Peak Oil News: Peak Oil Crisis: Peak Oil & Car Pools

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Peak Oil Crisis: Peak Oil & Car Pools

Falls Church News-Press

If we had to rank essential uses for oil, transporting a single person to work would have to fall somewhere near the bottom. At the top would be fueling the tractors that plant and harvest our food. Food transport trucks, and a long list of other kinds of trucks and buses, would be listed before we get to the family car.

When oil depletion comes, getting people out of their single person car will have to be one of our top priorities to mitigate even the early stages of the crisis.

According to the 2000 Census, some 76% of Americans drive alone to work, while 11% are in a car pool. Five percent take public transport and the rest walk, bike, or work at home. Current use of the family car is roughly one-third for getting to work or around while at work, one-third for shopping and personal business, and one-third for recreation.

It is clear an effective system for sharing automobile trips would quickly result in very significant savings of gasoline, extend the life of our current cars, and lead to marked reductions in traffic congestion and air pollution.

What might a modern car pooling system look like?

One of the few things about the coming peak oil crisis we should all be thankful for is that the Internet was invented and has became nearly universal. As the crisis deepens, we shall find many new uses for the Internet as a substitute for personal travel.

A modern ride-sharing system would be Internet based. Government authority would set it up and the force of law would support some aspects of the system.

Car-pooling would start with those needing to avail themselves of its services registering on a web site. One registration session should be enough to get all of one’s basic information into the system: name, address, the place one needs to go, phone numbers, email addresses, time you would like to leave, credit card numbers etc. The information could be edited to account for the needs of people such as construction workers who frequently switch work locations. One’s ability to drive a car pool and type of vehicle would also be registered.

After an individual’s information had been verified—credit card seems good, has a valid driver’s license, liability insurance, OK, not currently wanted by the police, etc.—one would be issued a car pool ID number.

Every day one wanted to car pool on the following day, they would have to do is call up his password protected car pool account and check tomorrow.

Overnight, the computers would run and generate a car pool for the next day. By dawn, the car pool members would be sent emails listing who would be in that day’s car pool, who would be the designated driver, times and place of pickup and drop off, etc.

Money to pay for the trip would be automatically transferred from the accounts of the passengers to that of the driver. The driver would also receive an authorization to park for the day at or near the place of work and perhaps an authorization to buy gasoline for the trip if fuel gets very tight.

Control of parking, or gasoline purchase authorizations, would be the major lever to induce people into car pools whether they wanted to or not. The government could simply phase in a system under which no one without a car pool parking permit would be allow to park in public or private lots.

The myriad of details involved in a car pool system is too much to discuss here. The basic point, however, is that a substantial portion of the nations consumption of gasoline could be eliminated by ending one-person car trips.

A role for the government would be to guarantee the integrity of the system as well as providing whatever coercion is necessary to force people into.

The concept that the driver of the day would receive some compensation for his services beyond direct costs also seems valid. If a carpool driver received extra fuel allocations or learned to save gas through careful driving, there would be long lines of people volunteering to be drivers.

There is no reason why an Internet based car pool system would have to be limited to commuting. Joint trips could be set up to malls, entertainment, the beach, and intercity trips. The possibilities are endless. The point is to reduce the consumption of shrinking supplies of gasoline.


At 11:32 PM, August 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used an employer sponsored pooling arrangement for many years. See,

My main concern with the articles approach would be insurance. A serious accident injuring 3 or 4 fellow commuters in your car could easily wipe out even a high limits policy. Insurance companies or the government would have to offer some sort of insurance protection for car pools before I would participate.

At 6:42 AM, August 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Car-pooling will pick up a great deal, but such central organizing of the effort is overblown; people solve such problems on a very local scale.
What's needed immediately is central planning for public transportation, in particular, modernizing our passenger rail system.

At 12:25 PM, August 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I would like to know why getting a person to and from an INCOME generating location would be low priority in your minds? To me it is the quintessential bias to all other spending I have to do, after house and utilities are paid.

If I do not drive myself to work, WE don't eat.

You (in thinking this way) must get your income from one or 2 sources, Inheritance or government?

At 12:52 PM, August 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even mass transit uses lots of energy and resources. I think we need to think beyond the mega-city urban model. It works because of cheap energy. One could draw the conclusion that it will not work once enegy is in short supply. Driving or mass transit.

Our lives and very likely will return more from hyper-urban/energy intense to rural diffused. One will hope that we can port large parts of this civilization such as universal education, health care and food surplus.

But as mass movement of surplus from one part of the world to the other becomes more costly then local shortages could emerge. Similar to remote areas in asia and africa which have famine etc.

It seems hard to invision our wonderful energy intensive lifestyle changing a lot. So a lot of our solutions seem to be minor variation on the current model. Does it matter if I drive 50 miles or take a train 50 miles. I don't think so. Both require massive investment and energy costs.


At 2:48 PM, August 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with CJ - capital investment is very high for mass transit, tell you what, here's an even better idea: Pay people to stay home and work! It's insane to spend our petro-resources, time, and infrastructure costs (building and maintaining hi-ways) to send people into cities to work every day. NUTS!!
Take an objective view of what many people do all day at work, and most of them SHOULD stay home, anyway! Those really important jobs, of course, must be staffed, but 90 percent of us don't need to be any particular place to work, other than accessible for communications.
The whole model needs to be re-worked!


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