The Oil Drum: New York City

Helping New Yorkers understand, prepare and adapt to the implications of Peak Oil

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Time's Up for a Chat

Every month on the last Friday evening a group of these people meet and decide to travel to together around the city. They slow down traffic wherever they go. They happen to ride bikes and belong to a group called Time's-Up. They also make a lot of noise because no one listens to their plight. Last Friday, 34 of them were arrested by the NYPD.

Imagine a group of people who go a little against the grain. They want to change the world one step at a time. They want to set a good example for sustainable transportation for others to follow. However, everyday they risk their life and limb navigating NYC's car clogged streets without the protection of even basic traffic safety lines. They have their property impounded because of inconsistent policies on parking. And they can't even voice their displeasure by riding together on New York's streets without getting tackled while in motion by the police.

I think it is high time that the city actually listened to some of the very reasonable demands from the cyclist community best summed up in these lists by Time's Up and Transportation Alternatives. They really aren't asking for a lot that would cost much money and would do much to improve the quality of life for the thousands of New Yorkers who bike to work, thus reducing traffic congestion and making room on mass transit for more riders.

Please write to your local city council person and Mayor Bloomberg to tell them to start a dialogue with the cyclist community now.

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What is "Peak Oil"?

In the online community discussing the implications of peak oil, there is a growing recognition that awareness is not building fast enough to affect the types of societal changes that will be necessary to weather the coming storm. As I have learned the hard way, just saying "peak oil" is not enough.

So as a way of helping us sharpen our message to the uninitiated of what "peak oil" is, let me explain my point of view:

Peak Oil is not the end of oil but rather the end of cheap oil. Cheap oil is what fueled the economic and population booms of the 20th Century.

Oil has tripled in price in just the last 4 years (see chart - 2001: $20; Current: $60)

We've got about half the total supply of oil left that we inherited from millions of years, but it's going to be much harder (more energy spent expended) to extract that second half. The second half is also going to be a lot dirtier (high in sulphur) than the first half thus degrading the environment even more. We've got somewhere between 1-1.5 trillion barrels of oil left according to various sources. We are using almost 90 million barrels a day - over 20 million barrels a day in the United States alone.

In the back of everyone's minds they know that this is not sustainable, but most don't realize that we don't have 50-100 years to adapt. Most also don't realize that most of the world's oil was discovered before 1960 and that the US hit its peak in 1970. At most we have 10-20 years, even by optimistic goverment self-estimates of reserves from OPEC. The problem with the data is that we just don't know how much of the reserve information coming out of secretive places like Saudi Arabia and Iran to believe. Other oil industry experts that have been done extensive research on what the actual reserves might be like Mathew Simmons, Paul Roberts, Colin Campbell believe that we may reach the peak, if we aren't already at the cusp, much sooner - like within this decade. Even a major oil company, Chevron, has publically stated that they believe that we are close to a peak in oil production and need to urgently seek alternatives.

One estimate that predicts peak oil occuring soon

Without cheap oil a number of alternative energy sources will have to fill the gap and/or society must be radically re-organized to consume less oil. There is no single source of energy that can now or in the next 10 year replace oil, but rather a combination of wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, hydro, coal (preferably cleaner burning), bio-diesel and other sources that are under development or have not yet been imagined might be able to help minimize the impact of declining oil production when it occurs.

This is why urgent attention to this issue need to happen at all levels of our society, from investing more in alternative energy R&D, to re-organizing our cities and suburbs away from the automobile, to making each region more self-sufficient in meeting its own food, water and energy needs. If we wait until oil prices start to run away from our ability to sustain our society, there will be massive disruptions to our economy and potentially major dislocations of people in areas heavily dependant on cheap oil.

Personally, I think we will get through this, although not without a lot of hard work and some major negative consequences for those who are slow to adapt to the changing world.

I think New York City is probably as good a place as any to be during this and I'm not planning on heading for the hills anytime soon. The major risk I see is severe economic conditions causing urban unrest and break-downs in law and order. If things get really bad, my back-up plan is moving to Ithaca, NY where I lived during my four years at Cornell. But if we start planning now I think NYC can become a leading light in the country on how to re-organize our way of life more sustainably. Much work needs to be done and we don't know exactly when the storm will occur, but it's better to prepare as early as possible.


