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Promoting Telecommuting During the Gas Dearth?

Cliff posted about 9 years ago | from the why-not-all-the-time dept.

Businesses 138

Oren F. asks: "The President of AeroAstro, Inc., a small aerospace company, has begun promoting his employees to conserve gasoline during these times of high prices by telecommuting to work each day from their homes at least once a week. How is your company responding to the current situation?"

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It's petrol, not gas... (2, Funny)

BladeMelbourne (518866) | about 9 years ago | (#13555450)

There's no shortage of gas - especially with all the sheep in New Zealand.

Let me bring to your attention.. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13555463)

..this neat conversion company [] !

Let's hope there will be more of them soon..

Re:Let me bring to your attention.. (1)

Frans Faase (648933) | about 9 years ago | (#13555476)

Switching to a different medium does not mean that less energy is used. Most energy in the world comes from fossile sources. The fact is that the production of hydrogen is not very energy efficient.

Re:Let me bring to your attention.. (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 9 years ago | (#13557754)

Neither's burning gasoline in a four stroke engine using friction braking. On the other hand, if, eventually, we switch over to hydrogen fuel cells and battery/regenerative braking, then we'll be replacing four stroke engines with something much, much, more efficient.

The key thing about hydrogen is that it's the basis of an alternative energy system, rather than the source of the alternative energy. It enables cars to run on a liquid, easily transportable, easily dispensable, fuel that, instead of being produced by a limited mining process that's limited to a single type of fossil fuel. A hydrogen-powered car can be powered (ultimately, not directly) by coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, hydro-electric, wind, tidal, bio-fuels (ethanol, biodiesel, etc), methane, and more. Further, with a large number of such cars in existance, the incentives to find new energy sources capable of generating such fuels becomes much higher.

It's not a solution to the energy crisis because there is no energy crisis. We have plenty of energy, and will do for many millenia. There's an oil crisis, of sorts, and that's what this is a solution to.

Re:Let me bring to your attention.. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 years ago | (#13560504)

" enables cars to run on a liquid, easily transportable, easily dispensable, fuel "

How do you figure? Liquid hydrogen has to be stored at cryogenic temperatures or under extremely high pressure. It also lacks the energy density to make transport by any method besides pipeline very expensive.

My co-workers' response: (1)

TeleoMan (529859) | about 9 years ago | (#13555482)

"Yow! Now we can become alcoholics!"

High! (2)

genzil (663526) | about 9 years ago | (#13555487)

High prices! Sheesh. You should look at the price we pay in the UK (and have done for a while now).

How about everybody stop complaining about the high prices and start looking at ways of saving the environment instead. It will work out cheaper in the long run.

Re:High! (1)

jaredmauch (633928) | about 9 years ago | (#13555755)

Exactly. We're not seeing Fuel Strikes [] in the US like are happening elsewhere.

I have worked at home for 6 of the past 10 years, and been able to telecommute for some part of those other 4 years. I am enjoying the limited impact this has on my expenses as compared to years ago when I was driving 62-miles one-way to work. For the last 6 months or so of that (in 2000) I was getting 30-31mpg in my vehicle.

Re:High! (4, Insightful)

gallen1234 (565989) | about 9 years ago | (#13555882)

Prices in the UK aren't high because of economics. They're high because an unreasonably high percentage (up to 75%) of the total price comes from taxes.

Re:High! (3, Insightful)

Burb (620144) | about 9 years ago | (#13557894)

The taxation rate in the UK is indeed high, but I am amused at the implication in your post that taxes have nothing to do with economics.

Re:High! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13558165)

The parent poster may have been wrong in his choice of words, but the sentiment is correct:

The UK government is (IMO) unreasonably taxing fuel. It's ridiculous.. no.. it's insane that 70% of the price of fuel (let alone any product) is tax.

How out-of-touch are politicians over there anyway? What exactly is done with all that tax revenue? It it burnt? Use to buy more speed cameras? What is the government wasting their tax revenue on? For a commodity that most of the rest of the civilised world has managed to keep affordable to it's citizens, high energy costs are seriously retarded.

(And I want to punch the next person who doesn't want a windfarm built because it "spoils the view" from their house - as has happened a lot in the UK).

And don't whine about pollutants being the cause of gasoline tax - in 10 years when the hydrogen economy takes off, it will be a moot point. But I bet you $10 that retarded politicians in the UK will probably still want to tax it like crazy "because that's what we used to do" and they've come to rely on gasoline taxes. Similarly if telecommuting ever takes off - they'll try to tax it to "make up for lost transportation fuel revenue".

The UK is an expensive, depressing red-tape-strangled armpit of a country. I'm so glad I left it.

Re:High! (1)

PhoenixFlare (319467) | about 9 years ago | (#13555964)

High prices! Sheesh. You should look at the price we pay in the UK (and have done for a while now).

The reason for your prices is not the same. If we in the US had to pay the huge taxes you do, i'd wager our prices would be even higher.

Re:High! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13556252)

Yep. They sure would be higher.

If we Americans had been paying $3 a gallon for the past 5 years, all that money would still be in the American economy instead of going to countries who fund terrorist who threaten us. It's a tax one way or another, it's just a matter of deciding which government gets to collect it. While there are American (or more correctly multi-national) oil companies that are making record profits from fuel prices, the middle eastern companies that pump and sell the actual barrels of oil are all owned by their respective states.

