The Public Transport, Motoring and Environoment thread

I get pretty outraged at suggestions that climate change can be solved by magical technological breakthroughs that are always claimed to be just around the corner.

This is the same guy promoting that $9billion tunnel from footscray to clifton hill.

Firstly - engine technology is not going to save us. transport that greatly reduces oil consumption (PT, bikes, walking) is a step in the right direction.

The fact that he refuses to entertain the idea that people would use public transport if it wasn’t so unreliable, over priced, over crowded and shit is both laughable and scary at once.

He’s talked to a whole bunch of car companies. Call me a cynic, but that spells cash for comments right there.

The fact that in this day and age that people can still entertain this crap is beyond me. I got into a discussion(argument) with a guy recently about climate change. he didn’t understand that sustainable actually means “infinitely ongoing” rather than “we have enough food to eat”. He didn’t see an issue with using all the world’s oil and then converting over to a magical new energy source that will inevitably have been invented by the time that’s an issue. This kept saying that the UN report shows that the likelihood of climate change being manmade is ONLY 90%. He kept bringing this up until I asked him odds would you stake your life on. That 10% despite being only a 1 in 10 chance is so much easier for people to latch onto and go “oh it’s not proven for sure, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing until we’re 100% confident”. I think the turning point for this guy (he did actually do a complete U-turn) was hearing that one barrel of oil is equivalent to 8-12 years of man labour.

The scary thing is that I’ve got a friend who studied environmental science who takes advantage of those cheap flights to sydney as often as she can.

I’m not saying I’m perfect (i’m far from it) but I do try to minimise my impact.

“…one barrel of oil is equivalent to 8-12 years of man labour.”

Can you explain this a little further? I don’t quite get it.

The usable energy you can get out of it is equivalent. Say you put a barrel of oil worth of diesel into an excavator or something and dig a hole for example, it would take a man with a shovel quite some time to dig the same size hole.

Better put:

i’m thinking that they probably didn’t take into account the efficiency of the usage of the oil. internal combustion engines only operate at around 30% efficiency i think.
that stat seems a little fabulous for me to take seriously. 12 men with shovels could dig a pretty big hole in a year i reckon.

A barrel (of oil) is 158 litres, lets assume we convert that to petrol with no losses so 158 litres of petrol at 8L/100km could take a car 1975kms. A car like that weighs at least a tonne.

Do you think that 12 blokes could push a car to sydney and back in a year?

Ok, maybe they could, 42 working weeks (52-2wks p/hols-4wks leave-2 weeks sick), 40 hour week = 61320 hours so they need to move the car 3 metres an hour!

Um I hate to ask, but does one barrel of oil only make one litre of petrol?

I assumed that 1 barrel of oil makes 1 barrel of petrol, it appears that it is more like 50% petrol plus other by products.

Well, let’s take transport as an example.

1 barrel (1 bbl = 42 US gal = 159l) will yield ~19-21 gal (70-80l) of petrol plus some kero/diesel/oil/jet fuel/etc, volumes vary depending on how you crack it.

Imagine that we fill a 2008 Corolla with 80l of this fuel and we’re getting ~7l/100km on the highway with four passengers and the A/C on. The Work able to be performed by this fuel is to move ~1700kg of car and passengers 1142km, and it can do it in around 11hours.

Now split the load amongst 4 cyclists, where the bike & rider weight is 425kg each and answer the following:

  1. How fast can the cyclists travel? i.e. man-hours required to accomplish the same amount of Work.
  2. How much food (KJ) will the cyclist have to consume in order to accomplish this Work? i.e. efficiency of conversion of lentil burgers to pedal strokes, and how much time/energy was required to produce the food (fuel)?

Note: It is ridiculous to expect the cyclists to carry the unecessary weight of the car, but this example is to highlight the energy density of hydrocarbon based fuel and the work it can accomplish. Imagine the l/100km figure you could get from a far lighter vehicle. (Estimate ~1.2l/100km for an inefficient motorised bicycle)

So, liquid hydrocarbon fuel is very useful, and should be used where it does the most good, i.e. food production/distribution, mass transit etc, not taking your 2000kg 4WD 2min down the road to get milk.

Don’t get me started on the absolute idiocy of the US ethanol mandate. :wink:

So Blakey, how about that US ethanol mandate eh?

