The cost of driving a car in Honolulu is near record levels this April Fool’s weekend, and that’s no laughing matter. Today’s average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas is $4.469, up a tenth of a penny from yesterday. The all-time record price of $4.483 was set May 8, 2011 and could be eclipsed early this week.
Statewide, the average reached a record price of $4.597 yesterday and dipped a tenth of a penny today, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. As usual, Hawaii leads the nation; Alaska ($4.354) falls short by nearly a quarter-dollar, followed by California ($4.311). The closest any California metro area comes to Honolulu’s price is Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc ($4.391).
That figure was calculated on the March 26th gas price, which was nearly a nickel less than its current price, so annual savings recalculated today would be even higher.
These calculations are relevant to future Honolulu rail ridership for obvious reasons. By the end of this decade when the project is fully operational along its 20-mile length between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center, the cost of operating a private car almost certainly will be considerably higher than today.
The global demand for oil and its products is increasing at a rate that surely will exceed the supply by 2020, a scenario that’s been studied closely for years by institutions big and small, obvious and not so obvious.
One of the latter is Tompkins County, New York, whose county seat is Ithica. A group called TCLocal has undertaken the massive task of anticipating what it calls “energy descent – a radical reduction in our use of energy” – and what it will mean to their community.
One of TCLocal’s reports is exceptionally relevant to the City and County of Honolulu and its citizens, since we’re already paying the highest gas prices and electricity rates in the country. Spikes in future energy prices could severely impact us and our tourism industry, the engine of the islands’ economy.
A TCLocal publication titled Outlook for Liquid Fuels, 2010-2020 is recommended reading here in Honolulu. One of its references is a Kuwait University report with this prediction: “World oil reserves are being depleted at an annual rate of 2.1%.... World production is estimated to peak in 2014.”
The Outlook notes that the United States Joint Command (military) included a similar prediction in its Joint Operating Environment 2010 report: “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, this shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD (million barrels per day).”
• The first half of the decade (2010-2015) looks better than the second half (2016-2020). If you have any major projects in mind, this might be a good time to get going. In particular, this would be a good time to make infrastructure improvements, establish a graden, and move closer to work (or arrange to work closer to home).
• The developments listed above (in the TCLocal report) as possible by 2020 are virtually certain by 2030. The descent doesn’t stop until we’ve achieved a state of equilibrium with a much lower level of resource exploitation. That transition can be easier or harder depending on how we approach it. Hawaii’s “green revolution” in renewable energy development is reducing our dependency on imported fuel.
• A lot of these developments can be prepared for. And that is the purpose of TCLocal: to begin to plan for the future looming on the near horizon.
Need we say it? Development of the Honolulu rail project throughout this decade anticipates what our long-distance neighbors in Tompkins County, NY are calling the global energy descent. Energy prices in Hawaii that already are the highest in the country will continue to lead them for the foreseeable future. That’s one of the downsides of Hawaii’s geographical isolation.
Public transit reduces energy consumption for the population as a whole and transportation expenses individually. Honolulu rail transit will provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation through our city and also will be the logical choice of scores of thousands of Honolulu residents as they confront energy’s descent.