Re:High! (2, Insightful)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 9 years ago | (#13557796)

More interestingly, if those in the UK and EU didn't have to pay the taxes they do today, I'd wager US prices would be even higher too.

I've wondered for a while if this, ultimately, despite being counter-intuitive, would do more to counter CO2 emissions than continuing to have higher taxes? If it became unaffordable in the US for people to go to work, would the world's largest economy suddenly find it economic to develop alternatives that, over time, would become so much more efficient than gas-based vehicles, they'd take over completely?

Re:High! (1)

delta_avi_delta (813412) | about 9 years ago | (#13557215)

Hear hear. CO2 emmissions taxes stateside would be a good start.

High costs (1)

phorm (591458) | about 9 years ago | (#13559127)

...and look at the cost of a house... property... and a good many other things. How about the monentary values or wages?

Costs are not directly comparable between countries without factoring in such things... $3/L might actually seem reasonable in a country with where a happy meal costs $15, and the minimum wage is above that...

Our company has a more traditional approach (4, Insightful)

mikeage (119105) | about 9 years ago | (#13555494)

"Forget it"

Re:Our company has a more traditional approach (2, Insightful)

madhippy (525384) | about 9 years ago | (#13555863)

i believe our company is even more traditional .... senior management get to work from home - no one else.

Re:Our company has a more traditional approach (1)

RealityMogul (663835) | about 9 years ago | (#13555898)

more traditional - senior management just stays home and doesn't do any work

Re:Our company has a more traditional approach (2, Interesting)

jpostel (114922) | about 9 years ago | (#13556374)

At the inbred company I worked for up to last week, the CEO bought the COO (his wife) a brand new MB S500. Lovely car, but that does not look too cool when they are laying people off at headquarters the day he's showing off the new car to the execs.

Re:Our company has a more traditional approach (1)

gallen1234 (565989) | about 9 years ago | (#13555897)

Mine feels pretty much the same way. The problem is that since they don't pay for my gas, they don't care how much it costs me to get to work every day. So the bottom line is that they don't see any advantage to the company from rearranging my working arrangements.

Re:Our company has a more traditional approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13556990)

Asked to work at an office 2 miles from my house instead of the one 75 miles away a couple of days a week. They said if I didn't like it find a new job. Funny thing is the servers are in the office 2 miles away.

They send us home without pay. (2)

Associate (317603) | about 9 years ago | (#13555514)

Then expect us to make up the difference in the shorter ammount of time we are at work.

Maybe I won't be so productive (2, Interesting)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | about 9 years ago | (#13555531)

I would love to work at home, but my boss prefers to have me in the office. If I'm home there's no way he check if I'm playing a game or something and I guess they prefer to see me slack at the office, since I don't have much to do anyway...
If I would have a lot of work to do I might actually not want to be doing that at home anyway. I've done that before and I know I have a way of not getting out of my chair until something is finished which tends to shift my eating/sleeping pattern etc.

Use a bike (3, Informative)

GreatDrok (684119) | about 9 years ago | (#13555563)

I've been cycling to work for the last three months and it has been great. Some days I have to use public transport if the weather is really nasty but I am averaging about 80% of my travel by bicycle. Lots of health benefits, zero emissions, very cheap to run. I cover 12 miles per day, some hills but I hardly notice them any more and it only takes me 35 mins each way.

A quick calculation to show the current price of UK fuel compared with the US:

$3.00 per US gallon (seems about average)

£0.92 per UK litre (at my local Asda)

1 US gallon = 3.79 litres (1 Imperial gallon is 4.54 litres)

£1 = $1.82

therefore, UK price is currently $6.35 per US gallon.

The other day it cost me £5 more to fill my car than it had done three weeks previously when I last filled it prior to a trip to York. I dread to think what people driving big 4x4s are paying when my little 1.6 Alfa Romeo costs £42 to fill.

Re:Use a bike (2, Interesting)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | about 9 years ago | (#13555741)

I wish I could bike to work. Fuel even costs more in my country (the Netherlands, I think we're even no.1 on the list).
Last week it was even 1.50 euro for a litre.
3.79 * 1.50 euro = 5,685 euro/U.S. gallon
1 euro = 1.22 U.S. dollars,
so I payed almost 7 dollars (6,94) for a US gallon.
I have to refuel my (small) volkswagen car at least once a week, currently I pay 96 dollars to fill it up (55 litres).


Re:Use a bike (4, Interesting)

Quarters (18322) | about 9 years ago | (#13555858)

I would love to bike to work. I live nine miles from where I work and the commute is essentially a straight shot down a state highway.

I'll never do it.

The highway, while straight, level, and well paved, is heavily travelled (to the point of congestion) by annoying suburbanites driving their SUVs and talking on their cell phones instead of paying attention to the road.

At speed lane changes with no turn signals used, no checks in the mirrors, no looking out the side windows. Stopping short at lights, making right (or left) turns from the wrong lane because they forgot to get into the turn lane, etc... I've seen it all on my daily commute.

It's dangerous enough in a car. I'd be nuts to try it on a bicycle.

Re:Use a bike (1)

deranged unix nut (20524) | about 9 years ago | (#13556068)

How wide is the shoulder on that road?

Could you take a slightly longer route through residential streets?

