The Demise of the Car

India’s recent series of power blackouts, in which 600 million people lost electricity for several days, reminds us of the torrid pace at which populations in the developing world have moved onto the powergrid. Unfortunately, this great transition has been so rapid that infrastructure has mostly been unable to meet demand. India itself has failed to meets its own power capacity addition targets every year since 1951. This has left roughly one quarter of the country’s population without any (legal) access to electricity. That’s 300 million people out of a population of 1.2 billion. Indeed, it is the daily attempt of the underserved to access power that may have led to India’s recent grid crash.

But the story of India’s inadequate infrastructure is only one part of the difficult, global transition away from liquid fossil fuels. Over the past decade, the majority of new energy demand has been met not through global oil, but through growth in electrical power.

Frankly, this should be no surprise. After all, global production of oil started to flatten more than seven years ago, in 2005. And the developing world, which garners headlines for its increased demand for oil, is running mainly on coal-fired electrical power. There is no question that the non-OECD countries are leading the way as liquid-based transport – automobiles and airlines – have entered longterm decline.

Why, therefore, do policy makers in both the developing and developed world continue to invest in automobile infrastructure?

Interestingly, instead of investing in the powergrid, India embarked earlier last decade on a massive highway project, known as the Great Quadrilateral. This created a kind of grand, national circular whose “four and six-lane, 3,625 miles run through 13 states and India's four largest cities: New Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai (formerly Madras), and Mumbai (formerly Bombay),” according to a 2005 New York Times article. The piece continues, describing the ongoing, 15-year effort (to be completed this year) as “the most ambitious infrastructure project since independence in 1947 and the British building of the subcontinent's railway network the century before.”

Alas, the irony is rich. India conceived of this highway project as oil prices hit deep lows at the end of the past millennium. Now that the highway network is constructed and oil prices have more than quadrupled, it is massive investment in the powergrid that hundreds of millions of Indians so desperately need instead—not road building.

Sunk-Cost Decision Making and the Overfocus on Autos

But it’s not just India that has incorrectly invested in automobile transport. The other giant of Asia, China, has also placed large resources into auto-highway infrastructure.

It appears that at least a decade ago, the developing world made the same assumption about future oil prices as was made in Western countries. The now infamous 1999 Economist cover, Drowning in Oil, reflected the pervasive, status-quo view that the global adoption of the car could continue indefinitely. A decade later, however, we find that after oil’s extraordinary price revolution, the global automobile industry is now starved for growth.

In the same way that Western economies have shed enormous tranches of oil demand so that emerging markets could increase their oil consumption, automobile transport is now either stagnating or in outright decline outside of China. You cannot have a growing automobile industry in the United States when American oil demand is down over 12% since 2005. And you cannot have a growing auto industry in Europe when EU oil demand has shed over a million and half barrels a day – another 10% decline.

Europe’s declining oil demand is particularly significant, given that coming into the last decade, the EU was already a highly efficient user of oil. To have taken off even more demand in the past 5 years shows just how tough high oil prices have become in Europe. The result is nothing less than a devastation of Europe’s auto industry, which has already lost 800,000 jobs and looks ready to lose another 500,000 more according to recent forecasts, as reported by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, here is Time Magazine’s big thematic piece from just last month:

Europe’s Debt Crisis Seems Bad? Look at Its Car Industry

Just how bad are things in motoring Europe? On Wednesday Peugeot reported it lost over $993 million in the first half of 2012 alone. The same day, American maker Ford announced second quarter net income of just over $1 billion world-wide — but a $404 million loss in Europe, where the company now expects total losses to exceed $1 billion by year’s end. Meanwhile, General Motors Europe affiliate Opel-Vauxhall has lost a whopping $14 billion since the start of the century, and is almost certainly facing the same sort of layoffs and plant closures Peugeot has announced.....What’s more, the sector is almost certain to see more bad news on the revenue front. According to the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (EAMA), new car registration declined by nearly 7% in the first half of the year. All told, projected total sales of 12.4 million cars in 2012 would represent a nearly 20% slide in volume over 2007, when the current string of annual shrinkage began. Forecasts that once saw activity improving by 2013 now push returning health in the sector beyond the recessionary horizon now stretching far off into the European distance....That dismal outlook on the demand side is compounded by concerns over excess supply. Industry analysts say auto manufacturers in Europe maintain around 30% more production capacity than the market will bear.

