Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hmmm. Another good end of cheap oil warning.

A question has started nagging me. If all these stories are plausible, shouldn't I be doing something to plan for the end of cheap oil? And if so, what?

After our alcohol car was stolen we had to buy a new one. And this one uses petrol. We didn't have much choice, as they'd cut down production on making alcohol cars in the late 90s, which is when we're buying from (second hand)

We can get our new car modified to use alcohol though, and I think we will, very soon.. Brazil has a tradition of alcohol based cars, and should have the right kind of environment to produce it. So there's some hope of the country as whole making a fairly straight-forward transition to alcohol.

But what about Brasilia?

Brasilia is an absurdity of a city, totally designed around the car. And in the middle of nowhere. OK, it's not as bad as Las Vegas or other desert cities. But there's no railway, or large river. Transport is by (not good condition) road. Or air.

Flying will certainly be hit if oil gets too pricey.

Brasilia isn't in the desert, but it's not great agricultural land either. It's "cerado", sort of savannah-like. Don't see many cows locally. Although a couple of hours (drive) out and there are farms. Near the rivers you can grow fruits, vegetables, bananas and nuts etc.

But the real question about Brasilia is what the hell it's doing out here. Brasilia exists as a challenge to geography rather than an effect of it. It's a city of around 2 million stuck somewhere where few people chose to live. In fact, it was deliberately put here to try to encourage population influx to this part of the country, despite the lack of incentives.

There used to be mining in the region. There is agricultural. But it is a centre of neither. It would be absurd to put industry this far from any transport networks. So there's not much of an economy except for the government.

I'm sure that's been an extraordinary expense over the 40 years since the city was started; simply in terms of transport and energy to get goods here. And for government employees and representatives to shuttle backwards and forwards between the city and all the "real" places where they would rather be.

So as transport costs go up, will it be worth Brazil continuously paying to keep this displaced bubble of bureaucracy on life-support? Or will it become more sensible to cut the losses and move the command centre back to Rio or Sao Paulo?

Hmmm. It's not a beyond imagination, that this could happen within the next 30 years unless an alternative cheap energy is found. And that will turn the place into a ghost-town.

Sure a few banks have moved their headquarters and data-centers here. But they're just following the government. They'll be glad to return to Rio if the government reverses policy.

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