Woes

Writer Benjamin J. Turon argues that we aren't in an energy crisis as much as a transportation crisis, and that we already have all the technology we need.

"Those in the "peak oil" camp, who predict that we are about to run out of easily accessible petroleum, warn that the drop in global oil production will bring dire consequences. Writer James Howard Kunstler, and like-minded groups such as the Capital Region Energy Forum, predict the collapse of Western Civilization and the establishment of an "Amish Paradise." Yet they forget history and underestimate the technology available to sustain our technological civilization.:

"We are not so much in an energy crisis as a transport crisis, a troika of increasing congestion, environmental degradation and energy shortages.

As global demand for transport and petroleum products grows as a result of population and economic growth, demand is beginning to exceed supply, leading to an inflationary spiral of prices that could cripple the economy.

The goal should be to switch our transportation from being powered by petroleum to electricity, because electric vehicles can utilize a variety of power sources, and use it more efficiently than internal-combustion engines. Electric vehicles won't compete with the food supply, as do biofuels, and are more practical than using hydrogen fuel cells. Overall pollution would be reduced, including greenhouse gases."

Full Story: Technology is there

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Electrons more than electricity

San Francisco has actually installed 6,000 brilliant parking meters (smart dust) as a start on their SFPark project. These meters are so smart you can use your cellphone to find an empty parking spot and then add “change” to the meter from your cell phone.

We could use this kind of technology to produce virtual $2.50 per gallon gas via ‘Pooling.

Your cellphone has, or could have, features like friend finder, pizza finder, or web searching. It could be programmed for impromptu ride sharing. First enlist your friends (no strangers) to share rides; might be your church, school, or work associates. Increase numbers by accepting references. Reduce friends, if someone talks too much. Make ride sharing fun with matchmaking or business networking – “Do ride” instead of “Do lunch.”

If you would like someone to pay for gas, you tell the brilliant parking meter with your cellphone. When you get to your car, your selected ride buddies are waiting. As you drop off ride buddies, they pay you automatically via electronic fund transfer plus a small fee for the service provider. The cellphones could also notify you of ride buddies who indicate their desire to ride as you are driving by.

In essence, cellphone ‘pooling is super-convenient 21st Century transit accomplished without the time and expense of buying and operating more buses and trains.

Next use Wii plus the above for safe biking & walking & driving.

Many people are too scared of cars to bicycle. Just as we can program ‘Pooling, we can make cellphones that provide a virtual force field of protection from motor vehicles by combining Wii controllers with GPS and cellphones.

The combined Wii, GPS, smart dust, and cellphone allows cars (and people) to become super-polite. Motor vehicles become as smart about not running into each other as horses. The rider or driver reads the map and provides the directions. The horse or computer avoids collisions or turns the wheels to avoid rollover. Manufacturers are already installing the technology of super-polite, zero-accident, zero-congestion cars (stability control, navigation systems, self-parking, adaptive cruise control ...)

Super-polite cars are another way to provide 21st Century transit. The energy savings comes from eliminating congestion, making small fuel-efficient vehicles safe from large vehicles, reducing ride sharing liability concerns, and making bicyclists and pedestrians safe.

Solve your state's budget crisis.

California is spending about $5 billion per year more than it collects in taxes. Just like a family sinking into debt, overspending affects our ability to fund even essential programs. But this summer’s higher gas prices and mortgage crisis make taxes more painful.

Replacing the gas tax

Wii, GPS, and cellphones to the rescue – California can implement programs to reduce the $50 billion per year cost of auto insurance. Programs reducing vehicle-miles (‘Pooling, virtual commuting, …) and more quickly implementing super-polite vehicles will drastically drop the number of accidents. A lot less accidents means much less auto insurance cost. We could reward government with half whatever government saves us on auto insurance. After a few years, we could be saving $500 a year each, even with government collecting a reward of $10 billion a year for saving us money.

Governments currently have an incentive to increase gasoline use. The gas tax funds road repairs, new roads, public transit, bike lanes, and trains. The reward offers the correct incentive as it replaces the gas tax. California’s reward is for life-saving, economy-boosting, quicker deployment of the technology.

Prisoner of Wii

California has approximately 170,000 people in prisons designed for 90,000. Operating and construction costs are roughly $10 billion per year. The potential $1 billion prison hospital near Camarillo is one example of the new construction expense.

But we can replace perhaps $5 billion a year of “hard” prison expense with super-bracelets based on the Wii video game controller and cellphones. The Wii-bracelet can detect if the wearer is driving a car, drinking from a bottle, bicycling, working, tagging a wall, and buying, smoking, snorting, or shooting a drug. The bracelet becomes a 24/7 guard, coach, and mentor.

Potential Wii-bracelet features include:
• Should the prisoner stop on the street to make a deal, the phone records conversation and warns of impending taser.
• The phone rewards the prisoner for work or exercise.
• Should the prisoner enter a forbidden area (Your home and car is forbidden!), the phone records conversation, warns of impending taser, and alarms to police.

As a civilian use, the Wii-bracelet would make a great basketball-shooting, soccer-kicking, and baseball-throwing skill coach. It could even be a weight loss nag.

Bug your Metropolitan Transportation Commission to start using brains to address transportation issues.

MECapron

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