Captured Governments

Like other dying industries of the past century, the global auto industry has entered decline after having fully embedded itself in the political complex. Regardless of political leaning, federal governments from Europe, to Japan, to the United States have and will continue to do everything possible to save the industry.

US automakers received their first bailout in late 2008 from the Bush Administration. The bailouts continued in the Obama Administration. (Both presidencies that could hardly be more dissimilar, but were united in their assumption of an enduring future for cars). For Republicans -- a party that claims to adhere to free-market principles -- releasing a first payment of over $13 billion to the industry was a classic foxhole-conversion in the midst of the financial crisis. For Democrats -- a party that claims to be concerned with climate change, the environment, and public transport -- the enormous financial support to the industry was only one part of the current administration’s continued embrace of the auto-highway complex.

More broadly, however, global governments are captured by sunk-cost decision making as the past 60-70 years of highway infrastructure investment is now a legacy just too painful to leave behind. Interestingly, whether citizens and governments want to face this reality or not, features of the oil economy are already going away as infrastructure is increasingly stranded. Moreover, there are cultural shifts now coming into play as young people are no longer buying cars – in the first instance because they can’t afford them, and in the second instance because it’s increasingly no longer necessary to own a car to be part of one’s group. See this piece from Atlantic Cities:

Young People Aren't Buying Cars Because They're Buying Smart Phones Instead

Youth culture was once car culture. Teens cruised their Thunderbirds to the local drive-in, Springsteen fantasized about racing down Thunder Road, and Ferris Bueller staged a jailbreak from the 'burbs in a red Ferrari. Cars were Friday night. Cars were Hollywood. Yet these days, they can't even compete with an iPhone - or so car makers, and the people who analyze them for a living, seem to fear. As Bloomberg reported this morning, many in the auto industry "are concerned that financially pressed young people who connect online instead of in person could hold down peak demand by 2 million units each year." In other words, Generation Y may be happy to give up their wheels as long as they have the web. And in the long term, that could mean Americans will buy just 15 million cars and trucks each year, instead of around 17 million.

If future car sales in the US will be limited by the loss of 2 million purchases just from young people alone, then the US can hardly expect to return to even 15 million car and truck sales per year. US sales have only recovered to 14 million. (And that looks very much like the peak for the reflationary 2009-2012 period) 

Indeed, the migration from suburbs back to the cities, the resurrection of rail, and the fact that oil will never be cheap again puts economies – and culture – on a newly defined path to other forms of transport and other ways of working.

Cars and the Environment

Recently, the main focus of the global climate change and environment communities has centered on coal-fired power generation. But it's the transport sector that is ripe for changing, given that declining gasoline consumption is already trending favorably in the same direction.

Recent data from EIA Washington shows, unsurprisingly, that US emissions from all energy consumption has fallen back to levels seen twenty years ago.

As CO2 emissions from total US energy demand fell back to levels in the early 1990s, US oil demand has also fallen to levels last seen in that same time period. And thus the official Washington posture towards US oil consumption remains quite conflicted. Washington wants less dependency on foreign oil, lower CO2 emissions, and cheaper gasoline. On the other hand, Washington refuses to meaningfully shift its Transport budget from highways to public transportation.

Ultimately, global governments will be left standing in the way of a process that’s now gaining momentum and is unlikely to be reversed.

Obsolete Infrastructure

For half a century, the auto-highway complex has been a conduit for political power, and myriad players have self-interested reasons to maintain the system. However, the contraction of motorized transport in the West – a natural outcome of high oil prices and debt saturation – will gain further strength as various states (or countries) simply run out of money to build new roads.

As discussed in California: Bellwether for the Rest of America, the highway-rich landscape of the Golden State (for example) sucks up 90% of its transport budget. But California roads are now among the worst in the nation, costing drivers some of the highest on-road expenses merely as a result of poor surface conditions.

