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The Top Story of 2008!
Happy New Year! We send you and your family the very best for 2009.
So what is it? What is the top story of 2008? Barack Obama winning the presidency? His calling for a doubling of renewable energy production? Appointing LBNL realist Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy?
There's so much going with climate change mitigation. Was it California's AB 32 implementation and the first hints as to what carbon mitigation might really look like? Wind and solar production and investment tax credits? No.
EcoMotion hits the pedal with GASOLINE. Can you spell VOLATILE?
It's the top story because it's unbelievable! Pretty hard to predict that the first six months of the year would culminate in record oil prices; gasoline prices well over $4.00 per gallon. Harder to predict a precipitous decline would reverse years of oil and gasoline price roll-ups and result in gas for less than two dollar a gallon.
U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that in 2002 a barrel of crude sold for $17.85. By 2007, this had risen to $95.98. Among other factors, speculation of strong demand from China, India, and developing countries caused prices to reach an all-time high on July 11th at $147.27 a barrel. In turn, gasoline prices created daily hardship at the pumps and exacerbated the recession.
After the average regular gas price hit $4.59 a gallon in Los Angeles, ridership on the Metrolink train system increased by 15.6%. Where are the tipping points? Some thought $3.00 a gallon was a tipping point for gas. All this before gas prices plunged to $1.61 a gallon at year end.
By September 2008 and due to the sharp increase in gas prices, Americans had driven 53.2 billion miles less in a year than the prior year. What will the halving of gasoline prices do? Will Americans revert to their gas-guzzling ways? Will there be a proportionate decline in use of mass transit? The graph below shows the changing gas prices over three years, from 2007 to 2009.
Nationwide, in the third quarter of 2008, there was an overall 6.5% increase in mass transit, the biggest increase in 25 years. The 2.8 billion trips taken reflected an 8.5% increase in light rail use, 7.2% for bus use, 6.3% for commuter rail, and 5.2% for subways. Meanwhile, Americans drove less: 4.4% less in September 2008 than the same month a year ago according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Most encouraging is data from Los Angeles that shows that even as gas prices have fallen, so far the public has not reverted back to the car. Does this signal a shift away from "cultural habits and norms of the car culture" as Next American City posits? Have we changed?
The public was burned by gasoline price roll-ups in 2008. Each of us was burned at the pump. Last year, doubling energy prices became a two-faced reality.
Competition: The Best Stories
Many environmental projects are not cost effective by today's standards. Cost effectiveness kills lots of ideas that appear ahead of their time.
Many ENN readers recognize urgency and are taking actions which are not particularly cost effective in the short term. That's right. You won't get your money back any time soon. And you still do it.
- solar systems with long paybacks
- buying hybrids when you don't drive much
- and planting trees!
Tell us what you are doing to save the planet, but without immediate reward. We want to recognize your actions.
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