Oil, Security, Environment, Technology - The Segway Alternative
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Oil, Security, Environment, Technology As an energy source, oil is hard to beat. In spite of reports to the contrary, there’s still lots of it available—1 trillion barrels—and the cost of extracting and harnessing it for use in transportation and industry is cheap. But, Ernest Moniz reminds us, the energy equation needs to include some important new factors: insecurity of supply and environmental stewardship. The price and convenience of fossil fuels decreases quickly when you take into account the costs of global warming and ensuring stability in the Middle East. If the U.S. ever develops a serious energy policy, says Moniz, here are some key objectives: Reduce oil demand by producing higher efficiency vehicles; target “unconventional reservoirs of oil” in places like Canada and Venezuela; and develop alternative liquid fuels from such ubiquitous sources as cellulose. Hydrogen power is hugely uneconomical, with viable technology decades away, so we “can’t afford to have a focus on this direction impede serious approaches regarding security and the environment,” concludes Moniz. The Segway Alternative Whether you live in Bangkok or London, don’t count on motoring along at more than 8 miles per hour -- the pace of 19th century horse carriages. Half the world’s people -- around 3 billion -- will have moved to a city by 2020, says Dean Kamen, so “cities will need cars like a fish needs a bicycle.” Even if you make cars clean and efficient, he points out, “we don’t need a 3-thousand pound pile of steel to move our 159 pound butt around town, and there are still the issues of congestion and parking.” What if you could have a machine “that’s non-polluting, fun to use, requires no change in infrastructure – just a change in thinking?” Voila, the Segway, Kamen’s invention: a self-balancing personal transportation device. If you live in a city, and don’t need to travel more than two miles, try the Segway. For a block-long trip, pull on the sneakers, counsels Kamen. He has pedaled and peddled the Segway around the U.S. (as he does on Kresge’s stage) to argue for its inclusion on sidewalks. Forty-five states have given the nod to Segway travel, with some hazing from the city of San Francisco and the bicycle lobby.
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