My commute is a wonderful 3 mile bicycle ride and my employer pays me for not using a parking space. I love bicycling to work, even in the rain.

Re:Use a bike (1)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | about 9 years ago | (#13556200)

Yea... well in Florida, Rain usually = Thunderstorm, and I'm not too keen on riding through those. (we have a great suspension bridge over the freeway that makes my ride one mile, but no way I'm getting up on that thing with electricity arcing out of the sky... give me my nice rolling faraday cage, IC Engine and all on those afternoons)

I moved to be within bike distance of my office, but it's really only feasable during "dry" season.

  Cooler then anyhow. I'm not real interested in being sweaty when I arrive at work.

Re:Use a bike (1)

Quarters (18322) | about 9 years ago | (#13556346)

In some places the shoulder is non existant. I've tried plotting a secondary road route but the roads aren't really conducive to that. The higway is mostly sided by communities and business parks. There aren't any roads that cut through those and go all the way to my destination. I'm guessing the communities lobbied against such roads to prevent the highway traffic from spilling into their neighborhoods.

Re:Use a bike (3, Informative)

deranged unix nut (20524) | about 9 years ago | (#13556815)

I have had some luck exploring my way through business parks and residential dead end roads. Maps usually don't show them, but there are often walking paths and cutouts that bicyclists can use to connect between sets of dead ends.

Re:Use a bike (1)

justforaday (560408) | about 9 years ago | (#13558222)

Tis true. It's worth getting up early and going out for a ride some Saturday or Sunday morning. Take your time and slowly wind your way to work. I'm sure you'll find there are lots of little sidewalks and paths/trails that go between the business parks and residential areas. You may end up taking an extra 1/2 mile detour here or there to connect them. But in the end, you'll probably find out that those parts make the commute that much nicer just because it's so peaceful and serene out there sometimes...

Re:Use a bike (2, Informative)

RandomJoe (814420) | about 9 years ago | (#13559218)

I've tried this. Most frustrating 30 miles of biking I ever did! ;)

I live all of 5 miles from my office. I'd love to ride my bike (and have, two weeks last year and just finished about 3 weeks last month) but the "last mile" is the problem! It's all residential and pleasant until I get right near my office. I have tried every side route I could think of, and can literally see my office building 1/4 mile away across a field from the nearest side road. But between the tall grass, stickers and railroad right of way (3 1/2 ft high berm!) it's basically unnavigable. Especially on my comfy but pavement-bound recumbent bike.

So I wind up having to go 1 mile down a VERY busy 4-lane divided. 50 MPH, LOTS of businesses for people to turn in and out of, no shoulder just a curb. I've done it, and it doesn't bother me to ride streets like that occasionally, but to do it twice per day every day during rush hour...

Grr... If they'd just put in that short stretch of side road!... (Probably will, too, about the time our lease is up on this building and we move out!)

Re:Use a bike (1)

justforaday (560408) | about 9 years ago | (#13559570)

I hear you. Sometimes they make the most simple of stretches totally impassible...

Get with your road commission to add a bike path (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | about 9 years ago | (#13557391)

I would love to bike to work. I live nine miles from where I work and the commute is essentially a straight shot down a state highway.
I hear you. In the US and some other countries, if you are on a bike, motorcycle or any kind of vehicle smaller than your opponents^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H fellow commuters, they seem to take sadistic pleasure in dangerous and threatening maneuvers. Not to mention that it is usually prohibited by law to take bicycles out on the highway.

A safer option would be a separate bike path. (Note, a bike path if possible, not just a bike lane. There are lots of good examples in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden if a study visit is needed.)

Get together with some of the more articulate and polite bicyclists in your area, summarize the benefits based on research, wrap yourselves in a flag ;) and then contact you local road or transportation commission. It may take 3 - 5 years to get a bike path parallel to the highway, but it can be done. Anyone with more than a few brain cells can see that we're in for higher prices for petroleum-based fuels.

You'll have to call around to find the best contact people and may have to cultivate contacts on the zoning commission as well.

You'll want to point out the economic value to the region, including "quality of life" which makes the area more desirable. reducing traffic congestion, pollution, and traffic accidents are tangible benefits. Improved fitness of commuters reduces illnesses and increases their productivity both at work and in free time.

Be patient. It may be necessary to build up in many small increments. It's not a fast process, but once the gears are turning, progress will occur.

Re: Use a bike (1)

gidds (56397) | about 9 years ago | (#13555920)

And if you had to commute over six times that distance, like I do?

I'm pleased a bike works out for you, but it's not practical for everyone. Luckily, I can do my bit for the environment (and my peace of mind) by taking the train to work. Not everyone can do that, either, though. So cars are justified in some circumstances.

(SUVs are justified in far fewer, of course.)

Heh. (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | about 9 years ago | (#13557313)

For a while I drove 59 miles each way to a contract position, and most of it was on a rural interstate that explicitly prohibits unmotorized traffic for at least part of the way.

A bike would have been possible, but impractical.

Right now, I commute eight miles each way, but the roads in question are (1) lacking shoulders and (2) populated with Atlanta drivers. #2 in particular makes me scared enough to not want to bike. :-)

Re:Use a bike (2, Insightful)

PhoenixFlare (319467) | about 9 years ago | (#13556081)

Use a bike

I've been cycling to work for the last three months and it has been great. Some days I have to use public transport if the weather is really nasty but I am averaging about 80% of my travel by bicycle.

