Bet 197

Duration 5 years (02005-02010)

“The U.S Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics (www.bts.gov) will report a lower number of total highway vehicle miles traveled in 2010 than in 2005.” Detailed Terms »

Winner!

PREDICTOR
Daniel K Simon

CHALLENGER
Glen F Raphael

STAKES $400

will go to The Post Carbon Institute if Simon wins,
or The Property and Environment Research Center if Raphael wins.

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Simon's Argument

The petroleum industry is very rapidly losing the ability to grow it's rate of production in response to the traditional year to year increase in demand. They are in fact at or near the point of global "Peak Oil" production, after which they will never produce oil at a greater rate. Soon this level of production will no longer be sustainable and worldwide oil production will begin to permanently decline to a small fraction of what it is today. One of the more obvious consequences of this crisis is that there will be a drastic reduction in the wasteful and inefficient use of personal motor vehicles in the United States out of economic necessity.
I am predicting that vehicle use will decline rather than grow in the next 5 years to bring attention to the imminence of the crisis. The Bureau of transportation statistics has never reported a growth of less than 15% in the total number of vehicle miles traveled in any 5 year interval since the beginning of the records in 1960. It would take an energy crisis of unprecedented seriousness beginning in the very near future to reverse that trend, and I am calling attention to the fact that such a crisis is almost certain.

Raphael's Argument

When the rate of oil production ultimately does decline it will do so gradually and the price mechanism will encourage substitution into other forms of energy use. In the short run the US has the option of producing liquid fuels from shale and coal. In the long run we've got the option of making more efficient cars and/or substituting batteries and fuel cells that are recharged with power provided by gas, coal, solar, hydro, and nuclear power plants.

Five years is too short to expect much change in this area - we may not even have peaked by then. But once we do peak, it won't be much of a problem.

I expect the current long-term trend of gradual year-to-year increase in vehicle miles travelled will continue to 2010 and well beyond.


Detailed Terms

Consult the best available official estimate of highway vehicle miles traveled in the US in 2010 and compare with an equivalent metric for 2005 to see which number is larger. If the metric for 2005 is larger the predictor will win. Otherwise the challenger will win. Either the predictor or the challenger may concede defeat at an earlier date if they feel it is clearly evident that their opponent will win.





Assuming it's still around in 2010, our preferred data source is the Bureau of Transportation Statistics table of "US Vehicle Miles (millions)", subcategory "Highway, total", currently available as Table 1-32 here.