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Sail Transport Network Hauls Food Across the Sea

Jan Lundberg, Culture Change
David Reid is an engineer from Scotland living in Seattle who became active in the peak oil awareness movement. The more he learned about the implications of dwindling energy capability for industrial society and the consumer economy, the more he might have despaired or continue to talk and talk about the crisis until there was nothing more to say. At least that’s the way it usually works: one monitors the deteriorating world situation and tries to anticipate the future, and — for the adventurous or the paranoid — maybe relocate. One tries to be hopeful.

But Dave believed in an adventurous, positive future, so he took the bull by the horns. He bought a sailboat and followed up on a promising-sounding idea: a network for sail transport for the post petroleum world. In September, after attending the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, he sailed with some friends to Seattle on his sloop the Whisper. It was laden with the organic-farm produce from a farm on the peninsula. With no engine’s noisy growl or spewing of pollutants or greenhouse gases, the food was delivered in a timely manner to waiting customers across the Puget Sound.
(29 December 2008)

Airlines ‘shrinking by all measures’ – report

Reuters via CNN Money
International airlines saw a huge 13.5% fall in cargo traffic in November and a drop of 4.6% in passengers as business shrank across the industry, the carriers’ grouping IATA said on Tuesday.

The figures – reflecting what IATA has dubbed a “chronic crisis,” with revenues tumbling and hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk – marked the sharpest declines since the months after the September 2001 attacks in the United States.
(30 December 2008)

Jatropha-fuelled plane touches down after successful test flight

Alok Jha, Guardian
The search for an environmentally friendly fuel for airplanes took a leap forward today with the world’s first flight powered by a second-generation biofuel, derived from plants that do not compete with food crops.

An Air New Zealand jumbo jet left Auckland just before midnight GMT with a 50-50 mix of jet fuel and oil from jatropha trees in one of its four engines. The two-hour test flight, which took the Boeing 747 over the Hauraki Gulf, showed that the jatropha biofuel was suitable for use in airplanes without the need for any modifications of the engines. It forms part of the airline’s plan to source 10% of its fuel from sustainable sources by 2013.
(30 December 2008)

Japan auto sales plunge as young lose interest

Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press
To get around the city, Yutaka Makino hops on his skateboard or rides commuter trains. Does he dream of the day when he has his own car? Not a chance.

Like many Japanese of his generation, the 28-year-old musician and part-time maintenance worker says owning a car is more trouble than it’s worth, especially in a congested city where monthly parking runs as much as 30,000 yen ($330), and gas costs $3.50 a gallon (about 100 yen a liter).

That kind of thinking — which automakers here have dubbed “kuruma banare,” or “demotorization” — is a U-turn from earlier generations of Japanese who viewed car ownership as a status symbol. The trend is worrying Japan’s auto executives, who fear the nation’s love affair with the auto may be coming to an end.

… “The changes in individuals’ values on cars came cumulatively over time,” said Nissan Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga. “The change in young people’s attitude toward cars didn’t happen overnight. So we have to keep convincing them cars are great.”

… [Japan’s] disenchantment with cars is cause for concern. Americans, after all, are expected to start buying cars again — eventually — partly because of the inadequacy of mass transit there.

It’s a different story in Japan’s cities where streets are clogged but trains are efficient. The domestic market also is shrinking due to a drop in population.

… The damage to this nation’s economy would be devastating if the auto industry fails to turn itself around because so many jobs will be affected
(30 December 2008)

Ditching car OK with Net transit planners

AP, Yahoo!Tech
As a New Yorker, I don’t own a car, and I really hate driving.

So I challenged myself to avoid the driver’s seat as much as possible during a recent West Coast trip, something made practical with all the online transit planners that have cropped up in recent years.

In the old days, I’d have to track down bus schedules and maps on paper to figure out where to go. I’d have to manually determine which transfers to take and where. Even if I did, I’d worry about catching a bus in the wrong direction.

The car usually won out, as my hatred of driving was far less severe than my intolerance for ending up stranded in an unfamiliar city.

Now, I can let the computer figure it all out for me. Services from Google Inc., individual transit agencies and other sites now cover many cities with decent transit systems. The sites work much like the online maps for driving directions: Plug in where you are and where want to go, and the computer spits back transit options.

The services are far more comprehensive today than they were just a few years ago.
(30 December 2008)