For more reading, from the less urgent to more urgent please read: Wikipedia, Energy Bulletin,, Saintbryan, Kunstler, Matt Savinar,

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Book Review: Blackout by James Goodman

NY Skyline August 14, 2003

On August 14th 2003, New York City lost power citywide for the first time since 1977. To everyone's collective surprise, nothing happened. No looting, rioting, arson or massive destruction of private property. While it was extremely inconvenient for commuters, many people simply used the sudden loss of power as an excuse to get to know their neighbors, have a cook-out and eat frozen food before it went bad.

On July 13th 1977, a different story emerged in some of the poorer neighborhoods of Northern Manhattan, Bushwick in Brooklyn and scattered areas of Queens and the Bronx. Under cover of the sudden darkness, hundreds of people took it upon themselves to "get what they wanted but couldn't afford" according to one looter. Why did the lights go out? Why did they loot? Why did they set buildings on fire? Why did they destroy their own neighborhoods? That's what James Goodman seeks to bring to light in his recent (2003) book about the 1977 blackout, now available in paperback.

He recounts the small private moments that individuals experienced, what motivated their actions, as well as the more well known images of Con Edison officials guessing at the causes and of looters carrying away all manner of merchandise as quickly as they could.

Bushwick, Brooklyn: July 13th, 2003

Stylistically he keeps true to the pace of events as people experienced them - both the good and the bad that happened on the streets of New York. He exposes all the different prejudices and stereotypes that played into the interpretation of the events of that night in a way that shows the emotions of the day in full light without validating any one. Some said that it represented the end of liberal idealism about welfare, other blamed the decline in morals, still others brought up the rampant unemployment and lingering racism that still limited the opportunies of those in the poorer areas of the city, etc, etc. Goodman hints that all of the various explainations had some truth in them but no one reason could explain the entire sequence of events.

My reading in light of peak oil brought several key factors that all contributed to the civil disorder:

  1. The City's fiscal crisis that had resulted in cutbacks in social programs and policing
  2. An economy that had stagnated as inflation grew dramatically
  3. A high concentration of extreme poverty in some areas
  4. A relatively weak mayor (Beame)
  5. Existing high rates of property crimes and theft
  6. A critical mass of inital unchecked looting that created an atmosphere that made ordinarily good law-abiding people feel that looting was acceptable. (important because in 2003 the police had 3 hours to prepare before sundown)

My basic conclusion was that the blackout was the lit match that in some neighborhoods ignited an inferno. Without the preconditions listed above, the spark has nothing to ignite. In 2003 most of these pre-conditions were not present, but after of few years of increasing oil prices we could start to see an erosion of the city's financial stability, which could lead to a situation in which urban chaos will again be a definite risk.

Also keep in mind that when Con Ed lost control of the system in 1977, they had the ability to produce 2 times as much electricity as was being consumed at the time. That was a system error. What will happen when we actually start to have regular brownouts and rolling blackouts to help reduce demand?

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Green Buildings in NYC

Realistically, since most people in the Tri-State can use mass transit for most of their transportation, rising oil prices will most affect the NYC area first in home heating costs. Home heating oil prices have tripled since 1999 and so has natural gas. One advantage New Yorkers have is relatively smaller living spaces and more dense housing made of stone and brick which makes more efficient use of heating than old wooden houses in the suburbs.

For those who own their house are in a co-op or a condo situation, expect that you will probably have an increase in your common charges this winter as fuel prices increase. One suggestion to lock in prices now before they increase later this year is to sign yourself or suggest it to your building up for the NYPIRG Fuel Buyers Group.

For those of you renting, like me, we don't have to pay directly for fuel, but don't be surprised if the heat is a little lower this year than last.

As a result of this, I've been thinking about finding more efficient buildings in the city that will be able to weather the winter a little better than some of the older less efficient buildings. Two large scale residential buildings that are listed on the Green Home NYC site are The Helena and the Solaire which both offer a wide array of environmentally friendly amenities from energy efficient electrical systems (including solar panels) and appliances to high performance windows and water capture and reuse systems. I am investigating how much higher rents are at these places.

