Sunday, November 04, 2007

Another reason to avoid driving

Just been reading this article from The Age, about how a lot of people are going hungry so that we can keep driving our cars:

And if the food runs out?
“The use of food as a source of fuel may have serious implications for the demand for food if the expansion of biofuels continues,” a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund said.
The outlook is widely expected to worsen as agri-industries prepare to switch to highly profitable biofuels, according to Grain, a Barcelona-based food resources group. Its research suggests the Indian Government is committed to planting 14 million hectares with jatropha, an exotic bush from which biodiesel can be made.
Brazil intends to use 120 million hectares for biofuels, and Africa as much as 400 million hectares in the next few years. Much of the growth, the countries say, would be on unproductive land, but many millions of people are expected to be forced off the land.
Oxfam has warned the European Union that the EU policy of substituting 10 per cent of all car fuel with biofuels threatens to displace poor farmers.
The full article is here.
Any ideas about how we can decrease our dependence on cars?


Tab said...

How about introducing extra levies on fuel used by private vehicle's, and also on the purchase of vehicle's [perhaps indexed to the emissions of that vehicle] which would be directly put into improving the public transport systems.

Where I live has a very basic public transport system which does not operate when I need to get to and from work. If its' hours were extended I'd be far more likely to use it and leave my car at home. Also as I live in an isolated community, transport to other cities is limited and makes having a car "easy". So if we could improve those systems it would be much better.

Christop said...

The thing with levies though, is that for some people who will need use of a car, this will no longer be affordable, and for those who are more affluent, they will just pay extra for the luxury.

Tab said...

That is true of course, and I don't want to pay any more than I already do either. However at least the rich would be contributing to a solution. plus there are less rich people than poor people anyway, so it could POSSIBLY get more cars of the road.

How would you fix it?

Christop said...

I don't know. :) I guess I'm pretty doubtful about legislation fixing problems. I think that people probably need to be convinced to change their habits voluntarily.

Electric Chikken said...

I agree with where Tab was going with the public transport issue. One of the reasons I moved back to the city was so that I can walk pretty much everywhere. I had to drive to the station every day when I lived out in the suburbs - the public transport wasn't the best, and it would take me an hour to walk to the station from my home. Driving to the station, then training it into work/wherever was always the no-brainer option.

It's interesting to look at the history of the concept of privately owned vehicles. Trace it back to America, early last century - most people were using trains to get around. The rail network between built-up areas was quite good, and didn't cost that much to run, not to mention efficient. People started buying cars privately, which didn't immediately take off - there were no reliable roads around, resulting in long-distance trips taking forever and being very hazardous.

If I remember correctly, I read that the majority of the American public at that time, when presented with a choice between continuing to upgrade the rail network or focus on establishing paved roads, actually tended to favour the former option. This isn't so believable nowadays, as we're convinced that aquiring a car is something that's essential - many people strive for this, even when it's not required. As this is probably the result of various kinds of advertising and other social pressures and ideals (often results of said advertising), it becomes easier to understand why people back then would have opted for public transport instead - it's cheaper, safer (even in this day and age) and cleaner. Basically, they probably thought with their heads.

I initially started writing this with the idea that the establishment of a complex road system, as well as the neglect of any public transport facilities basically opened the floodgates for more privately owned vehicles, but I guess it's not that simple.