Apocalypse ASAP

People like James Howard Kunstler, who is committed to the death of the suburbs, and this guy, who thinks gasoline will “inevitably” reach $20 a gallon, see only good coming from these futures. For example, the latter character thinks that expensive gasoline will cure American obesity. He doesn’t explain why the Netherlands, where gas is expensive and lots of people walk and cycle, has obesity rates that are only about 10 years behind those in the U.S.

The Antiplanner hates to disappoint anyone, but we aren’t going to be giving up our cars anytime soon. If the price of gas goes up, we’ll either find more oil or we will find substitutes for that oil. For example, MIT is developing an electric car with a new kind of batteries that can be recharged in 11 minutes. Then there’s the Tesla Model S, whose batteries can be switched out in five minutes.

Regarding a different mode of transportation, someone has proposed a new airport on Manhattan Island, which would be a lot more convenient for many people than the airports now serving New York City. Where would it go? Why, in the largest piece of undeveloped land in Manhattan, namely Central Park. Of course, it’s a prank; if they had wanted to be taken seriously, they should have proposed to turn the park into high-density, transit-oriented developments.

Share

35 thoughts on “Apocalypse ASAP

  1. bbream

    Can you explain how “we” are going to find more oil? To my understanding, the companies in charge of finding more oil are also usually the ones selling it, so if the price goes up they’ll have no problem keeping a limit on the supply so as to profit from it. Furthermore, much of the oil that remains untapped is very difficult to extract, and the higher costs associated with this more complicated extraction will only further increase the price of oil and the price of gas.

  2. Frank

    bbream,

    We already found more than a hundred billion barrels. It’s in Iraq, which has the second largest reserves in the world, and at pre-war production rates, that will last for 150 years. Once the country is more stable, I’m sure Big Oil and the US Gov’t will stand to make a killing.

  3. bbream

    Alright, so oil is accessible, once Iraq stabilizes. Forgive me, Frank, as I can’t decipher your tone, but when you say “a killing” I still think that that translates into profits for Big Oil and government, not into a plentiful bounty that drives down costs.

  4. Dan

    If the price of gas goes up, we’ll either find more oil or we will find substitutes for that oil.

    Simonian Cornucopianism isn’t based in reality. We’ll have to substitute, which means replacing old cars; if this raisees prices, folks will Tiebout sort. There likely will be a mode switch made by some, which likely will mean sorting and migration.

    He doesn’t explain why the Netherlands, where gas is expensive and lots of people walk and cycle, has obesity rates that are only about 10 years behind those in the U.S.

    One appreciates the time-honored tactic of cherry-picking on this site.

    Surely by now we know that our land uses in this country contribute to obesity rates. And that Yurpean land uses currently and in the future help result in lower obesity rates. And Netherlands is no-friggin-where close to our obesity or overall obesie/overweight rates. Come now.

    if they had wanted to be taken seriously, they should have proposed to turn the park into high-density, transit-oriented developments.

    Nope. Strawman. This puerile widdle argument would result in a much, much lower QOL. Amazing an adult makes this argument.

    DS

  5. Neal Meyer

    Antiplanner,

    If gas was to reach $20 per gallon, cellulose ethanol fuels would certainly be substituted for gas. Last year I toyed around with the idea of buying a cheap old project car for maybe $2,000, then spending about $12,000 to retrofit it into an electric car that would have had a range of about 35 miles. The performance would have been limited, with top speed of 30-40 mph, but all I would have used it for was as a city car since state law prohibits vehicles like that from being used on roads whose speed limits are higher than 35 mph anyway. Since I don’t drive much, the range would have been enough for me to drive for about two days before recharging, so I would have had no problems charging it overnight. Battery replacement at about $1,000 – $2,000 would have taken place every 2-3 years. I would have saved my gas powered vehicle for longer trips or those requiring more power or performance.

    The point being made is that people do make their decisions on the margin, both on time and on money. Cars are not going away.

  6. Dan

    Got evidence, or is this proof by repeated assertion?

    I’ve presented the evidence numerous times here. This is well-known.

    I was at a meeting in Denver last night for a program for Mayors to get them formally immersed in urban design, and these decision-makers know it too, and are actively working toward better, more walkable urban design.

    DS

  7. t g

    If one read the recent history of the Tucson area Tohono Oodham, the rates of obesity and diabetes are rationally explained by land use. Calorie in equals calorie out. For all the talk of inductive reasoning on here, surely we can agree on a fundamental law of thermodynamics. If you eat more and move less you get fat.