First of all, I currently drive my car maybe 5 miles a week, as i'm able to use the DC subway and bus system to get to work every day. Worth it in terms of saving on gas/insurance/car wear, but it does mean my commute time is probably at least twice what it would be if I just drove.

That said, it's great that you can do this, but quite a few (maybe even a majority, I don't know exact stats) people in the US either live too far away to get in on a bike/public transport in a reasonable amount of time ( i live 10 miles away from work, and it still takes me almost an hour ), or must take a route that would be life-threatening to ride a bike on (major highways, bad neighborhoods, etc.)

Re:Use a bike (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13557865)

I don't even pay for the bicycle and repairs. I walk. Sure, my commute is about 0.7 miles, but still. Walking is much less expensive than riding a bicycle.

Re:Use a bike (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13558409)

therefore, UK price is currently $6.35 per US gallon.

The UK price of gasoline includes $3.13 in tax. The base price is therefore:
$6.35 - $3.13 = $3.22
Average gasoline tax in the US is $0.4 per gallon:
$3.22 + $0.4 = $3.62
If the UK tax on gasoline were the same as in the US - and all other factors were the same - you would be paying $3.62 per gallon. So stop complaining to us about your high fuel costs. Complain to your government about their choice of tax revenue (or more likely: what the hell they're spending / wasting money on).

I dread to think what people driving big 4x4s are paying when my little 1.6 Alfa Romeo costs £42 to fill.

You ought to be paying about £24. Ask your government what they did with the extra £18.

(Fuel tax costs taken from: [] )

Congrats, However, you peddaling your ass... (1)

Sturm (914) | about 9 years ago | (#13561682)

to work everyday really doesn't have a DAMN thing to do with the TELECOMMUTING question, now does it...

A few simple suggestions (2, Insightful)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#13555578)

Obviously some of these are not always applicable , but where they are then they can be very useful . Both for your cash flow and the environment .. not to mention your health in some cases

1: Walk or cycle to work :get some exercise whilst saving money and the environment

2: Share a car (Car pool) :not as good as walking , but when you're not in a position to walk to work this can help your cash flow and the environment

3: public transportation : pretty much the same reasons as sharing a car.

4: working from home : The story does mention this , It is a great idea . You save the environment and money .

The Petrol prices here in Germany make me wish I had your Dearth . I always walk to work as if i didn't i would start creating a huge hole in my wallet .

People should be doing these things anyway , but a huge hike in Oil prices is a great way to kick it off .

Re:A few simple suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13555959)

How do you 'save the environment'? Environment is a set of circumstances surrounding you. It will be there if you don't save it. 'Conserve fuel' makes more sense here.

Sorry, woke up on the pedantic side of the bed this morning. Nothing personal, just trying to make a broader point about how pointless the expression is.

Re:A few simple suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13558085)

I use public transportation and, on average, a tankful of gas lasts me around one month. Gasoline can go to $6, $7 or higher for all I care. The red-staters with their SUVs can all go piss up a rope for all I care about how much they have to spend.

Re:A few simple suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13561855)

Typical liberal bullshit. It's the urban warriors and the soccer moms on the coasts that are driving the SUVs.

Re:A few simple suggestions (1)

Rhoon (785258) | about 9 years ago | (#13558936)

Here's what some (5 or 6) people do who live in a local area. They get a van pool. As it's 5 or more people using and assigned to the van, it's now considered public transportation and the $600/month for use of the van is then paid for by the State/Federal Government via reimbursement (I'm in S.Florida). They all take turns driving and split the cost of gas which amounts to about $5/week per person.

Get your HR/accounting teams to look into the local laws for communiting in a large van pool.

Medieval (1)

St. Arbirix (218306) | about 9 years ago | (#13555596)

I ride a bike these days, but I envision a future in which me with my billions will build a castle to house my company and all my employees.

That would kinda kick ass.

Telecommuting? (1)

mukund (163654) | about 9 years ago | (#13555627)

How is your company responding to the current situation?

They're making me stay at the company itself.

Location is a meat game (1)

infonography (566403) | about 9 years ago | (#13555736)

Sadly we can't all work in computers. But that's half the reason I do.

Call me offtopic, but... (1)

krunchyfrog (786414) | about 9 years ago | (#13555782)

Instead of buying a 50000$ Prius or changing my car at all, wouldn't it be more efficient to simply kinda add an electric motor plug-in to an existing engine? Say that the total modification costs around 10000$, it's still 40000$ cheaper, no?

Re:Call me offtopic, but... (0, Offtopic)

Lord Bitman (95493) | about 9 years ago | (#13555899)

that's a great idea![/sarcasm] [serious]Please do this and report back your results!

Re:Call me offtopic, but... (3, Insightful)

Darth_Burrito (227272) | about 9 years ago | (#13555922)

A prius does not cost $50,000. My mom bought one a few years ago and it was just a tad over $20,000.

At the time though, I thought it was a silly purchase from an economical perspective as she only drives 7,000 miles a year. Even now, with the gas prices going up, it's questionable whether the cost differential between that and a nice corolla and the increased risk of abnormal maintenance needs is worth the gas savings. 7000Mi/y / 30 MPG = 233 G. The Prius @45MPG could cover the same distance in 156 G... so you only save 77 G. $144 ($2/G) then, $231 ($3/G) now per year. If you keep the car for 8 years and gas prices remain constant, your only looking at around $1000-2000 in gas savings over the life of the car with low mileage driving patterns.

