Energy: Vision, Courage & Candor Required
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
July 20, 2006
Earlier this year, in what should have been a blockbuster development locally, VIA recorded a 12% increase in ridership. When measuring from October '04 through January '05 compared with the same period from '05 to '06, VIA tabbed an increase of 1,460,447 riders! This is just one indicator of reactions locally to higher gas prices.
Also, the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicular travel on all roads in the U.S. in April 2006 was down from April 2005, despite population growth and economic expansion.
Local transportation policy expert, Bill Barker provides further information about our local situation. "Per capita gasoline consumption in San Antonio is 19% higher than the average large U.S. city. (Urban Land Institute) Because of this, and the relatively low personal income level here, the September Forbes magazine listed San Antonio in the top 10 cities hardest hit by gasoline price increases. ("Gas Crisis Cities", September 29, 2005)
"While other U.S. cities have successfully pursued policies to reduce petroleum dependence, with a few exceptions, San Antonio has done the opposite. ("Energy and Smart Growth: It's About How and Where We Build")
"$115 million was spent by San Antonio households and businesses in 2005 on Middle Eastern oil for transportation. (Environmental Working Group, "Stuck in the Sand: How Trillions Spent on Highways Keep America Dependent on Middle East Oil") This money leaking out of local circulation for imported oil reduces the region's economic multipliers. (Special VIA Report, 1999) Besides weakening our economy, higher gasoline expenditures put us at a competitive disadvantage with other, more fuel efficient, cities around the world."
World Oil Challenges, Opportunities
The following is taken from Testimony on Peak Oil by Dr. Robert L. Hirsch, Senior Energy Program Advisor before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality (December 7, 2005).
"A recent analysis for the DOE (Department of Energy) focused on what might be done to mitigate the peaking of world oil production. It became abundantly clear that effective mitigation will be dependent on the implementation of mega-projects and mega-changes at the maximum possible rate. A scenario analysis was performed, based on crash program implementation worldwide – the fastest humanly possible. The timing of oil peaking was left open because of the considerable differences of opinion among experts. The results were startling: Unless a mitigation crash program is started 20 years before peaking occurs, the economic consequences will be dire.
"Oil peaking represents a liquid fuels problem, because motor vehicles,aircraft, trucks, and ships have no ready alternative to liquid fuels, certainly not for the existing capital stock, which has lifetimes measured on a decade scale. The world has never confronted a problem like peak oil. Since it is uncertain when peaking will occur, the challenge for decision-makers is vexing. Mustering support for an approaching, invisible disaster is much more difficult than for one that is obvious. We would like to believe that the optimists are right about peak oil being a distant problem, but the risks of error are beyond imagination."
That is why public officials and all citizens must recognize the VIA development and other alternate technologies such as biodiesel, E-85 and solar power for their promise.