Another model that may be more realistic for the rest of low rise NYC is the building recently constructed at 228 East 3rd Street which has many of the same amenities in a smaller building which only has 22 apartments.

I will try to find some more of these and find out the relevant rents for them. I suspect that many New Yorkers would be willing to pay more in rent to live in a more eco-friendly building. Eventually as heating and electric prices rise, real estate companies may have wished they had started retrofitting some of their old buildings with these efficient systems.

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Blood, Sweat and Tears

Our dependence on foreign imported oil since 1970 when the US hit its own peak production has resulted in the shedding of much blood in the Middle East, much sweat in trying to maintain the supply of oil and the tears of many people on both sides who have lost people in this struggle to keep oil prices as low as possible.

Bob Herbert writes a great column on the real neo-con agenda in Iraq while the main editorial page of the NYTimes laments the lack of imagination in the current joke of an energy bill that will likely be passed by Congress before the end of its current session.

And this could just be the beginning of a long stuggle that will go beyond Iraq. Think of how much energy and resources we could have poured into R&D, creating large scale wind and solar farms in some of the more desolate areas of the country. North Dakota could be the new Saudi Arabia. With solar, Arizona could generate the equivalent of the Hoover Dam. We have all the energy we need to accomplish this now and unless we start building for the post oil energy future, the death spiral will continue.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

NYC: 13,000 Megawatts at 4-5pm July 27 2005

Con Edision asked many neighborhood such as North Brooklyn and Harlem to reduce their electric consumption as today's heat pushed demand past the record set yesterday and for the first time exceeded the 13,000 Megawatt mark at 4pm and 5pm.

Many midtown companies were asked by Con Ed to reduce their electric consumption by raising their thermostats and turning off unnecessary equipment and lighting. We went half dark at my office around 2pm today.

Yesterday there were some temporary outages in Brooklyn, but nothing serious. However, the temperatures can still get higher which may test the limits of the overall system provoking some controlled brown-outs. The noise level about this is not very high right now, but if there were disruptions that lasted longer than a few hours, people may get angry.

Personally I'm going to double check my supply of batteries and flashlights. I'm on the third floor of my apartment building so I don't think the water pressure will be affected, but that remains to be seen. For those in high-rises, start stocking up just in case.

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Con Ed Asks for Conservation

Con Ed is requesting that New Yorkers conserve electricity during the recent heat wave as it set another record for electric usage. Even before we hit the peak in Oil and Natural Gas, we are having trouble maintaining the electrical system. This really highlights the need for more local micro-energy initiatives across the city and renewable supplies for the future, particularly wind and solar.

I'm enjoying my read of "Blackout" and should finish it sometime later this week. I will post a review then along with my comments on the implications for NYC in a peak oil world.

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NY Political Round-up

The mayoral forum at NYC last night was focused on Parks and did touch on some issues related to the pedestrians & cyclists vs cars in parks. The attendees were Council Speaker Miller, Fmr. Bronx Borough President Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President Fields and Fmr. Councilman Ognibene, who was the only Republican in the debate. Mayor Bloomberg and Rep. Weiner were the big no-shows. I haven't seen much news coverage yet, even by the NY Times or NY1 so let me give you my perspective.

In general I thought Miller performed the best of the Democrats. He showed far more energy and charisma than the other candidates and I agreed with most of what he said. He also just seemed to have a better grasp of all the issues than the rest of the field. That said, he lacks the gravity of some of the older more experienced candidates. Fields came off as less park and bike friendly than I expected. She was the only candidate in the forum that actually is not for curtailing or suspending car usage of park roads, particularly during rush hour. Ferrer was stale and boring - tending to revert to politico-mumbo jumbo at the start of many of his answers. Ognibene had good moments, but failed to really impress me and convince me he's a real challenger to Bloomberg on the right. I heard very little than distinguished him from the Dems.

Overshadowing this in the news this morning is the announcement that Gov. Pataki will not be seeking a 4th term. This now looks like Spitzer will have an easy time next year. I'm going to start doing some homework on his environmental record and agenda.