That said, many people drive 20,000 miles per year, and for them, the 3x ($3000-6000) savings may be worth it or at least around the break even point.

I think my mom bought the car for its environmental friendliness and its coolness factor rather than any perceived economical savings. There are probably other much cheaper more effective ways to help out the environment, but one can hardly argue with the coolness factor.

If you are thinking about doing an engine mod to save money, you should run the numbers before investing $10,000 into your car. In particular, look at the expected lifetime of the car and your cost savings per year. Also, it might not be a bad idea to take into account the interest you could earn on that $10,000 over the lifetime of the car. Eg, if the life of the car is 8 years, and you invest 10K at the beginning, well, that 10K earning 10% interest could pay for $1,000 worth of gass per year ($1,000/yr / $3/G * 30Mi/G = 10,000 Mi/yr... and you get to keep the $10,000.

Re:Call me offtopic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13558453)

Can you point me to the web site of the bank that pays 10% interest? Thanks very much!

Re:Call me offtopic, but... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 9 years ago | (#13555970) []

They sell electric cars as well as modified cars for fairly decent prices.

That's an awfully pretentious term. (1)

Sirex (819182) | about 9 years ago | (#13555841)

Saying that I 'telecommunte to work each day' is akin to me saying that I go on televacations when I connect to remote machines.

Re:That's an awfully pretentious term. (1)

Sirex (819182) | about 9 years ago | (#13555864)

* telecommute

Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 9 years ago | (#13555904)

IANAE (I am not an economist)

<Begin simplistic economic rant>
This is a problem I have with a market based economy, conservation issues are only addressed during times when people take a personal financial hit. At all other times its "I don't care if my vehical gets 2 gallons to the mile, as I can afford it".

We should be aware at all times as to how much non renewable resources we are consuming in our day to day lives, and how much of an effect that consumption has on the world around us.

Note that I am not saying we should go ultra green an everyone telecommute, or ride a bike to work, or sleep under your desk. But I believe a more overall solution to to things such as transportation is preferrable to a private market based one.

In the case of transportation such an approach would help with:

1) Getting better public transport, which reduces private car usage

2) Construction of communities that actually have sidewalks, and hence allow people to walk places (I think that the lack of sidewalks is more a USA phenom)

3) Reduction of vehicle sizes with an aim for improving fuel economy.

4) Reducing the idea that a car is an extension of your psyche, so that you don't feel like you have to have your own personal car, and instead can share cars amongst people. This can mean either less cars per household, or more car pooling.

All of the above are just some things off the top of my head that I think could develop better with a central system of planning, rather than with a market based system.

Now you could argue that the market based system will act to implement all of the above points just as well as a planned system. However I will posit that the market based system is NOT the best way to handle things such as high gas prices.

In my view the market based system is a feedback system, while the planned system is a feedforward system. (In a very simplistic description) With a feedback system, in order to respond to a change in conditions, the system must allow a disturbance to occur in the controlled system before feedback can bring the things back to equillibrium. With a feedforward system, the change in conditions is anticipated and compensated for, before the disturbance has occurred, and hence the disturbance never occurs.

In terms of transportation, a feedback system allows the price of gas to go sky high, which hurts peoples pockets and forces people to find alternatives. With a feedforward model, people are organised ahead of time to avoid using excessive amounts of gas prior to the rise in prices, so that when the rise does occur, no-one notices it. In both cases the end result is people get to travel where they need to, but in the case of feedback, the have gone through the un-necessary pain of paying high prices.

Another more timely example is New Orleans, for the sake of not having funding in the 10's of millions in order to shore up levies, the authorities now have to shell out billions to repair the damage. Shoring up the levies is feedforward, repairing the damage is feedback.

</end simplistic economic rant>

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 9 years ago | (#13555948)

Thing is, we have a market based system and a planned system. Many cities have public transportation, these are planned systems, the roads you drive on are also planned. Unfortunatly the problems is the planners are morons. While one could argue that the planners are effected by market forces, realisticaly they are more effected by votes or their ability to keep their jobs. How can you expect a planned system to ever work when the planners won't do their job.

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 9 years ago | (#13556112)

If the planners aren't doing their job then you don't have a planned system, what you have is a flawed implementation of a planned system.

But that mad me also think, what is the plan that the planners are trying to follow? Using gas prices, are they trying to minimise fuel usage, or minimise fuel cost, or maximise fuel company profits?

As you said, planners are influenced by things such as voters, and as people are more selfish than not, they would vote to minimise fuel cost before fuel usage. Hence you have anoterh control loop to deal with.

Perhaps we need benevolent dictators instead of elected officials? People who are not influenced by popular vote, but instead have long term interests and viability at heart.

And before anyone shoots me down for being a lefty pinko commie, I feel that socialism/communism has a lot of merits in this area. However, all the implmentations we have seen in the past have been very corrupt, and are not good examples of what that kind of system can do. However democracy is not immune to its own forms of corruption either.

