As the first headline on Blue's News tells us, and do read the story for some good laughs, the new Federal Transportation and Highway Bill signed into law yesterday contains massive quantities of pork. Every legislator wants to have something there for his/her district - after all, building roads and bridges brings in construction jobs, doesn't it? Not to mention rehabbing the museums honoring the pioneers of the automobile.
So, yes, this is a Transportation Bill for $286.4 billion dollars, of which amount 80% is for improving and extending the current system of highways and byways for automobile and truck transportation and freight hauling. The special, or "pet," projects of congressional lawmakers are known as "earmarks," and Bush had earlier insisted he would not tolerate or sign a bill that was once again full of such. (For a state-by-state listing of earmarks in the conference agreement of the bill, check here. ) Sign it he did, however, touting it as bringing the nation's transportation network "into the 21st century." This remark, more than anything else he has said lately (hard to tell though, eh?), may show just how out of touch this man is with reality. The passage of two very short-sighted bills back to back, Energy and Transportation, show that the entire body of lawmakers is also out of touch. Because the reality of the rest of the 21st century is going to involve less and less petroleum for the vehicles that will supposedly be traversing those new highways.
Elementary math will tell you that only 20% of the monies in the bill was allocated for other transportation projects - bus, rail (this does not include Amtrak, about which more eventually), light rail, bike and pedestrian ways and trails. Alternative transportation remains a stepchild of the 21st century evidently. This despite the fact that all signs point to the rapidly approaching end of cheap available oil and gas. With gasoline prices around the country, even here in DE where they have remained relatively low in comparison to, say, the West Coast, creeping towards the $3.00 a gallon mark, mass transport looks like a better and better idea for those of us whose wallets are not bottomless.
The issue of "peak oil" is the issue to which this transportation legislation (as well as the energy leg) paid little or no attention. It is an issue they should have studied longer and harder than they did the need for bridges to nowhere or highway connectors to extend suburban sprawl. We have only begun to scratch the surface in this blog in our postings about this issue. If it is one with which you are unfamiliar, I offer you a good place to get started: The Wolf at the Door, The Beginner's Guide to Oil Depletion. Dave drew your attention to The End of Suburbia a few posts back, it's another good way to start getting a grip on our not-too-distant future. Richard Heinberg, author of The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, as well as Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World , writes a newsletter on peak oil. Here is the latest Museletter, number 160. Here in the sticks where I live, mass transit is a joke. Those who have no driver's license, for whatever reason: youth, lack of documents, old age, DWI, etc, or those without cars, have to budget huge amounts of time to get from point A to point anything else on the bus routes servicing large areas in the county. Once gasoline becomes scarcer and therefore more expensive many of us with licenses and cars will be experiencing what the poor, young and old now have to endure.