  8. ws

    I don’t think there’s going to be an issue if there will be cars in the future due to rising energy costs, it’s the fact that people will be using them much less than now. I do not think that if within the next 10 years that energy costs become so high that technology will be able to rapidly replace the level of miles traveled via cars today. We’re talking trillions of miles here.

    It is also speculative that we’ll just find new oil. It’s not the days where Jethro shoots a hole in the ground and oil comes spurting out. We’re talking capital intensive oil finding and extracting infrastructure that is needed. Infrastructure that will ultimately increase the costs at the pump. Oil ain’t running out, it’s just getting expensive to get the good stuff.

    Netherlands has nowhere near the obesity rates of US. It’s not relevant that it’s “10 years behind” the US, that is a silly statistics. I want everyone to imagine the health care costs that could be saved (under our current system) assuming if every citizen walked at least 15 minutes a day. I’d imagine so many preventable diseases would be avoided, namely heart disease and obesity.

    It’s asinine these days: people work their whole lives to fill their cars up with gas then end up paying more at the end of their life for health related costs of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. On top of that, Americans are spending 10% of their income on food (compared to 25% on transportation) – supposedly “saving” money by buying cheap petro-filled crops, highly processed food, and from groceries that are entirely reliant on an abundant and cheap oil supply. These highly processed foods coincidentally (not really) are making people sick. I think people should be free to eat what they want when they want, but it is not a very telling statistics of how some Americans live their lives – and then externalize their costs on the rest of society as premiums from healthy people go to offset those of unhealthy people. Obese people in particular drive up the total costs of health insurance and everyone pays even under free-enterprise health insurance.

    It’s like the movie Idiocracy has come to life.

    Knowing the current trend of US and government aided health insurance, it is imperative that we design towns and cities to allow for walking or biking possibilities. This is not forcing people to walk nor is it social engineering, though the George Will ditto-heads will say otherwise to anything that might resemble a sidewalk. How dare the city mandate a sidewalk along a road ROW, someone might choose to use their legs instead of drive. Commies!

  9. mimizhusband

    A. Very few towns are “walkable” year round. Denver isn’t (winter). Tucson isn’t (summer). Even forgiving temperature, rain is a significant impediment to walkability. Urban planners tend to not be single mothers of 6 kids, nor are there many that at are 82 men that lost effective use one knee 15 years ago.

    I suppose a series of tunnels or glass-enclosed walks could be considered, but this idea I present mainly in jest.

    B. What I have seen as “new urbanism” is frequently an attempt to recreate the feel of pre-modern Madrid, Paris, or London. My two concerns with going in that direction are 1) Europe has long-since decided that suburbs were actually a very good idea and now build them and 2) the 16th century urban model wasn’t planned at all to begin with and was a logical extension of needing to stay close to the castle for physical protection.

    C. New urbanism generates many beautiful ideas that forget that the devil is in the details.

    I live near Fresno, which a prior generation of urban planners descended on in the early 60’s. The city center’s main street was torn up to create “walkability”. What the planners missed were the typical 40+ days a year over 100 degrees and parking that wasn’t close enough or clean enough or safe enough to be pleasant. The first major Fresno mall was approved in 1970 at the (then) north end of town. City center has been on life support ever since.

  10. ws

    mimizhusband:“Very few towns are “walkable” year round. Denver isn’t (winter). Tucson isn’t (summer). Even forgiving temperature, rain is a significant impediment to walkability. Urban planners tend to not be single mothers of 6 kids, nor are there many that at are 82 men that lost effective use one knee 15 years ago.”

    ws: I’d disagree that one cannot walk at all in “bad” weather. A few raindrops is nothing a canopy of trees or an umbrella cannot cure. Weather plays a serious impediment to all travel such as car and air travel. That does not discredit those tools. I see no difference in getting in a scorching 130 degree car in the a Tucson in summer vs. walking 5-10 minutes in 100 degrees – hopefully under the shade of a tree or pedestrian arcade.

    Urban planners don’t say you must walk – just provide the option for other modes. Your whole assumption is completely of the fringe minority status. Single mothers of 6? I’m more worried about her birth control than mobility at that point. An 82 year old man not being able to walk? You assume their driving abilities are better and discount the fact that a “Rascal” would suffice for personal mobility.

    mimizhusband:“What I have seen as “new urbanism” is frequently an attempt to recreate the feel of pre-modern Madrid, Paris, or London. My two concerns with going in that direction are 1) Europe has long-since decided that suburbs were actually a very good idea and now build them and 2) the 16th century urban model wasn’t planned at all to begin with and was a logical extension of needing to stay close to the castle for physical protection.”

    ws: Madrid, Paris, and London are hardly “pre-modern” cities – they are modern as can be. I suppose under your methodology, Tulsa, OK is a bustling modern metropolis.