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 9 years ago | (#13556404)

Benevolent dictators generally lead to corruption. Either way if one truly wants to fix the system first one has to look at our federal system and how it can be changed.
If you want better planning should you increase federal control or increase state/local control. I would argue that a local government can effectivly plan for efficieny of the system better than the federal governement. Of course given commuting as an example of a problem, the local government would never waste its time with buses etc that lead to neighboring communities that don't pay city taxes. So in effect something above them, say the state government needs to be there, and to connect different states the federal government needs to be there. But then you have the same problem as we have today, with the recently transportation bill that designated only a small percentage to public transportation.

Personally I'm thinking we should move to more state control with federal programs only existing by state approval. These state governments then should be able to completly choose their local government style of choice. California can have its communist system, while Texas can have their system. And some states can even have life long elected goveners just for the reasons as you statd earlier.. If they want to that is.

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 9 years ago | (#13557433)

Regarding corruption, I think it is more along the lines of those that seek power (for the sake of power) shouldn't be allowed to have it. This goes for communism/dictatorship/democracy. If however they seek power for the genuine benefit of other people, then that is a different story. Unfortunately those sort of people are few and far between.

I'd agree about less local and more state control, not sure about more/less federal control as I am only newly living here.

But as to local control I was in Pittsburgh in the late 90s and some people in the city were bitching because playes for the Steelers were working (playing football) in the city, but residing in other counties. As such the city was losing the tax revenue from their salaries or properties (can't remember which), and as such the players should be forced to reside in the city. That came across to me as being petty, but highlighted the parochial nature of the US economy, where even at the lowest level (city vs county) there is bitching and power grabs going on all the time.

This leads me to beleive that people living here need to raise their perspective a bit more and see that everyone else around them is in the same boat, and that they are part of a wider community (which does extend all the way up to the national and international levels). Until that happens, the concept of centralised planning is always going to take the backseat to "I am OK, therefor I don't give a crap about anything else".

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (0, Troll)

Pig Hogger (10379) | about 9 years ago | (#13556834)

Many cities have public transportation, these are planned systems, the roads you drive on are also planned. Unfortunatly the problems is the planners are morons.
It's not the planners who are morons; they are far smarter than that, because they are able to do their job within the restricted budgetary framework that is imposed by the morons who are voted into office by a greater bunch of morons who don't want too high taxes and who are, for the most part, a bunch of crying NIMBYES.

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | about 9 years ago | (#13557302)

In my view the market based system is a feedback system, while the planned system is a feedforward system.

More accurate (and descriptive) terms are "reactive" and "proactive".

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 9 years ago | (#13558970)

I am a control systems engineer .. so sue me :-)

Re:Wy only during high gas/petrol prices? (1)

oni (41625) | about 9 years ago | (#13557438)

4) Reducing the idea that a car is an extension of your psyche, so that you don't feel like you have to have your own personal car, and instead can share cars amongst people. This can mean either less cars per household, or more car pooling.

At the risk of going way off topic (it's never stopped me before) I would just observe that men do whatever they have to do in order to appear cool for women. Most men feel they have to buy a car because most women will think they are losers if they don't.

Obviously, there are minority groups where this logic doesn't apply. If you like hippie chicks then you're likely to get rid of your car because that's what will impress them.

All I'm saying is that it's not entirely correct to say that a car is an extension of the psyche. It's more correct IMH(and yes OT)O to say that a car is just another feather that we men wave in the face of females.

And before anyone wastes valuable electrons flaming me, yes I know this doesn't apply to you. But I do think it applies to most people.

Better than messing with DST (1, Insightful)

tdemark (512406) | about 9 years ago | (#13555925)

At least with telecommuting there is a definite, tangible energy savings, unlike questionable tactics such as extending Daylight Saving Time.

It would make so much more sense for an "Energy Policy Act" from the US government to provide assistance (via tax breaks or assistance) to companies to lessen the weekly energy consumption of their employees.

Allow companies to let their employees telecommute one day a week, for example. Or, help companies move to a 4 day week (10 hour work day, not every employee would have the same day "off").

These are simple actions with an instant benefit of 20% savings in energy.

Beyond that, the government could have linked federal dollars to adoption of "Dark Sky [] " ordinances at the state and local level. This would shave a few more percent off the US energy budget by getting rid of over-lighting, trespass lighting (light that unnecessarily spills over to a different property), and useless lighting (light that doesn't actually light anything - ie, heads out to space).

Re:Better than messing with DST (1)

bladesjester (774793) | about 9 years ago | (#13559829)

There are a lot of examples where schedules 10 hour days with rotating days off just do not work. The one that comes to mind immediately is in a development group where all members of the team are vital. A customer is not going to want to wait around an extra day to get an answer about issue X, which is only known by Bob as that is his specialty, when Bob is off.

If you call Bob and pester him to give you an answer or solution, guess what - it's no longer his day off. The same goes for meetings when you can't have everyone there - someone's going to get screwed out of their day "off".

There are a lot of other situations as well, but that is the one that came to mind first.

as for "Dark Sky" ordinances, some things would be useful but you will find that a lot of the "tresspass lighting" serves a very good purpose - security. In urban and suburban areas, what you term as tresspass lighting is very useful in helping you identify and avoid possible problems (be they environmental or human).

Long story short, just because something seems simple on the surface doesn't mean that it will solve more problems than it will cause.

Fine, then (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 9 years ago | (#13556193)

Pay for my internet connection and get me an equivalently spec'd computer for home that I use for work, and I will work from home.

As a software developer, I don't need to be in the office much of the time, although it is handy when large issues arrise that require multiple developers to deal with.

