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In lively and engaging language, this book describes our dependence on freight transport and its vulnerability to diminishing supplies and high prices of oil. Ships, trucks, and trains are the backbone of civilization, hauling the goods that fulfill our every need and desire. Their powerful, highly-efficient diesel combustion engines are exquisitely fine-tuned to burn petroleum-based diesel fuel. These engines and the fuels that fire them have been among the most transformative yet disruptive technologies on the planet. Although this transportation revolution has allowed many of us to fill our homes with global goods even a past emperor would envy, our era of abundance, and the freight transport system in particular, is predicated on the affordability and high energy density of a single fuel, oil. This book explores alternatives to this finite resource including other liquid fuels, truck and locomotive batteries and utility-scale energy storage technology, and various forms of renewable electricity to support electrified transport. Transportation also must adapt to other challenges: Threats from climate change, financial busts, supply-chain failure, and transportation infrastructure decay. Robert Hirsch, who wrote the “Peaking of World Oil Production” report for the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005, said that planning for peak world production must start at least 10, if not 20 years ahead of time. What little planning exists focuses mainly on how to accommodate 30 percent more economic growth while averting climate change, ignoring the possibility that we are at, or near, the end of growth. Taken for granted, the modern transportation system will not endure forever. The time is now to take a realistic and critical look at the choices ahead, and how the future of transportation may unfold.



Chapter 1. When Trucks Stop Running, America Stops

Trucks aren’t going to all stop running at the same time as in a dystopian movie or novel. But since fossil fuels are finite, if a renewable way to run trucks isn’t found, they will stop. As a thought experiment to appreciate how important trucks are, let’s look at what would happen if they all stopped.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 2. Shipping Makes the World Go Round

Until fossil fuels arrived, wood from forests determined the wealth and power of nations. Trees were the energy source that industry used to make iron, glass, brick, and ceramics; the fuel to heat and cook with, and also the material for homes, barns, furniture, tools, fences, barrels, wagons, and hundreds of other products.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 3. Why You Should Love Trains

Trains rock and roll around three or more times as fuel efficiently as trucks. Trains use just one gallon to move a ton 476 miles, using just 2 % of U.S. transportation fuel (USDOT 2012).
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 4. Why You Should Love Trucks

Nearly everything in our modern world was on a truck, even if only for the last mile: the furnishings and building materials in every home, store, office, and factory, the food you eat, from planting and harvest to stove-top and dinner plate, and even the asphalt and concrete in the roads that trucks travel on.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 5. The Oiliness of Everything: Invisible Oil and Energy Payback Time

Just as fish swim in water, but are essentially unaware of it, we swim in oil. You can’t understand the predicament we’re in until you can see the oil that saturates every single aspect of our life. To illustrate how energy permeates society, let’s look at the life cycle of a simple object, the pencil.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 6. Peak Oil and Transportation

Peak oil doesn’t mean “running out of oil.” There will be lots of oil in the ground indefinitely. Peak oil occurs when oil production begins to inexorably decline, either for a field, a nation, or in the most common use, globally. Clearly, this will happen someday, because oil is finite.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 7. Distributing Drop-in Fuels: The Fastest Road to Something Else

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of our transportation system. Take a deep breath and think about this: the United States is locked-into $1.11 trillion dollars of transportation vehicles supported by $4.62 trillion of transportation infrastructure comprising 12 % of all the wealth in the nation (U.S. Commerce 2012).
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 8. Post Fossil Fuels, If Biomass Is the “Answer to Everything,” Is There Enough?

Biomass such as wood and crops will need to replace natural gas, coal, and oil someday.  Is that physically possible?
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 9. Hydrogen, the Homeopathic Energy Crisis Remedy

Homeopathy involves diluting substances so much that there’s virtually nothing left of it. Hydrogen is also an empty remedy, so absurd that I wasn’t going to waste words and energy on it. But hydrogen is so often mentioned as a solution for the energy crisis that I’m going to attempt to thrust a stake into its heart.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 10. Natural Gas—A Bridge Fuel to Where Exactly?

Natural gas is touted as a “bridge fuel” to “Something Else.” But is finite natural gas a long enough bridge to replace diesel and get us to the other side, where the always fetching “Something Else” awaits?
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 11. Liquefied Coal: There Goes the Neighborhood, the Water, and the Air

Coal can certainly be made into a drop-in diesel—a fuel that can be burned in existing diesel engines. It has been done in South Africa for over 50 years by Sasol, where coal is converted into liquid fuel (CTL). Also, China’s Shenhua Group recently built the first commercial Direct Coal Liquefaction plant, though the EROI may be low or negative (Kong et al. 2015). Today, South Africa and China are the only nations with commercial CTL plants.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 12. Who Killed the All-Electric Car?

Electric cars (EV) seem like the best thing since sliced bread. The liquid fuels they do not burn make more oil available for heavy-duty trucks, ships, and planes. It should not escape our notice that there are very few electric trucks and no electric ships or planes. Later in this book, we will explore those possibilities, but for now, suffice to say they are not so easily electrified (Long 2011).
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 13. Can Freight Trains Be Electrified?

High-speed passenger rail is all the rage, but when it comes to electrification of America’s freight trains there’s no buzz, almost total silence. Europe and Russia have electrified freight trains, so why doesn’t the U.S.?
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 14. All-Electric Trucks Using Batteries or Overhead Wires

Since trucks are the chariots driven by the Gods of Stuff, in a fossil-free world it would sure be divine to have all-electric trucks.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 15. Overview of the Electric Grid: Herding Lightning

Cars, trucks, trains, and ships all use oil, a liquid fuel. Not electricity.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 16. The Electric Grid Trembles When Wind and Solar Join the High Wire Act

If we are to have electric transportation—I am not talking about golf carts here—we are going to have to grow the grid. To use electricity as a transportation fuel, we will need more electricity, and perhaps a national grid. While sustaining current uses, how much supplemental transportation energy would it be possible for such a grid to support?
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 17. The Electric Blues: Energy Storage for Calm and Cloudy Days

Ships are not electric, and probably never will be. How would you glide a container ship across the ocean on batteries? Where would you plug in to recharge?
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 18. Other Truck Stoppers: Mother Nature

My grandmother used to say “a stitch in time saves nine,” and this is especially true of neglected infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that by 2020, U.S. roads, bridges, and transit will need $1.7 trillion in repairs and new infrastructure, but that only $877 billion will be spent, and this neglect will lead to a need for $6.7 trillion by 2040. Likewise, inland waterways and marine ports need $30 billion by 2020 but only $14 billion is likely to be spent, so by 2040 marine infrastructure will need $92 billion in maintenance and new construction (ASCE 2013).
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 19. U.S. Energy Policy: Oil Wars and Drill-Baby-Drill to Keep Autos Running?

Peak oil has been politicized. People who warn about it have been marginalized, denigrated as doomsters, called Chicken Little. At the time this book is being written, gasoline is cheaper than it has been in a decade. But the concept of peak oil really is just simple common sense: Sooner or later, the amount of oil coming out of the ground will begin to decline. You can argue about when, but not whether. When the time comes that world oil production begins its inexorable decline, the world will have reached peak oil.
Alice J. Friedemann

Chapter 20. Where Are We Headed?

You can bet your lifestyle on this: We are facing a transportation fuel crisis.
Alice J. Friedemann
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