In transit news, the 2nd Avenue Subway has been delayed yet again and the Taxi and Limousine Commission has approved the use of several different hybrid models for inclusion in the NYC taxi fleet as a test. The big problem until now seems to have been leg room. Personally I'd pay extra for a hybrid taxi. And I'd be cool if you could spot them from afar - maybe the hybrids could be painted green?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mayoral Forum

Off to the Mayoral Forum on parks. It should be interesting to see what if anything they say about cars in parks, traffic congestion in general and making NYC's parks cleaner, safer, nicer.

While the Democrats are trying to find their voice and select a candidate, our current Mayor seems to be lining up some big pockets to stay on the sidelines.

Currently I am completely undecided on the mayoral race.


Monday, July 25, 2005

NYC Blackout 1977 vs 2003

Now that I'm finished with the epic Crime and Punishment, I picked up "Blackout" by James Goodman. It's about the 1977 blackout in NYC and all the various reactions across the city, from opportunistic looters to people who made great acts of kindness and generosity. Emergencies bring out the best and the worst in individuals, especially in the context of a city that prides itself on its anonymity. The picture above is from the 2003 blackout which was relatively calm and peaceful by comparison even though it occured over a much wider area.

I think these are fascinating case studies of what happens in crisis situations. The relative calm of the 2003 blackout was based on the premise that the power would be restored in a day or two. What if no one was confident that the lights would come back on? What if we had 2-3 hours a day where power would be shut down due to lack of fuel (gas, oil, coal transport?).

It makes me think of the classic Issac Asimov short story "Nightfall". That's the ultimate nightmare scenario, complete chaos and civil disorder. If you haven't read it, I recommend it.

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Better Mass Transit is the answer for all

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It is incumbent on all of us drivers and users of Mass Transit to have transit fully funded like other services. Congestion pricing and tolling the East River Bridges is politically unpopular but it is a major part of the solution. We need the commuter tax reinstated so that comuter-persons who earn a living here aren't unfairly subsidized by urban dwellers. The commuter tax should be dedicated solely to subsidizing Mass transit operations. We need BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) to operate within the 5 boros so commuters will be drawn out of their autos. It is working in LA (land of the automoblie) and around the world. For BRT to be a reality we also need the "political will" to implement and it requires only 3 things with not much infrastructure investment. You must get NYPD, NYC-DOT and the MTA in a locked room to agree to implement BRT and not just agree to another BRT study. What is needed is!
  1. Real enforcement of Bus only lanes on major streets in NYC.
  2. A transponder on the bus to safely change lights green in favor of the bus.
  3. Pre-boarding Kiosks at heavy usage stops like 14 Street, 42 Street where passengers have already swiped their Metro-Cards and need only board the bus when it arrives.

We need a greener less fossil fuel system and how about a pilot all electric fleet on one line to begin the feasibility to convert eventually all electric city-wide. If we can fuel them with wind feeding the electric supply. We can do this with overhead Catenary wire system which could be bus or light rail with (no autos alowed) avenues. There are issues with siting bus garages in lower economic areas, where the diesel emissions cause a propensity to childhood asthma. Electric and CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) could reverse that negative health trend. Obviously electric power is preferred but CNG is better than diesel.

Please share your thoughts.

Sunday meters

The mayor is coming under criticism for his policy of keeping the meters
running on Sundays. I heard on NPR this morning that 41 City Council members
want to have that repealed. The main argument seems to be that people in
church need to leave in the middle of service to plug the meter. I'm
sensitive to that concern, but that must be an extreme minority of folks.
Maybe each Church could give away stickers that exempt cars parked near that
church from meters. But this becomes a slippery slope...

The real problem with this is just that it encourages more driving, albeit
offpeak hours, but it does have an impact on mass transit ridership, which
means there are more excuses to cut weekend mass transit service.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

NIMBY Now, Regret Later?

From the NY Times today. Upstate, where there is lots of great land that is perfect for Wind Farms, different communities are making different choices about the placement of wind turbine farms. The different sides of this debate are not your classic industry vs. environmentalist or even Liberals vs. Conservatives clash that usually strike up about power generation. The lines in this battle to increase NY State's Green Power have a lot more to do with money and the view out of your window.

Gov. Pataki and many local government officials have joined forces with cash poor but land rich folks in favor of erecting wind farms while local residents who worry about noise and a disruption of the "natural beauty" that exists without wind farms. Tom Golisano, perennial gubernatorial candidate, has joined the protest against the wind farms.

