Most of the transportation energy use is intra-city or intra-country transport of goods. This is across the ocean, or vast distances on land.
Your bike lanes and public transit are nice, but they’re not a significant contributor to the overall energy-usage profile of the planet.
This is a very typical conversation with any sustainable type. They’re worried a lot about the huge supply chains that are vital to our modern, globalized economy – but mass car dependence (something many, if not most, countries do without) is apparently but a drop in the bucket.
Luckily, the UK department of National Statistics can set us right. Here’s my source for the rest of the article.
Earlier my discussion partner (who I quoted above) said about a third of energy is transportation, he’s bang on!
Breaking down the data we can see energy usage is mostly in the road sector, although we can also see aviation is a huge driver. All in all, road transport accounts for about three quarters of transport related energy usage.
And the private motorcar is responsible for 62% of that road related energy usage.
34% x 75% x 62% = 16%
So, in the United Kingdom, a country which has a very low level of car dependence compared to many (just look at a motorway map of London) uses 16% of its energy for cars.
16% is definitely worth targeting. If we could halve car miles (leaving plenty of rural and disabled drivers – even leftovers for the pleasure driver) that’s an 8% reduction in energy usage – a huge step forward.
Cars and density oppose each other. Cars permit sprawl and use huge amounts of valuable space (parking lots, motorways and wide roads). A bigger city means a longer and more energy intensive commute.
While electric cars are now firmly in front of us, we’re still a long way from mass adoption. In the meantime cars rely on a fuel source that is not only incredibly volatile in price, but also damaging to the air quality of our cities.
I think it’s simply foolish to brush urban planning, transit and car dependency under the rug when it comes to sustainability.