Those really are the key points. Your average unlaiden cyclist can sustainably do 25-30km/h. Add 400+kg and that’s going to slow down a lot. At 100km/h the engine is also overcoming a lot more wind resistance than if it was being pulled by cyclists. I gather that the bicycle is the most efficient machine made by man.

The biggest thing is food production and the energy required for that. If everything is man labour, you’ve got to plow a field by man labour, then planting the seeds, then sowing it all, transport etc.

In comparison to oil. A few years ago you got 30 barrels of oil out of the ground for every barrel you put in. That is to say the energy costs involved in getting the oil out were significantly less than you’re putting in. Today I think it’s about 13:1. Still pretty impressive. With current ethanol production it’s less than 1:1 if you’re growing corn for example with the sole intent to distil ethanol. That is to say that you’re losing energy to grow ethanol.

Love it.

I ain’t taking your bait.

Exactly, by the time you add up all the natural gas you converted to fertiliser, diesel used in farming, electricity/fuel gas in the distillation process, CO2 released from land clearing, all to produce a fuel with a lower energy density than petrol, your ‘carbon neutral’ fuel isn’t so carbon neutral after all.

Cellulosic ethanol isn’t scalable yet, corn is having an effect on food pricing due to less corn for food and less grain/soy being grown in order to grab the US$0.51/gallon subsidy.

To give you an idea of cost effectiveness, ethanol/biofuels get a US federal subsidy of US$5.72/BTU vs US$0.03/BTU for gas/petroleum liquids for non electrical energy production. Wind and solar get an electricity generation subsidy of US$23.37 & 24.34/MWhr compared to nuclear/hydro/gas/coal at US$1.59/0.67/0.25/0.44.

My solution: Use less. Of everything. (And build nuclear power plants)

Waste disposal problems aside, nuclear power can become part of the solution to environmental problems. Humans however will always want more. If energy can be generated more efficiently and cheaply, we will use and exploit it and demand for more. Even cyclists are not immune to more/bigger is better (does N+1 sound familiar?).

Trying to use less of everything is a huge cultural change. It’s hard to see it happening in the near future.


Hey, it’s a solution, I never said it was workable!

Ok, I’ll add to it: Charge (lots) more.

Petrol demand is easing in the US as it approaches US$4/gal. European pricing is somewhere around US$8/gal and they’re still buying (albeit less of it) fuel, but double the price in the US and demand may drop. Probably not significantly though as people were cutting back on “non-essentials” (food etc) in order to fill the tank as the price rose from $2/gal.

How many people do you know that said ‘When petrol hits $1/L I’m selling my car/riding a bike/catching the train’? How many did? How many are now saying ‘When petrol hits $2/L…’

Change is hard. Humans resist it. In fact so does everything, Newton’s 1st law applies. (A body at rest remains at rest, a body in motion remains in motion, as long as there are no external forces. The global warming boogeyman/fallacy isn’t a large enough external force to drive change)

Hey I am by no means against Public Transport, However I could not help but notice the other day, that cars following a tram must come to a complete stop and accelerate every time the tram does. (This is especially compounded during peak hour)

My question is how much extra fuel are people burning during all the accelerating considering that is when an engine is least efficient.

I say take out the cars!

Apologies Blakey. I didn’t mean to put down your solution, although the wording probably came out that way.

I agree with you that lots of change in energy consumption habits is probably the best current solution. If you take away people’s cars/electronic gizmos/wireless whatever/home comforts, then folks start to think that they don’t have a happy/meaningful life. I believe that is certainly not the case. I think the change will happen if people as a whole stop associating happy/meaningful lives with material possession. I think that this will be the deeper and stronger drive towards sustainable living.


No apologies needed Des, I didn’t take it as criticism. I fully understand that whilst my original solution (use less) would work, you can’t expect people to voluntarily make a paradigm shift to their living habits.

My solution: Use less. Of everything. (And build nuclear power plants)


I work for the state govt in water supply and am doing some work with the CSIRO climate change models.

Don’t expect your fruit and veg prices to drop any time in the future. In fact ever.

I watched some tdf highlights on a 103-inch plasma a few weeks ago*…somehow Des, alas, I don’t think the collective consciousness is quite ready to give it up just yet…

*I reckon Lance was just about life-size

Apparently someone did some QA on those free egg-timers that are supposed to regulate how long we have showers for (3mins in case you don’t know). Times ranged from 1.5-7mins. It was a good idea though