Magnus Itland (itlandm) wrote,
Magnus Itland

Global transport mythunderstood

Revenge On The Big Box (Forbes/Christopher Steiner)
As interesting as this article / excerpt is, the author has grossly understated the resilience of shipping. If he thinks Pacific shipping is an artifact of cheap petroleum, he's got another think coming. Ocean shipping was the artery of civilization in the age of sails, and will likely be so again in the next age of sails. (Sails having in the meantime been further developed so that the crew needed for a future sailing ship is not much larger than for a diesel ship, and the efficiency is also improved. You may think differently because traditional sailing ships are still being used for educational and recreational purposes, but the hi-tec sailing ship is a more evolved creature. Oh, and there may be a second age of coal before that.) In the tropics, even solar-powered ships may be profitable.

What will be needed is larger warehouses at the ports though, as "just in time delivery" and sails don't go well together.

Trains are generally electric, and will continue to be so, although the electricity will not come from light fuels anymore but increasingly from renewable sources. There will be almost no change on that part of the trip. It will be marginally more expensive, but not prohibitively. Trains are fairly efficient energy-wise, they are just very inflexible in where they come from and where they go.

Thus to cities and areas where there are or will be railway, the cost of mass transportation of goods will continue to be minor. The biggest cost increase in transportation is for goods that are handled in smaller quantities and originate in places far from harbors or railway stations. Ironically, this should favor the production model outlined in the article, with China as world factory. The local distribution model is more uncertain. But the notion of local craftsmen replacing Chinese factories seems like wishful thinking at best.
Tags: economy
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