This is the type of backward attitude of "Not In My Back Yard" NIMBY that people may live to regret in the coming years as energy production will be a very lucrative business for rural communities in the peak oil future. Obviously there needs to be a better job in selling the benefits economically to the local community and perhaps spreading the benefits around a little more.

Some good information about wind energy from the article: Each wind turbine costs $1.5-2 million dollars and can generate the electric for 1,000 homes.

While it will never replace all electrical needs due to the mismatch in peak demand and supply, it can help to reserve coal and gas for peak times and take care of the base demand during its peak generation times. Or they can be used to charge batteries or separate water into Hydrogen for car fuel. Or they could be co-located with solar panels that have a different peak time, thus together generating electricity at almost all times.

Personally if I lived in upstate, I'd love to see windmills and solar panels outside my window!

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Energy Slaves

I just finished Crime & Punishment yesterday, which I somehow managed to miss during high school literature classes. There are many great insights about the human condition, but one that struck me in relation to peak oil is:

"We've grown used to having everything ready-made, to walking on crutches, to having our food chewed for us. Then the great hour struck* and every man showed his true colors"
*Emancipation of the Serfs (1861)

Until relatively recently (200-300 years ago) society relied heavily on human labor (much of it forced labor). We don't think about it, but our everyday energy consumption relies on the equivalent of thousands of hours of human labor. Colin Campbell has a term for this: Energy Slaves.

Something to think about. How many energy slaves do you have?

NY Century Bike Tour

I just saw that the NY Century Bike Tour is going to be on September 11th. Whatever your point of view on what motivated a small group of well funded Islamic radical terrorists from Saudi Arabia, it is hard to ignore the role that our dependence on foreign oil played.

This is a great way to highlight the growing numbers of bikers in NYC who are making a difference in making NYC a less fossil fuel dependent and more environmentally friendly and sustainable place. You might also meet some nice people and lose a few pounds in the process.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Congestion Pricing Primer

The best first step in creating a greener NYC and weaning the local area of their dependence on cars is to implement some type of congestion pricing for the East River bridges or creating some type of Central Business District (CBD) zone that would require an entrance fee, in particular one that would vary in price depending on the time of day.

In NYC, the most logical zone would be Manhattan south of 60th Street, since this would cover all 4 free East River bridges as well as people coming from the north of Manhattan where there are free bridges from the Bronx.

The most comprehensive and compelling analysis I could find was put together by Jeffery Zupan of the Regional Plan Association. He reviews 4 different options for congestion pricing and the impact it would have on the number of cars, trucks and other vehicles entering Manhattan as well as the increased mass transit ridership.

However, this is politically unpopular for politicians in the outer boroughs. We need to convince them that this is the right thing to do for the whole city.

From a peak oil perspective, this type of policy would help transition our economy so that when gas prices start to run away, we already have changed commuting habits in such a way that the impact will be less chaotic.

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Illusion of Safety Overtakes Motorists

Ok, so the NYPD are starting to search bags in the subway system, thus providing the temporary illusion of increased security on mass transit. In general I don't have a real objection to this as a temporary measure to help people feel more secure. But the fact is that this is more psychological than a true security screening like we have in airports. Two paragraphs in the NYTimes piece linked to above that resonated with me were:

William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, said comprehensive coverage of any major urban transit system would be next to impossible. "If you were going to try to check a very high percentage at every station or on every train, it would be incredibly labor-intensive," he said.

Still, he said, the searches could deter would-be attackers and improve the public's confidence. "The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe," he said. "So this has a benefit of perception."

Meanwhile motorists everywhere must be feeling pretty secure that they aren't a terrorist target, or at least if they are it is merely the work of local, homegrown road rage instead of some ideologically driven suicide bomber.

Here in NY, the everyday auto-terror continues in the nation's only city where drivers are a minority -- an average of 684 car crashes are recorded every day of every week of every year. Over 17,000 pedestrians or cyclists are struck and injured by automobiles every year in NYC, and cars killed 1,190 pedestrians and 121 bicyclists between 1995 and 2001.

And for those keeping score at home, last year in the US it was terrorists: 0, fatal car crashes 42,800.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Green A Block

Good role models can really help inspire people to believe that good things are possible and even take action - despite all the negativity and complacency we see everyday. This is why we need to encourage all energy conservation projects now to build good role models for the future and use those lessons in greening the rest of the city eventually.