    European suburbs design wise are of a completely different flavor than contemporary US ones and in fact are walkable, served by transit, etc. Much like 1920s US suburban “sprawl” is a million times different than post WWII sprawl. Different in their urban morphology, transit access, and even density.

    Sure…Europe has built suburbs. So what? This is another misleading statistics. Kind of like LA is denser than NY type state, or Europeans drive as much as Americans. It’s easy to conflate statistics.

  11. Dan

    A. Very few towns are “walkable” year round. Urban planners tend to not be single mothers of 6 kids, nor are there many that at are 82 men that lost effective use one knee 15 years ago.

    So what and so what. Using this logic, because of congestion during rush hour, we should not plan for cars.

    B. What I have seen as “new urbanism” i…My two concerns …are 1) Europe has long-since decided that suburbs were actually a very good idea and now build them and 2) the 16th century urban model wasn’t planned at all to begin with and was a logical extension of needing to stay close to the castle for physical protection.

    1) is not true in many respects, despite what Breugmann wishes you to believe, and 2) so what (save the key proximity point).

    C. New urbanism …I live near Fresno, which a prior generation of urban planners descended on in the early 60’s. The city center’s main street was torn up to create “walkability”. [anecdote snipped]

    None of this is germane to the design paradigm you named, as these are not mistakes made as a result of adhering to that schools’ tenets. And thank you for your comment!

    DS

  12. Dan

    European suburbs design wise are of a completely different flavor than contemporary US ones and in fact are walkable, served by transit, etc.

    Indeed. Also, one can not help but notice during, say, the Tour de France how nice all the towns are they ride through. The Tour de California thru the GCV towns? Not so much.

    DS

  13. Borealis

    I think the the argument that New Urbanism will reduce obesity rates by forcing people to walk is remarkably unpersuasive and scary in its Big Brother attitude.

  14. the highwayman

    The Autoplanner said: People like James Howard Kunstler, who is committed to the death of the suburbs…

    THWM: Not all suburbs, just those that are auto dependent.

    Just as suburban trains are not hostile to suburbs.

    Mr.Kunstler’s a very conservative guy, he’s against bad regulations & even he knows you can’t get some thing for nothing.

  15. Unowho

    Too good to pass up:

    Anti-car and anti-suburbs crusader Chris Daly, San Francisco District 6 Supervisor, has shocked supporters by announcing that he is moving to…the suburbs.

    http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2009/07/daly_anti_suburb_quotes.php

    Daly’s new home as described by another SF columnist: “…[g]lancing at an aerial view of the Daly’s new cul-de-sac, two doors down from his kids’ maternal grandparent’s house, one sees swimming pools. Back in District 6 there are pools of other things. Past the family’s back yard are vast stretches of lush agricultural fields and orchards. I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and for you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be — if we could all buy second houses in more suitable locales to raise the kids.”

    However will he manage without streetcars, light rail, or BART?

  16. ws

    Borealis:“I think the the argument that New Urbanism will reduce obesity rates by forcing people to walk is remarkably unpersuasive and scary in its Big Brother attitude.”

    ws: Once again, to reiterate that “social engineering” chimera that people have: There is nothing — not one piece of evidence — that shows that anyone is being forced to walk, nor is is a practicing principle of NU. It’s about providing for the opportunity and option to walk currently not present in so many low-dense contemporary suburban sprawl housing.

    Borealis, I find you to be a reasonable person, but you are completely wrong on this statement. These statements get recycled and are often irritating when you hear them iterated for the millionth time.

  17. Frank

    bbream said: “Alright, so oil is accessible, once Iraq stabilizes. Forgive me, Frank, as I can’t decipher your tone, but when you say ‘a killing’ I still think that that translates into profits for Big Oil and government, not into a plentiful bounty that drives down costs.”

    “A killing” translates into an actual killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The taxpayers are footing trillions of dollars (after interest) for subsidized petroleum. Big Oil will rake in the cash. And we’ll *think* the price of gas is cheap because what we’ll pay at the pump will not be the actual cost of gas. That actual cost will be borne by all, rich and poor alike (although the poor are the ones who can least afford it) through inflation and taxation.

    It’s a corporatist system, and it needs to end.

