CAMWEST: Cyclists’ Action Movement West

Feature — Petrol Prices and Bikes

It's black, sticky, and real expensive. We have become very dependent on oil in our economy. Now that petrol prices have gone up, we are starting to face the consequences: a crushed Aussie dollar, huge import bills, inflation fears, a shaky stock market, and anger on the streets. Unfortunately, things are not going to get any better according to the experts (see references below, or our Oil Watch Project page for the latest).

High petrol prices have a particularly strong impact in Western Sydney due to poor public transport. It is also an area with many people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Australian governments should be very concerned. People feel angry and frustrated when they feel caught in a bad situation with no alternatives. This was demonstrated by recent protests in Europe.

Australia Cycling, the national strategy paper, states that 35% of car trips are under 5Km, a distance that takes about 10 minutes to ride. Ironically, it is these short trips that waste a lot of petrol (and create more pollution) since the engine is still cold.

Although it's not a panacea, cycling can play a significant role in making us less dependent on foreign oil and giving people alternatives to the car. When we consider other problems we are facing, such as obesity, heart desease, noise and air pollution, congestion, etc, it makes sense to take bikes seriously.

Since we are not oil experts, we did a bit of research. We include quotes from various sources (our emphasis). Please check them out for yourself. (Please note these are respected, trusted sources such as The Economist, The Financial Review, the ABC, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc). See 'Read More' below for a full list of references.

The Economist, Leader for Cover story: 'Euroshambles'
France¹s government must take a good part of the blame for the dramatic spread of fuel-price protests to other countries, because of the concessions that it promptly and cravenly offered to the fishermen, farmers and truck drivers who took to the streets at the end of August.
...the argument for having high taxes on fuel, on both environmental and energy-policy grounds, is strong. Indeed, a far more convincing economic case can be made that America taxes its petrol too lightly than that Europe taxes it too heavily. The burden on consumers is hardly excessive, either: even in Britain, which has the highest fuel taxes in Europe, the real cost of motoring has stayed more or less unchanged over the past 25 years.

The Economist, Oil¹s Taxing Times
The most powerful force fuelling oil¹s volatility, as this week¹s ructions showed, is the black stuff¹s paramount importance in transport. During earlier shocks, developed economies were grossly inefficient in their use of oil; since then, governments have used such tools as energy taxes to make their economies more efficient and less reliant on oil. They have largely succeeded, except in transportƒwhere, despite soaring petrol taxes, oil remains king because the alternatives are expensive and impractical. Most of OPEC¹s oil now goes to a sector that cannot at present live without it.

7:30 Report - 7/09/00: World oil guru says petrol prices will stay high for years
PROFESSOR MICHAEL ECONOMIDES: I really believe that the excess capacity of OPEC, which was 20 million barrels a day just 15 years ago, has essentially evaporated, is now an issue where there is zero or two million barrels a day, so, essentially, zero. In Australia in particular I anticipate the prices will continue to go higher and it's going to be perhaps not shocking, but certainly significantly higher than what it is today, actually.

The Coming Global Oil Crisis
Editorials, opinions, assessments, and debates from experts on this international topic of concern. Discusses the background of the issue, and provides details of research programs and possible alternative solutions.

The Energy Noncrisis Explained

Key Priorities:

A much better alternative to reducing petrol taxes would be to lock some of these into public transport and cycling infrastructure.

Integrate bikes with public transport. This is a great combination since bikes drastically increase the reach of the train by increasing the 'customer base' around a station.
We need better bike storage in trains. Unfortunately, it looks like the new Millenium trains have none in spite of many requests from cyclists.
We also need more storage lockers at station. These need to be in a good, well-lit position. More Info.
Cycleways to train stations need to be improved to allow people to get there safely and quickly.
Accelerate the implementation of BikePlan 2010, so it is finished by 2005.
After the olympics, public transport and cycling insfrastructure should get a big share of public works. We have now seen the benefits of reduced car congestion and better public transport (See 'Public transport a winner, and should remain so', SMH, 4/10/2000). Many people have experienced getting somewhere without their car. We need to take advantage of this. They will also be inspired to be more active.

What you can do:

Write to the Minister for Transport, The Hon. Carl Scully, as well as your local MP. Ask them to accelerate the implementation of the BikePlan 2010 so as to finalise it by 2005. Ask them the following:

Read More:

New Links (added 23.11.00)

The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2000, the authoritative report on world energy trends, has been released for 2000. Have a look at the World Incremental Oil Production chart, which shows how we will depend more and more on Middle East OPEC oil. If you look carefully, you'll also see that production will be less in the future scenario, hinting at a peaking in production. There's an Excecutive Summary (PDF, 154Kb) and a press release which says: "...rich and poor alike will come to depend heavily on a diminishing number of gas and oil suppliers. Middle East OPEC countries, which furnished 26 % of world oil in 1997, will be called upon to produce 32 % in 2010 and 41 % in 2020". Robert Priddle, the IEA Executive Director, says about the document: "It sounds important alerts ð particularly in the areas of oil-supply security and climate change. But, by laying out the facts in rich detail and by proposing a number of alternative cases, WEO 2000 can help us come to grips with reality and make some difficult choices." Transport is one of the areas the report puts forward as an opportunity.

WORLD ENERGY PROSPECTS TO 2020, a paper prepared by the International Energy Agency, for the G8 Energy Ministers' Meeting (Moscow, 31 March - 1 April 1998). Look at the Oil Supply Prospects section in particular, figure 9 shows oil production peaks: 2000 for world excluding OPEC Middle East, 2015 for OPEC Middle East, 2012 for world oil supply.

The Imminent Peak of World Oil Production, by C.J. Campbell, a Presentation to a House of Commons All-Party Committee, on July 7th 1999.

Research by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce:
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is the second largest bank in Canada and one of the 10 largest in North America with assets of USA $182 billion and a market capitalization of USA $10.5 billion. CIBC relies on Petroconsultants' analysis for its energy research.
Occational Report #28, Feb 2, 2000: "While the world is not running out of oil, the region outside the Persion Gulf is fast running through the cheap oil".
Running on Empty, Forecast, Sept 19, 2000: "After rising for 140 years, world oil production is about to peak."

Cheap oil: enjoy it while it lasts - Howard Banks, Forbes Magazine, 06.15.98

Background Briefing - 3/09/00: The Cars That Ate Our Wallets

Lateline - 17/10/00: High oil prices a taste of things to come

PM - 20/09/00: Oil price threatens Asian economies

The Last Oil Shock - BBC News, The Money Programme, Nov 8, 2000: "Britain faces the prospect of closed filling stations ... There are scientists who believe that the recent problems are just a foretaste of what is to come ... [that] from 2005, the world will face a permanent ... shortage of petrol..."

When Is Global Production Likely to Peak? - World Resources Instititute.

List of papers by Matthew R. Simmons, from Simmons and Company International, a Consultancy

Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton University Press. Read the free sample chapter.

Are We Running Out of Oil? A poster by L. B. Magoon, explaining graphically the oil situation.

Mired in crude: The end of Oil - New Internationalist, issue 335 - June 2001

Your Thoughts

So what do you think? What should governments do with high petrol prices? Let us know by mailing us at contact (AT) camwest.pps.com.au, and we'll publish your thoughts. Join our mailing lists.

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