This is last minute notice about a community forum tonight of the Green A Block committee starting at 6pm going through 8:30pm at:
Village East Towers
Community Room
170 Ave C (near 10th St)

I would go, but I already have plans tonight so if anyone does go, I'd love to hear the outcome of the discussion and some of the ideas raised.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Southeast Asia: Canary in the Peak Oil Mine

The impact of peak oil will first be felt in countries less well off than the US and Europe. We need look no further than Indonesia, a member of OPEC, to see major problems starting to occur. The government has been subsizing gas and fuel prices to help insulate the economy from fluctuations over the last year, but now the government is facing a bill ($11 billion) greater than the budget costs for health and education simply to keep fuel cheap.

They should be afraid of ending the subsidy because the last time they did (picture from 2002) there were massive protests.

Thailand had to raise it's key interest rate recently because of inflation fears as gas and fuel prices rise as subsidies are cut and have even resorted to compulsory measures to control gas usage: The closure of petrol stations from 10 p. m. to 5 a. m. effective from 15 July. The government "hopes the measures will also instil in the public a sense of emergency over the need to conserve energy."

Malaysia may also cut its fuel subsidy soon

Southeast Asia is the canary in the mine for oil prices. Watch what happens there and learn.

Record Electric Usage for Con Edison

Due to the hot, humid weather in NYC this week, Consolidated Edison (Con Ed for short)reported record electric usage yesterday July 19th "at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon when 12,250 megawatts were provided, topping the prior record of 12,207 megawatts set on August 9, 2001."

On it's website, Con Ed reports that "electric usage has grown by nearly 20 percent during the past 10 years. And, as the economy continues to grow, there is every expectation that these trends will continue for the foreseeable future."

Well, we know that the future is uncertain with the coming peak in oil production in the not too distant future. There are many different ideas on what this might mean, but most would agree that as oil and natural gas prices get higher, we will probably lean more heavily on electricity to run everything including cars and dirty coal will be used to fire our increasing electric usage.

That's why we need to invest much more in reducing electricity demand and developing our green power, particularly wind and solar. I urge all New Yorkers to switch their electricity provider from the generic Con Ed service to their green power product, which costs just a little bit more but has some other incentives like a $25 refund after 3 months.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mayoral Forum on Parks

The Parks #1 Campaign is having a mayoral forum next Tuesday starting at 6:30pm through 8:30pm at:
New York University
Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 LaGuardia Place (and Washington Square South)

You can either go to the link above or call 212-838-9410 x 233.

Their goal is to have the city dedicate 1% of its budget to city parks. I support their goal because increasing green space in urban areas will be critical to building a more sustainable environment. No need to leave the city and burn fossil fuels if you have a great park nearby. But also this is also a great forum to discuss issues of the environment and reducing our dependence on cars. You can influence the debate by going to to make a reservation and submit your question.

Time's-Up is planning a bike rally to the event:
5:45 p.m. - Ride meets at Columbus Circle/West 59th Street
6:15 p.m. - Pick up more riders at Union Square Park South
6:45 p.m. - Arrive at forum @ NYU

London Congestion Pricing

Map of Areas Covered by Congestion Pricing and Signs Posted

Definitely something we need to start thinking about for Manhattan and other high density areas in the Tri-State Area. Note that the pricing only covers peak hours of congestion (7am-6:30pm). More on this later.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Reactions to Peak Oil Email

I would like to share the range of reactions to my letter to my friends and family about peak oil.

They went from dismissive / I know better:

  1. You have it backwards.The way capitalism works is that oil hits $100 a barrel AND THEN we start reducing energy usage and looking for alternatives.
  2. what about central Asia? Sounds like there might be more oil there than anyone previously thought.

To appreciative:

  1. That's very interesting stuff. I remember an economics course that I took in college and the prof was always stressing the scarcity of oil (and of fresh drinking water) and how artificially low the US oil prices are. I'll continue to check the sites you mentioned. Thanks again!

To denial:

  1. I'm really not at all worried. If gas gets too high I'll simply ride my bike more, walk whenever possible, loose weight and be happy I'm not working at a job which requires my using my car for transportation.
  2. I don't even look anymore when I buy gas. Why get upset over something I have no control of.