To the extent that states can no longer maintain roads to an adequate standard, infrastructure will become stranded.

We see the same related effects in US airport infrastructure as many regional airports have either seen a huge reduction in traffic or have shut down completely. (The US Postal Service and its current financial difficulties also reflect the emerging trend, as the USPS is obligated to deliver mail to remote locations even as postal revenues drop on the higher cost of – you guessed it – energy and gasoline.)

Eventually, drivers will be asked to pay higher tolls and other fees to maintain roads, as public funds, in a time of flat economic growth, are diverted to other services. This will then compound the transition as the costs of maintaining and running a car go even higher. Every car driver is now subsidized. As the subsidy goes away, more drivers will be forced off the road.

Yes, it is painful for both politicians and the public to acknowledge that much of our infrastructure is no longer needed and cannot be redeployed. The public is only now becoming aware that the energy costs of road-building and road-maintenance have gone through the same price revolution as the price of oil. Governments at all levels find that simply keeping the existing roads operable – and not even in particularly good repair – requires enormous annul sums of capital. And, the per-mile construction cost of new roads is prohibitive.

When the national highway system was originally constructed, of course, oil prices were at an inflation-adjusted level of around $12-$14 per barrel. That oil prices now trade at 8 times those levels has completely changed the economic return on road building. Unsurprisingly, the demand for asphalt has crashed back to levels last seen in the early 1980s. 

US Product Supplied of Asphalt and Road Oil

End of the Grand Public Subsidy of Roads

The United States has only just begun a long reduction of public spending on roads and highways.

The current administration has shifted only a few percentage points of the transport budget from the auto-highway sector to public transport -- but that shift will grow larger as the years progress.

And while it took many decades for such a shift to develop in the US, the same process will be more rapid in the developing world. In other words, the advance, peak, and decline of motorized transport in China and India will be much more rapid as these nations and their giant populations arrive more quickly to the limits of oil based transport. Indeed, there is already evidence in the data that oil adoption rates have slowed considerably as the majority of new energy demand comes online to the powergrid.

In Part II: The Real Story Is the Rise of the Global Powergrid, we further examine the poor investment prospects of roadbuilding as economies enter the next leg of energy transition. Interestingly, one of the implications of this shift is that oil will be set free to advance to much higher price levels. A paradigmatic shift in global energy usage is underway that has finally become more well-defined, and more visible.

Oil is no longer the new great game; grid power, with its inherent flexibility, is now emerging.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; paid enrollment required for full access).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

As always, I enjoy reading these well thought out articles.  However, I have to argue three points:
1.  Public transportation does not replace a road.  Even in California where they are building this "high speed" train, they still have to maintain existing roads running right alongside the train tracks.  They may be able to avoid adding an extra lane due to congestion, but they are not currently building new roads.  Until someone shows me a place where they actually removed the road, I won't be believing that public transportation replaced it.  If you even search for the term "road removal," the articles you find will tend to be about forestry management.

2.  Cars are a symbol of our freedom.  You can't take public transportation to your bugout location deep in the woods.  Replacement of roads with public transportation should result in increased urbanization and decreased rural living.  I'm certain that readers can find 100 different conspiracy theories that are enhanced by a loss of freedom of movement about the country, so just (insert your favorite here).

3.  The U.S. has many built-in wasteful practices.  We have computer based users (software developers, accountants, other front office employees) commute from the suburbs to reach a destination in the inner city to sit in a cubicle and do work that they could just as easily do from home.  We send salespeople on airplanes across the country for a 2 hour face-to-face meeting because that's somehow more impressive than a video conference.  Before the era of oil ends and cars go away, I would suspect that these practices will be highly discouraged and ultimately ended.

[quote]Milwaukee spent $25 million to demolish the 1-mile-long Park East freeway, while it would have cost $100 million to rebuild that 30-year-old freeway. Removing the freeway opened 26 acres of land for new development, including the freeway right of way and surface parking lots around it, which have already attracted over $300 investment in new development, in addition to stimulating development in surrounding areas.

