Getting There on Less - Guy Dauncey - oil

Getting There on Less - Guy Dauncey - oil:Fall 2004 Issue: Can We Live Without Oil?
Getting There on Less
by Guy Dauncey

Americans are addicted to the joys of the open road. But the joys come at too high a price and we’re about to hit bottom. We can get around without oil. Here’s the 12-step program to do it.

If you were a redwood tree with a lifespan of 600 years, and you started life as a seedling in the year 1700, you would be able to live for 200 years in a world without oil, witness the beginning, middle and end of the Age of Oil, and still have 200 years to observe how humans fare in a world without oil (assuming you survive the timber companies).

Our personal memories rarely reach back more than 100 years, to the stories our grandparents told us. Geological time seems to have nothing to do with us. So when someone points out that the Age of Oil will end within our lifetimes, it’s hard to register. But that’s the reality.

Does this mean we’ll revert to the state of medieval villagers, never traveling more than a few miles from our doorsteps? Or can we redesign our transport system so that we can get where we need without burning oil?

The answer to the second question is “Yes,” and it can be done using reasonable, accessible steps and currently available technology. My conclusion is that we could meet all our transport needs without any oil transport fuel. We could use 86 percent less oil, and the remaining 14 percent could be replaced by biofuels. I leave hydrogen out of the picture, because biofuel and electricity provide a better delivery of net energy (see more on this argument in Mieszkowski article). To view my calculations, see "12 Steps: the cascading maths "

Total U.S. oil consumption is 312 billion gallons a year and rising. Transport accounts for 68 percent (212 billion gallons). I focus chiefly on trips in cars and light trucks, which use 54 percent of the transport oil (118 billion gallons a year). This includes trips to work, to the stores, to school, to visit friends, for vacations, and everything else. So buckle your seat belts, and get ready for an oil-free ride. We’re going to lose our addiction!


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