To confusion:

  1. Perhaps this peak is a temporary (although not final) one? Not questioning the general logic of your argument -- just the timing.

Interesting reactions. When I talk about this with people, they just say basically I'll worry about it when it starts to affect my life, which it isn't now. What a short term perspective! These are the same people that will feel free to be very angry about this when it does.

Sometimes I fear the boiling lobster effect where we don't even realize that something very bad is happening because it happens so slowly we barely recognize the day to day changes. The awareness side of the peak oil is going to take time, it's going to take some pain, and there will eventually have to be some major event (probably an actual shortage caused by a natural disaster or terrorist attack) that sparks public attention. That's unfortunately the way humans behave - complacency until panic.

My Victory Garden

This weekend I picked up a couple of herb plants - Rosemary and Basil - to form the first of my own little victory garden. When supplies of fruits and vegetables became rationed in WWII millions of people planted their own gardens to supplement their diet. These two plants will become the nucleus of my own little urban container spice garden.

On Sunday I had chicken with Rosemary and it was much better than the dry stuff out of a container.

Those of you in the suburbs with a little extra backyard might want to start planting tomatoes. For those of you stuck in the confines of the urban jungle, try to find a local community garden or at least go to one of the many farmer's markets to buy your produce from local and organic farmers.

Investing in Mass Transit

Two articles in the NY Times today underscoring the investments necessary to improve NYC mass transit infrastructure.

First, there is a new bond proposal for $2.9 billion dollars that will be on the November ballot. Of that dollar total "Half of the money, $1.45 billion, would go to the transportation authority for a variety of building projects and new equipment, including new subway cars and buses as well as trains for the authority's two commuter railroads." This will include the first section of the 2nd Avenue Subway line and a link between the LIRR and Grandcentral station as well as other capital equipment. The other half will go to highway and bridge improvements as well as "repairs to freight railroad lines". This seems like a good start in the right direction and something that peak oil folks should work to support to avoid the failure of a similar proposal in 2000.

Second, a team has been selected to build the new Moynihan station that will become the new home of NJ Transit just one street west of Penn station. This will help ease crowding and delays that currently exist as well as allow NJ Transit to expand service.

Emailing from the 2nd Avenue Bus

Ok, I'm doing this mostly for the coolness factor - I have a wireless email
device (Blackberry) and it appears as if I can update the blog from email.
So now I can post from anywhere!

Let me just say here now that I would bike to work if 2nd Aveune wasn't a
total death trap - cars flying in all directions, moving & delivery trucks
stopping short, minivans loading up kids (yes even in Manhattan). The buses
on the right side of the road make it nearly impossible for a biker to
operate in that lane and the left lane is pretty dangerous too, although
that's where the few, brave 2 wheelers seem to gravitate toward.

It's such a shame too, because my office is only 2 miles away from my
apartment. Then there are the storage parking, issues, etc. So even though I
live in a flat area where everything I need is only a few minutes by bike,
biking is really not too feasible.

But if you have the guts, here's a group that can help.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Appeals Court Rejects CO2 Regulation by EPA

In a long awaited decision, an Appeals Court ruled against a move by 12 states (including NY) to have CO2 regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. (Hat tip Green Car Congress)


I just came across a great place to get PEAK OIL awareness posters. http://www.eclipsenow.or

I recommend putting these up in places that already have a space dedicated to poster space instead of just illegally plastering them everywhere.

Review of "Oil Factor"

Directly after the Mets game today I went to see the 5pm showing of "Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror" playing at the Anthology Film Archives on East 2nd Street and 2nd Aveune.

The documentary basically re-summarizes recent history since 9/11 in light of the peak oil phenomenon, arguing that the US is really trying to establish military hegemony in the last oil producing region after Europe, Russia and much of the non-Opec countries "run out". This last point was probably their misinterpretation of the difference between oil production peaking and actually running out. This is an important distinction, because actually oil will still be produced for at least a few more decades by even the most apocalyptic predictions.