Just don't ask me to invest thousands to setup the same environment at home as I have at work. I try to program at work, but with a much slower computer, less comfortable chair, and only 1 screen ( I use multiple monitors at work ), it is less productive and confortable.

Asside from that, while the gas prices are high, they are not really that expensive, we spend more money getting our daily coffee, donuts, cigarettes, alcohol, cola, bottled water, junk food, fast food and other extraneous "necessities", even taking public transportation is more expensive, spending $0.30/litre more for gas and filling up once every few weeks isn't outrageous, just cut back on one of your other libations and you can afford to drive to work.

Re:Fine, then (2, Insightful)

oni (41625) | about 9 years ago | (#13557360)

Fine, then pay for my internet connection and get me an equivalently spec'd computer for home that I use for work, and I will work from home.

Isn't the point of all this that you save money on gas? Why should your employer buy you a computer so that you can save money?? It's like if your employer says, "on friday you can wear jeans to work if you want to but obviously you don't have to." And then you cross your arms and stomp your feet and say, "FINE, THEN YOU BUY ME A PAIR OF JEANS!"

Uh no, if you don't want to do it then that's cool. Have fun driving to work.

Re:Fine, then (1)

bladesjester (774793) | about 9 years ago | (#13559868)

There's a difference between the jeans and computer setup examples. Companies tend to like to own what they produce and not have it floating around on someone else's property.

Most companies with telecommuting options actually provide a computer that is specifically for work (and for no other function) just so they know that the work will be done on, and stored in, a machine that they explicitly own. This prevents "misunderstandings" should the employee "find" some of his previous work on his home computer after he is no longer with that company and now working with one of their competitors.

Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (2, Insightful)

deranged unix nut (20524) | about 9 years ago | (#13556234)

I keep reading and hearing complaints that people live too far away from their work to bicycle.

Well, maybe we don't all need to own a house and have yard. Maybe a condo with a nearby park would also fit your needs and you could live close enough to work to *gasp* walk to work.

Our idea of the american dream has pushed the market to create huge sprawling cities with inadequate public transportation. How much will that house in the outer suburbs be worth when gasoline is $6/gallon? Could fuel prices go higher than that?

I am living my american dream. I bicycle to work in 10 minutes, I don't even own a car anymore, and tomorrow I set off on 280 mile bicycle ride that includes a little over 4000 feet of climb in 3 days. Bicycling has given me a new sense of freedom. I lost 40 lbs in the first 4 months of bicycling and have kept it off over the following 6 many SUV drivers would kill for that much weight loss?

By the way, how much does it cost for you to fill up that tank these days?
I keep forgetting to look at the gas prices.

Re:Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 9 years ago | (#13556482)

Maybe a condo with a nearby park would also fit your needs and you could live close enough to work to *gasp* walk to work.

I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a job that is only 5 miles from where I work. Not only is it a savings on gas, plus wear and tear on the car and a lot of time is freed up for my personal enjoyment rather than spent sitting in a car. Even the auto insurance is lower.

Living close to work is going to be the new American Dream I think. Right now it is hard when you have a job in the city but want your kids to attend a good suburban school.

A lot of things will have to change for people to give up that daily drive - more mass transit, cities will have to be resocialized, traditional ideas on home ownership have to be revised, etc.

Re:Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (1)

chez69 (135760) | about 9 years ago | (#13557033)

I wanted to move closer to work but the housing is much more expensive then where I live now (i Live in the city, my employer is in the 'burbs) I live in a small house, and the price difference is 40 - 50k.

Re:Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (1)

gknoy (899301) | about 9 years ago | (#13558079)

How long will it take for your annual commuting cost difference to overtake that $40-50k?

Re:Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (2, Interesting)

deranged unix nut (20524) | about 9 years ago | (#13558257)

Daily commute cost
1.5 Hr time = $20.00
20 miles gas * 40mpg * $3/gal = $1.50
Wear and tear on a car $15000/5 years = $11.54

Daily commute cost = $33.04
Weekly commute cost = $165.19
Yearly commute cost = $8,590.00

$50k mortgage / yearly commute = 5.8 years ...or if you don't consider your time to be worth anything:

$50k mortgage / yearly commute = 14.7 years

Re:Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (1)

the_maddman (801403) | about 9 years ago | (#13557216)

Some of us can't stand to live that close to other people too. I need my yard and peace and quiet. Of course, I only live 3 miles from work anyways, and drive a little car that makes 35-40 mpg, so I'm doing just fine.

But the urban life isn't for all of us, I'd go nuts if I had to live in a big city.

Re:Has anyone considered moving closer to work? (1)

deranged unix nut (20524) | about 9 years ago | (#13558286)

I was already nuts before I moved to a big city. (hence my nic) :)

Once I moved from a rural town to a big city, my biggest problem was my frustration at getting stuck in traffic. I stopped driving, started bicycling, and I now I don't get stuck in traffic anymore.

Bad neighborhood (1)

bluGill (862) | about 9 years ago | (#13560015)

I would, but it is a bad neighborhood. If I lived in the same city I work in, my neighbors would not allow me to put up a clothsline. I would not be allowed to keep my classic car on blocks in the driveway while I rebuilt the engine in the garrage. In fact I wouldn't be allowed to keep my regular car in the driveway overnight (I wouldn't need it often, but something needs to get me to church or whatever)

My favorite trees would not be allowed in my yard (even though it is native to the state, while some of the allowed trees are not). They restrice my garden to useless flowers. (As anyone who has tried it knows, you cannot buy tomatoes or sweet corn, you have to grow it yourself).

