Cars are doomed energy experts warn

Car travel must be cut by at least 80 per cent, road construction halted and public transport boosted if Australia is to have any hope of meeting carbon emission targets to avoid dangerous climate change, Monash University energy experts warn.

The experts say Federal and State Governments should stop spending money building new arterial roads and focus on phasing-out cars, improving the energy efficiency of public transport and making people use it.

The warnings come from Associate Professor Damon Honnery and Dr Patrick Moriarty, experts in alternative energy at Monash’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

“The car is doomed,” Associate Professor Honnery says.

“Ultimately, we are going to have to move to a decentralised society where most people need to travel far less.”

“People are going to have to fundamentally change the way they think about travel and make much more use of non-motorised travel such as cycling and walking.”

While the researchers say the drastic changes they are proposing are needed if Australia’s transport sector is to meet the 2050 CO2 emission reduction targets, the Australian Trucking Association points out that 75% of Australia’s domestic freight currently goes by truck, and there is simply no alternative to moving freight by road in most cases.

“The ATA would support increased spending on public transport in order to create a less congested road network and reduce carbon emissions,” says Chief Executive stuart St Clair.

“We do stress, however, that the spending should be in addition to governments’ road funding and not in place of it, because the industry needs better roads so we can use more productive vehicles with lower carbon emissions.”

“The amount of freight on Australia’s roads is growing rapidly,” St Clair says.

“Every trucking operator and professional driver knows we need better roads in urban areas to reduce congestion and better long-distance road links to improve safety and travel times.”

Despite this, the Monash University researchers say the community seems to accept the need for drastic CO2 emission reductions.

But there is still a widespread perception that technical advances alone will provide the reductions needed in the transport sector is way off the mark.

“Our calculations show that not even the best combination of fuel efficiency, hybrid and electric cars, alternative fuels and car pooling could provide the reductions needed to meet the 2050 targets for avoiding dangerous climatic change,” Associate Professor Honnery says.

In their research paper, Mitigating greenhouse: Limited time, limited options, soon to be published in the Energy Policy journal, the researchers say that their analysis of available technical solutions shows that the big emission cuts needed in the transport sector require “a near-total shift from the private car to public transport”.

Dr Moriarty says big reductions in air travel are also needed.

“An overseas trip might become a once in a life time experience rather than an annual event,” he says.

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