  • San Francisco increased nearby property values by 300 percent by tearing down the Embarcadero Freeway and opening up the waterfront was opened up, stimulating the development of entire new neighborhoods.
  • Niagara Falls is removing the Robert Moses Parkway in order to slow people down and encourage them not to drive as far. Just as building this parkway encouraged tourists to take longer trips and drive right through to Niagara Falls, Canada, removing this parkway is meant to encourage tourists to take shorter trips and stop in Niagara Falls, New York.
  • Paris is considering closing the Pompidou Expressway as one element of a larger plan to reduce automobile use by reclaiming land from the automobile. It is also converting traffic lanes on major streets to bus lanes, as part of the same plan.
  • Seoul has removed the Cheonggye freeway and restored the river that it covered in order to stimulate the economic revival of central Seoul's Dongdaemun district. It has built busways to replace the freeway capacity, and it the goal of this plan is to reduce automobile use from 27.5 percent to 12 percent of all trips.[/quote]

This paints a rosier picture of highway removal than facts on the ground may show.  I am familiar with the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls, NY.  If you want to get to the Falls, the only alternative to the Robert Moses is a congested city street through one of America's more blighted cities.  You are better off crossing the border and going to the Canadian side of the Falls.  That's what most people do, and destroying the Robert Moses will only encourage that trend.  That said, I think tearing up roads that are under used or have created blight in cities is a very good idea along with building bike paths and lanes and mass transit lines.  They are the future of any American city that hopes to remain viable.


how the folks in nearby areas felt about the increase - tax wise, that is.  I hear the good points but can't get there myself.  I'm not aware of many instances of folks having to look hard to find nice property these days.  Why not just leave the infrastructure alone…close it for use and let it decay/fall down…sort of like Detroit (its atrophy is beautiful this time of year), and allow private money to reclaim it if they think its worth it.  I'll bet public money was spent in tearing stuff out so private money could step in for the gain.  What was Thatchers line?.."The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money"…love that line.  But - I'm sure if I ignore some personally held principles I could see the good here - I just see broke cities spending borrowed money on what essentially is real estate speculation and the "if we build it they will come" model is officially broken.  Anyway, its good to not be discussing CM's new pyramid scheme video! 

I would suggest visiting Toronto or the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.  Toronto is one of the two or three premier cities on the North American continent.  There is, no doubt, private money involved, but gov't planning is what built that city.  Compare the American and Canadian side of Niagara Falls.  American side is a shabby deteriorating city while the Canadian side is beautiful and full of things for tourists and residents to do.  I have long felt that the signs of a great city are people on the streets enjoying a vibrant urban environment, parks and parkways, bicycle traffic, cultural amenities and clean efficient mass transit.  Toronto has all of those.
Drive the parkway between the Peace Bridge, that connects Buffalo and Ft. Erie, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, Ont.  It is beautiful winding small road along the Niagara River with nice residential neighborhoods on the other side of the road.  Great for a bicycle ride.  On the American side of the river you drive a freeway that has seen better days and is marked by the dying industrial wreckage of the rust belt days.

Hold whatever political beliefs you want, but recognize that governments can do wonderful works when motivated by the people's wants and needs rather than what's good for GM and GS.

planning is great, spending public money to tear up bad/no/lack of prior planning is bad - period.  Planning is perhaps where we diverged.  Public spending for private gain is only a political footbal if you want it to be - its a belief, an understanding, a cultural centerpiece…or not.  I'm sure most (not all) on the American side is a dump - another tourist hotspot to be milked to death.  And Torontomay well be beautiful (haven't been there, have been to Ottawa - very pretty what I saw) but I gotta ask…what other city or two make the cut?! 

I've always stayed on the Canadien side of the falls, if only because it's a much better view. Multiply my view by millions of people and that may be why that side is beautiful and full of hotels and touristy stuff. IMHO.
I haven't been to T.O. in a while, but I do remember their subway system was woefully inadequate for a city of that size. I just took a peek at their map, they have still have only 3 lines for a city of 4+ million people I believe. And don't even get me started on their traffic jams…
But anyways, I'm not a fan in general of Toronto or NYC or really any big, densely populated city that you can't move around very easily. Just think of all of the resources - food, water, etc. that need to be brought in. I used to enjoy that vibrancy of a big city, but I've found my little town is vibrant in it's own way.

