Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The End of Aviation

with 5 comments

New Republic

Bradford Plumer looks at what will happen when we can no longer afford to fly.

Generally it seems likely that we will find ways to cope with rising oil prices in land transportation. We can already reduce our carbon footprint for many trips by switching modes,  using existing technologies and of course rethinking about how often and why we travel.

Air transport is going to have to deal with that third option, since the promise of new technologies in this field is much lower. Heavier than air aircraft need very dense energy sources – and so far that has meant oil. And despite Richard Branson’s declared hopes for biofuels, the current impact of biofuel on food costs and supply is clearly unacceptable.

Much of the analysis presented in this lengthy article refers to the US but it applies to us too, and as I have said here before, small regional airports in marginal markets are at greatest risk. Abbotsford being the first that comes to mind. Much of Canada is also dependent on air travel since distances are so great. But the city pairs where rail makes sense are decades behind where they should be in terms of rail infrastructure. Canada really does need a national passenger strategy and – given that most of use live along the US border –  connections to the south must be part of that.

I was also a bit sad to read that airships don’t seem all that likely – but a shortage of helium is a big stumbling block

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2008 at 10:21 am

Posted in Air Travel

5 Responses

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  1. A little off topic, but with the rise of the cost of oil, peak oil, etc., I wonder how long will it take the railways to reopen long abandoned rail routes. The one I think of today is the old CPR Kettle Valley Railway, through southern BC.

    When oil increases to say $200 a barrel, will it be cost effective to reopen the railway to the Interior. The American railways have reopened some long abandoned routes and when oil costs make it unrealistic for trucked freight and the day of the cheap airline ticket is long gone, how soon will the ‘ghost’ rails come to life again?

    Those trestles South of Kelowna, may once again carry trains.

    Malcolm J.

    September 19, 2008 at 11:03 pm

  2. Using Hydrogen for airships is not as hazardous as we have been lead to believe.

    Greg A

    September 21, 2008 at 7:13 pm

  3. An interesting assertion, Greg, would you care to point us to a source of information to back that up?

    Stephen Rees

    September 21, 2008 at 7:24 pm

  4. I stand to be corrected, but I remember reading that the replica trestles in Myra Canyon were not rebuilt to the original standards; they didn’t need to be strong enough to carry trains.


    September 22, 2008 at 12:49 pm

  5. Way off topic (as often happens in discussion threads) but according to the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society

    The replaced trestles will be constructed of wood, to reflect the appearance of those destroyed, except that a lighter grade of construction will be permitted due to the reduced loading.

    Funding for trestle replacement will be provided by the two senior levels of government. Enhancements to the trail will be undertaken by the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society with generous funding provided through donations from private individuals, the Central Okanagan Foundation and the private sector.

    Stephen Rees

    September 22, 2008 at 1:01 pm

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