While I thought this movie did a good job of displaying the suffering and plight of the Iraqis and did underscore how important was to the US in terms of sustaining its global hegemony, another person could have easily walked out of that film thinking it's really not bad having access to Iraqi oil and maybe the war was actually worth it. Of course, I was really outraged at the suffering that has occurred simply to maintain a foothold in an oil rich country in the heart of the middle east. But from a geo-political strategic self interest perspective, I could see how someone else (think O'Reilly and his followers) with a different perspective could think that having our military there is not half bad in the context of peak oil.

This is the danger of focusing too much on the negatives and not offering a more viable solution to continued oil dependence. This is one of the reasons I have started this blog, is to hopefully start painting a viable picture of the solution to this issue other than the die off scenarios.

I think NYC can do quite well in a moderate peak oil scenario, and I think we can lead the way in helping other communities navigate the impact of peak oil as it unfolds.

Mass Transit to Shea

As New Yorkers, Mass transit is and will become increasingly important to the sustainable economic future of the city. Improving the quality of that mass transit system is critical to weaning people of cars and taxis. The more people that start using mass transit now, the easier it will be to justify expansion of the system to more areas.

Today I took a fairly circuitous route to Shea Stadium to see the Mets beat Atlanta 8-1 in the first victory I saw this year. Let's Go Mets!

I live near the 86th Street subway station and usually take a little known shortcut using the E express train from 53rd Street & Lex to Broadway in Queens and then switch to the 7 train, thus saving many local stops on the 7 train. Anyway, today there were many frustrated people trying to figure out their route since the local 6 train was running on the express track. This affected me too since the connection to the E train relies on the local 6 train. Instead I took the express to Grand Central and doubled back to the connection to the E train and continued on my way.

There are a few lessons the MTA could learn from this story:

First, communication is the key to customer satisfaction - the frustration people felt was more because they didn't know what alternatives existed. The signs that were posted were inadequate, and the poor token booth guy was overwhelmed with people asking questions.

Second, "an educated consumer is your best customer" doesn't just apply to retail! I breezed through the chaos because I knew the drill and could easily navigate my way without much time lost.

Third, people really like the option of choosing between local and express trains. I avoided the 7 train because for some reason they don't run express trains to Shea Stadium on the weekends. So instead, i have to find a loophole in the express E train even though it means 2 transfers instead of one. This should be a no-brainer to simply run express trains to large events like a baseball game during times before and after the game.

Sample Letter about Peak Oil

Dear Friends and Family

I have been reading extensively about the possibility that we may soon reach (if we haven't already reached) the peak in global oil production (where demand can not satisfy supply and price increases as a result). Oil prices have risen steadily over the last 4 years from the $20-30 range in 2001 to poking above $60 for the first time ever recently.

While oil prices seem to have stabilized in the high $50 range for now, the stuff I've been reading suggests that later this summer while vacation season is still in swing and simultaneously refineries have to start building inventory for the winter home heating fuels, things will start to get a little tighter and could easily drive prices into the $70-80 range. This could cause further speculation as outlined in a recent Goldman Sachs report that predicted oil might reach a price of over $100 in the not too distant future.

Normally the oil producing countries could simply increase production as they have in the past, but two factors have combined to make this a near impossibility.

First, OPEC has publicly stated that they can not increase production at this time and most non-OPEC countries have already peaked. For instance a few weeks ago the UK reported that their North Sea production had declined by 15% versus this time last year.

Second, refining capacity is in the high 90% range, so even if there were a significant increases in crude oil supply, it is not clear if any more could be made useful faster than it currently is.

The implications for significantly higher oil prices will affect everything from gas prices, home heating costs, food costs, and could cause the type of stagflation that occurred during the 1970s, but this time there is no political solution. The problem will only continue to get worse until more alternatives start to get to more of a critical mass, but that is not expected for at least 2 decades.

Please start preparing for this depending on how these changes will affect you.

  1. Reduce your energy usage overall - heating/cooling, transportation, etc.
  2. Invest in raising the efficiency of your home and appliances.
  3. Keep up with the latest news on the subject.
  4. Talk about this with your friends and neighbors.
  5. Make this an issue that has to be addressed by public officials


In this blog, I will specifically address how peak oil will affect the NYC area, focusing mostly on Manhattan but also including the other four boroughs, Westchester, Northern Jersey and Southern Connecticut.