I know I am in a minority, but to me a car is not a symbol of freedom.  For the money it costs to buy, there's a mess of other interesting things I could afford.  Driving a car, I am subject to a possibility of "papers please" that is more thoroughly established and legally recognized than any other in this country.  Keeping the car running requires a steady supply of gasoline (and maintenance).  If the car breaks on the road, or ends up in a mudhole or snowbank, I require assistance from someone else to repair it and/or extract it from its predicament.  My travel is mostly confined to established roads, and I can easily be blocked by "deep" water, just a little snow, or even a plain old traffic jam.  You can drive to a city, but when you get there, can you park?  And for how long?For freedom, I suggest a bicycle.  If you can eat, you can travel.  If the bike breaks, you can fix it with (usually) just a few pounds of tools and/or spare parts.  If the road is out, you can push the bike or carry it.  Roads aren't necessary anyhow; a narrow path works just fine.  No license, no registration, no special taxes, no papers-please.  It's not as fast as a car, but you're trading a lot of hassle for that speed, and a train or bus will often get you most of the way anyhow.  And if you're willing to pay the special luggage charges, you can take your bike with you on an airplane; try that with a car.
Just thought I would offer an alternate perspective on "freedom" and cars.

I grew up in Ontario in the 70's and I know that I was very fortunate indeed to live in such a progressive and prosperous province. And it didn't matter if the Government was Conservative, NDP or Liberal. All of them were super sane, ethical and reasonable compared to what I believe are now truly nasty, venal and regressive people running my country. We are now going down the petro-state, neo- conservative  screw the idea of protecting the environment road here in Canada I am very sorry to say that. I wonder if the changing demographics has a lot to do with the shift to the new nasty mindset in Ottawa. Like everywere else in the West our population is mostly middle aged and up. And I think that it is common for people to become more conservative as they age. But the biggest change in Southern Ontario came when we lost most of our well paid union industrial jobs to the US, Mexico and China. Growing up I remember the good jobs, cheap gas& food and good government in Canada…now I wonder what the hell happened?

You are right about the Toronto traffic jams being really bad. There was a study done recently that claimed that Toronto has one of the longest communting times of any magor city in the world. I lived there for a couple of years and I know it's bad, but I was surprised to hear that it is World class bad. I could be wrong, but I thought that the public transit was reasonably good. Also the current mayor of TO has little interest in improving public transit. And I think that he hates cyclists. He is famous for commenting on the death of a cyclist in the city, saying that if someone gets hurt or killed in traffic riding a bike that it is their fault simply because he thinks they are stupid to be riding a bike were there are cars around. He also tried to close all the public librairies in the city to save tax dollars. But fortunately the author Margaret Attwood led a public protest that stopped him.

I'm banned from bicycles for medical reasons, but I guess a bike would still offer freedom.  Getting to my bugout location by bicycle would take me too long anyway.Public transportation does not.  If you're on a plane, train, or bus, the governement gets to track you and control your movements, you electronically provide your "papers" anyway.

I am very surprised that the article, informative as it is, did not make any comment on the obvious increase in sea-level caused by all the tears shed by motoring correspondents as they and their dream jobs head for the scrap heap. Heaven forfend, they might have to find proper work and stop playing around.
It will, however, stop me yelling: "So, xxxxing what?" each time one of them tells me that such and such a car, a.k.a. 'dinosaur,' can reach such and such a speed in such and such many seconds as though it is the most important statistic in the whole world.

A fine article with some nicely informed comments that add to the fineness.

I do, however, have a different take on the whole personal vehicle vs. public transportation thingy.  My take is closer to Dr2chase's thoughts (bicycles) than the traditional progressive position of love & promotion of public transportation.  Since we must cut our carbon emissions at least 80-90% by mid-century to have a shot at less than fully catastrophic climate change, I'd be all for public transit if those sorts of goals were possible using it.  But they aren't in the real world because of the amount of heavy iron and infrastructure necessary.  Besides, in the century of contraction, we can't possibly come up with the big capital to greatly expand public transit.  Not when that sort of capital is of dire need for smart grids and renewable energy.  