  18. Ed on West Slope

    I have been on the sidelines of this blog for quite a while.
    I have assumed that antiplanner has collected and entertained these commenters in order to emphasize the assumed wisdom which afflicts our planning departments. As a retirement eligible Engineer & the son of an Engineer, for many years I have been directly and indirectly involved with and affected by the theories, documents, official & unofficial comments and the vast, unsubstantiated pronouncements of the wise and benevolent planners and their ilk.

    I have seen:
    —Master Plans come & go.
    —Countless opportunities to save something (neighborhood, supposed irreplaceable wetland, low value agricultural property) are always promoted and when accomplished, oftentimes just slowly rot away.
    —A NEW PLAN (which is actually several, to many years old & was surpassed by a NEW & GREAT PLAN many years ago) which will encourage less motoring. Lots of effort and then reality starts emerging.

    My Father appears to have been correct. In my & his opinion, Most Official, Longterm Planning is only marginally effective. The most visible result of Official, Longterm Planning appears to be setting neighbor against neighbor and mediate the ‘crisis’ with results that nobody seems to like and seems to result in bad feelings which last for many years.

    mimizhusband make a few observations and generates the usual replies, scorn & non answers. The continual lack of substantial arguments are as bad or worse than the grownup reply “So what and so what”.

    Have fun and try to actually come up with a decent argument, for a change.

  19. mathieuhelie

    “A. Very few towns are “walkable” year round. Denver isn’t (winter). Tucson isn’t (summer). Even forgiving temperature, rain is a significant impediment to walkability.”

    Siberian cities are walkable year round and they have the worst of both Denver and Tucson in weather. What makes a city walkable is scale and street design. Americans have made the worst in both aspects, thanks to government choices. The English solved rain a long time ago. They used umbrellas.

    Of course if all you know about walking is walking around a steam cooker parking lagoon, or walking on a concrete conveyor belt next to speeding cars, then any place will feel unwalkable. But again that is caused by government choices.

  20. Dan

    I think the the argument that New Urbanism will reduce obesity rates by forcing people to walk is remarkably unpersuasive and scary in its Big Brother attitude.

    I think the weak rhetoric of the ‘forcing’ is remarkably parroted from somewhere, and indicative of the quality of the position.

    Of course if all you know about walking is walking around a steam cooker parking lagoon, or walking on a concrete conveyor belt next to speeding cars, then any place will feel unwalkable. But again that is caused by government choices.

    I certainly don’t agree with Mathieu all the time, but I enjoy reading his work. And expanding this vague statement, government has chosen, in this country, to do single-use Euclidean zoning. This has the unintended consequence of making much of Murrica auto-dependent. “Mom’s taxi” is a proud bumper sticker, not an embarrassment or cause for anger. People trade off fat and reduced QOL and time away from the famdamily for a McSuburb. Home Depot and Lowes exist to fill homes twice the size of our parents’ with cr8P and provide us tools for the constant maintenance of slapped-up cheap production homes.

    As a retirement eligible Engineer & the son of an Engineer, for many years I have been directly and indirectly involved with and affected by the theories, documents, official & unofficial comments and the vast, unsubstantiated pronouncements of the wise and benevolent planners and their ilk.

    And I have to go back and retrofit the sh–ty roads, and the dumb-*ss injuneer slumping, and the ill-advised pump station is failing, and the client-driven but stamped pond siltates every two years, and the crusher fines have disappeared, and the spill curb across the 2% gives me ice expansion and added maintenance (tax burden), and when I go hiking I drive over too-small culverts and the riprap has failed and one of the reasons I left Sacramento is the injuneers said they could injuneer levees to hold back the water.

    But fixing cr*ppy streets has given me a career. So what’s your point again?

    DS

  21. ws

    Ed on West Slope:“mimizhusband make a few observations and generates the usual replies, scorn & non answers. The continual lack of substantial arguments are as bad or worse than the grownup reply “So what and so what”. Have fun and try to actually come up with a decent argument, for a change.”

    ws:I felt many of us did bring up substantial counter-arguments. Specifically speaking, what was not decent about mine or anyone’s argument? They were fairly cogent and well articulated.

  22. ws

    Dan:I drive over too-small culverts and the riprap has failed and one of the reasons I left Sacramento is the injuneers said they could injuneer levees to hold back the water.

    ws: It’s because they’re obsessed with thinking trees weaken levees:

    Trees and Levees

    They also construct wonderful object of beauty and function (that fail):

    Kissimee River Canal ACOE

    Thanks engineers for Combined Sewer Overflows:

    Combined Sewer Overflows

    This is all just a goof, I like engineers / engineer solutions a lot and they are many times smarter than I. But one can attribute many problems to engineers too, much like one can attribute to planners.

  23. Dan

    I certainly have good relationships with engineers, and the best ones are where we work together and help each other. The Front Range is challenging and it is not uncommon to find the engineer-written PW standards around here often need help and going into it knowing that makes the job go a lot smoother. And old-school road design? Sh–.

    I just got my rejection letter today to go to Portland later this year to talk about this very thing, BTW. Still my biggest year to travel to talk about how to fix and overcome old-school engineering feats.

    DS

  24. prk166

    “his has the unintended consequence of making much of Murrica auto-dependent.”

    While I don’t doubt it has an affect, how much of one is there? Driving is incredibly efficient. I can drive to Target, shop and return in the same amount of time it would take me if I limited my shopping to stores I could walk to. I can spend $9 on a six pack for a very limited selection at my local grocery store, or I can “run errands” and in the process grab whatever 6 pack of nice beer they have on sale for $6-7. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a few dollars here and there adds up. The same with the time saved from making less trips.

    And of course that I have a car and can drive enables the existence of those larger stores. The two feeds off of each other. So even if we didn’t have the government building all you can eat freeway buffets and minimal lot sizes and such, how much of this would still exist? That is, how much of is it auto-dependent by choice versus by design?

  25. prk166

    BTW – Gas will reach $20 a gallon. The question is when. The problem is rarely do these people say something like “$20 a gallon in 1985” dollars let alone specify if it’s the price with taxes or without.

  26. prk166

    “Siberian cities are walkable year round and they have the worst of both Denver and Tucson in weather. What makes a city walkable is scale and street design. Americans have made the worst in both aspects, thanks to government choices. The English solved rain a long time ago. They used umbrellas.”

    You’re either nutts or you haven’t been Siberia in the winter or “walkable” is a term leaning to some sort of design but not necessarily something realistic.

    Having visited a few I’m not sure how they’re walkable in practice. You couldn’t get to much of anything of large use without a trip on the bus or train. Areas that should have grass were just dirt from all foot traffic, foot traffic that came and went to transit stops, etc, etc. And anyone who had a car seemed more than happy to make use of it for these trips; just that a lot of folks didn’t have one. Maybe things have changed a lot during the last decade.

  27. prk166

    DS –> no, that’s not my only metric. But I was commenting on someone calling Siberian cities walkable and saying the only 2 metrics are scale and street design. As though getting around a city doesn’t matter. If one doesn’t have to get around, why live in a city?

  28. Dan

    I lived in Yurp & am familiar with the wx that comes off the continent, and I have some friends go to Krasnoyarsk to do some work there on helping them with platting and private property boundaries*

    At any rate, in Russia and Yurp, see, people wear weather-appropriate clothing, helping them to deal with the elements. Crazy, I know.

    DS

    * (and a buddy rode his bike to Mongolia, & sorry I couldn’t go if only for the ride).

  29. Ed on West Slope

    The level of Dan’s comments is consistent.

    “And I have to go back and retrofit the sh–ty roads, and the dumb-*ss injuneer slumping, and the ill-advised pump station is failing, and the client-driven but stamped pond siltates every two years, and the crusher fines have disappeared, and the spill curb across the 2% gives me ice expansion and added maintenance (tax burden), and when I go hiking I drive over too-small culverts and the riprap has failed and one of the reasons I left Sacramento is the injuneers said they could injuneer levees to hold back the water.

    But fixing cr*ppy streets has given me a career. So what’s your point again?”

    You have proven your point. You can behave as a imbecile.

    “ws:I felt many of us did bring up substantial counter-arguments. Specifically speaking, what was not decent about mine or anyone’s argument? They were fairly cogent and well articulated.”

    About as “fairly cogent and well articulated” as the discussion every 6 to 10 years when the planning model is changed, without admitting the old ideas were insufficient, or out & out failures.

  30. ws

    Ed on West Slope:“About as “fairly cogent and well articulated” as the discussion every 6 to 10 years when the planning model is changed, without admitting the old ideas were insufficient, or out & out failures.”

    ws:I’m not trying to continue this discussion for too long, but many professions change focus or direction every so years in response to varying conditions. Engineering is a prime example, which is a very dynamic field. Do engineers make a press conference about their failed practices? You’re assuming that planners have not admitted failure, when in fact many of them have.

Leave a Reply