If public transit, particularly electrical powered, were the most carbon efficient way to move people around, I'd be all for it.  It's not.  It's another story for heavy cargo, but people are relatively light weight buggers and using heavy iron trains and busses to move them around shorter distances is just plain dumb and wastes tremendous amounts of energy.  Long distance travel is another story, but within the say 50 mile radius where we live 95% of our lives, very light weight, much smaller, electric powered vehicles will take care of that at the carbon savings that we need.  

Think of it as a change to electric horses, mules, bullocks that need to be fed just a few solar panels, move human beings around on their own schedule for the bulk of their transit needs, and need smaller infrastructure without beating up that infrastructure with excess weight and power.  Personal transit needn't disappear but unnecessarily excessesive personal transit must go the way of the dinosaurs that they are.  There's not nearly enough food for these dinosaurs.  Yeah, we'll have to go with vehicles that are perhaps 40-60% slower, 4-10 times smaller and 10-20 times lighter, but we can still have personal transport with most of the utility that we have today, and with 4 times the speed, endurance and lack of hassle that we had with the flesh and blood horse.

This approach to a high percentage of human transport has other less obvious advantages for the future.  We can repurpose a far greater percentage of our current infrastructure, both habitation and business, if sensible personal transit is retained this way.  You don't need a train track or bus every 2 blocks in dense urban areas if commuters can use their tiny e-vehicles from 5 or even 10-15 miles away, and park (on the sidewalk) to ride to their destinations.  As cars and parking for those cars are removed from the streets over time by economic contraints, that opens the way for protected bike lanes on current streets, current streets that will carry more people and last a whole lot longer without replacement.  Suburbs are far less of a bane for the same reasons, and they can be repurposed for urban agriculture and hortaculture, by turning McMansions into 2 and 3 flats, tearing down and recycling some others or using them for barns, and instituting 10-40 acres and an e-mule programs.

I live whereas I speak.  I haven't had a car for the last 3 years and ride an electric trike around Chicago year round for the bulk of my personal transport.  I constructed it myself for about $1100 from common new components (made almost entirely in China.)  It has a top speed of about 20mph, a range of about 30 miles max, takes 10 cents of electricity to charge up, and moves my butt around the city on surface streets as quickly as with an automobile on average.  Is it all I want it to be, or what any sensible person other than the young or adventurous would tolerate as prime transport?  Not by a long shot.  It needs at a minimum better suspension, seating and protection from the elements, yet it has such tremendous utility that can relatively easily be improved upon.  An e-vehicle that weighs less even with cargo than I do is at least 20 times less carbon intensive than using an automobile for the same purposes and at least several times better than public transit.  That gives us some carbon room for a loose grid of public transit, and keeps me moving on my own schedule.  

You can see this in action here:  Go to the "E-bike Shopping in Winter" video.

Telecommunting is the way to go. I started an engineering consulting firm and work from home. One of my neighbors is a professor at a univeristy and works from home doing distatnce learning or–in other words–working as a virtual telepresence. Ebooks are growing their market share because they don't involve printing physical books, moving them by trucks and stocking them in brick-and-mortar stores, and eventual return or disposal if not sold. And online merchants do not have many of the expenses of tradtional retailers.
Similarly, if people want to work in this brave new world, they can often work online. My girlfriend Bonnie writes iPhone aps from home. When my husband is fixing a system by repairing the machine code, he gets paid to work from home when he is programming. Telecommuting is how one girlfriend back on Long Island in NY works for a large insurance firm. It's being seen as a perq (that''s how it's spelled, not perk - short for "perquisite" or benefit). And who would not want a perq that cuts their gasoline bills to near zero and their insuance rates to local rates if they havea a long way to drive? The car is still with us for a while yet, but this is one way to slash our utter dependence on it.

Honestly, it is all sorting itself out. For now, I want to make a few predictions about a best case scenario. Since it requires far less oil to run a virtual business, if things do not slide into anarchy those who can move to the virtual model, will. Things sold online will have to eventually be taxed since so much commerce is moving to that arena and you need to have the computer infrastruture to handle it. Jobs online will provide more tax revenue, too. I work from home in SC and pay income taxes to NY, and am taxed as a business owner in SC. These taxes do not cost either state anything for wear and tear on their roads. And they are way cheaper for me than commuting.

Bear in mind that we have become so much more efficient in using over the last 20 years electricty that a number of investment vehicles hoping to profit from increased electricty usage did not do well. I believe the same thing will happen with oil. I saw people near NYC carpooling in response to the last oil shock. I see large, fuel-guzzling vehicles falling completely out of favor (I call SUVs "Mall Terrain Vehicles" - why anyone would buy one is beyond me.) I hope we have a slow decline so there can be an orderly transition so that everything else–and I do mean everything–can become much, much more local: food and other services will have to be community-based. Everything else will be online.

Yes, cars will someday become curiosities: think of the horse-drawn carriages that bring brides to fancy weddings in style, or rich people having horses. But that day is not yet.

I live whereas I speak.  I haven't had a car for the last 3 years and ride an electric trike around Chicago year round for the bulk of my personal transport.  I constructed it myself for about $1100 from common new components (made almost entirely in China.)  It has a top speed of about 20mph, a range of about 30 miles max, takes 10 cents of electricity to charge up, and moves my butt around the city on surface streets as quickly as with an automobile on average.  Is it all I want it to be, or what any sensible person other than the young or adventurous would tolerate as prime transport?  Not by a long shot.  It needs at a minimum better suspension, seating and protection from the elements, yet it has such tremendous utility that can relatively easily be improved upon.  An e-vehicle that weighs less even with cargo than I do is at least 20 times less carbon intensive than using an automobile for the same purposes and at least several times better than public transit.  That gives us some carbon room for a loose grid of public transit, and keeps me moving on my own schedule.  
You can see this in action here:  Go to the "E-bike Shopping in Winter" video.
I love your E-bike, super cool! I'll read more.

SailAway wrote, "I love your E-bike, super cool! I'll read more."Thank you, friend.  I clicked on your picture and was overjoyed to find no sails.  I get sick in anything but a canoe on the water. (grin)

for everything.  When the high temp is minus -25, and the wind has drifted the snow into a moonscape, and the plow's work is filled in within an hour - and your family needs to get something done…whatever that may be, an SUV or decent pickup becomes your best friend.  Every year I seen priuses, smart cars, and once a volt becoming part of snow bank (as the plow driver mudders to himself  "what was that bump").
You can have an ecological disaster in your garage and drive something smarter when whether permits.  Is somebody really gonna try to tell me that its better to drive two five passenger cars instead of one seven passenger suv?  So the suv or pickup is bad but the slew of high horsepower cars isn't?  Turbo four in a subaru is putting out like near 300 hp!?

Why don't these green saviors focus on getting people to make better decisions like just buying a trailer?    A good trailer gives me utility and allows me to use less vehicle or an older vehicle.  At least its a discussion that has practical aspects that allows for reality.  Its a step or two that can be done by most - or whatever, but this "go green" bullshit is wearing thin.  Electric cars are golf carts with turn signals. 

But absolutely nothing comes close to urban dwellers with a bus pass acting superior and green - all the while their food is truck in, garbaged hauled out and shipped on barges, with the downtown sizzle electrified and vibrant with energy from coal, etc!  Poetic.  Here comes the "you know treemagnet people living in cities are more ecologically friendly than you rural people" line.  To each his own I guess.  But hey, at least we're not debating the pyramid video!  Gotta go, I've gotta go price some $35 led bulbs for my house …figure they'll pay off by…2030?!


Safewrite,Your post is a great example of how we all help each other to think and respond to the new normal.  Telecommuting is a huge node of the new normal but it can be bolexed up like anything else.  We'd better protect it from the old thinking if we want to continue on to the better world in the distance.  

Then there is always the eCat car.
Where does all this certainty come from? Why, the self-referential, model making Left Brain. It is my self appointed task to always bring everybodies attention to the strengths and weaknesses of our superpower. We have to take into consideration how we think, or we will fall prey to our own hall of mirrors.