Thus I live in an area what I can live a reasonable life, and work whereever I can find a job.

I walk to work... (1)

hatrisc (555862) | about 9 years ago | (#13556248)

you insensitive clod!

My company's great (2, Interesting)

LePrince (604021) | about 9 years ago | (#13556269)

They started doing this BEFORE the increases in gas prices... But hey.

They try to make peolpe carpool more. They encourage this by saying "go ahead, carpool. If someday you're the passenger and the driver has to leave early/later than usual, we'll issue you a cab ticket worth 20$ so you can return home".

But hey, I work for an environmentally-friendly company... We don't all have the same chance.

Totally the wrong question. (2, Informative)

holy zarquon's singi (640532) | about 9 years ago | (#13556293)

What do you mean during petrol shortage. Prices won't be going down significantly until demand drops. Here [] is a good explaination of the problems with oil supply and energy exploration more generally.

What kind of circumstances do you think will cause a drop in demand significant enough to cause petrol prices to drop to the levels they were at the turn of the century?

No Other Options (3, Insightful)

ShelfWare (457545) | about 9 years ago | (#13556298)

Some of the European posters have commented about options such as walking, bicycle, or public transportation. If you live in a metropolis here in USA, then those are viable options.

I live in one suburb of a small city and work in a different suburb of the small city. My commute is about 25 miles one way, 95% highway, which burns about 1 gallon of fuel.

Walking or cycling are not options, neither is public transportation (doesn't go where I go).

The only other option is car pooling, which is nearly impossible with a variable schedule including meetings at other locations that require a drive, picking up kids at day care, etc.

There's also a growing trend here in the states of people moving further away from cities into rural farming areas.

So keep in mind that some Americans have vastly different circumstances. That isn't an excuse to drive some monstrosity that gets 10 MPG though.

McMansions on 1/4 acre lots (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | about 9 years ago | (#13557455)

There's also a growing trend here in the states of people moving further away from cities into rural farming areas.
That's as much as zoning problem as it is a problem with national agricultural policy. In some areas, the construction firms (I refuse to call them developers, because that's the opposite of what they do) are able to get near by farm land re-zoned. The farmers can't often form a coalition to fight the lobbyists and end up paying in appropriately high taxes, as if they were the ones doing the real estate speculation themselves. Then when someone gets old enough to retire or one of the kids decides 18-hour days just aren't his thing, they sell and *pow* a standard 80-acre lot becomes 320 particle board McMansions with wall-to-wall shag carpeted saunas on 1/4 acre lots.

Re:No Other Options (1)

nickos (91443) | about 9 years ago | (#13557558)

There's also a growing trend here in the states of people moving further away from cities into rural farming areas.

I might suggest that this trend will reverse if prices continue to rise. You're right that back in the days of cheap oil much of Americas infrastructure was designed around the car, but if the energy crisis continues to escalate (and it seems quite possible) more and more people will relocate or demand better public transport/bike facilities.

It will be interesting to see just how much worse things have to get before we start to see these things change.

25 mi/gallon == 10.6 km/l (1)

hummassa (157160) | about 9 years ago | (#13557717)

Get a better (more economic) car -- mine (GM Celta 1.0) makes 17 km/l (40mi/gallon) in the highway. Or, even better, if you only have one kid, a motorcycle: a Honda 250cc makes 29 km/l (70mi/gallon), which would triple your mileage with the same budget.

Car efficiency won't help you. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13559195)

Car efficiency only buys you time. As oil prices get higher, your problems return. There's a root cause to this.

You live in a deeply silly community. The modern suburb takes the worst parts of city dwelling (the constant presence of other people, the absence of unspoiled nature) with the worst parts of rural dwelling (isolation from shops, impossibility of public transportation, impossibility of walking).

Suburbs have only been the dominant form of living for about fifty years. Before that, people did the sensible thing and lived in neighborhoods. One neighborhood alone was called a small town. A few neighborhoods next to each other was called a small city. Many neighborhoods together was called a large city.

Traditional neighborhoods still exist, either in isolation or stacked together. You can live in these places entirely without a car, and your quality of life is dramatically improved from suburban living. [] []

D'Oh! Corrected URL: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13559319) []

New Policy (3, Funny)

Ratbert42 (452340) | about 9 years ago | (#13556740)

How is your company responding to the current situation?

Because of complaints about the high cost of gas, the CEO asked my manager to draft a work-from-home policy. He's a butt-in-seat manager that doesn't trust anyone. His new policy? You can work from home for a maximum of half of the day.

Re:New Policy (1)

cloak42 (620230) | about 9 years ago | (#13557085)

Are you serious? That is unbelievably ridiculous. Does he even recognize the irony in the situation, that you're still going to use up just as much gas by driving in for a half-day as you are by driving in for a full day?

How idiotic.

Re:New Policy (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | about 9 years ago | (#13559188)

maybe, maybe not Depends how much traffic there is when one drives. No traffic, and no red lights, less time idling.

Re:New Policy (1)

cloak42 (620230) | about 9 years ago | (#13559392)

I dunno, you're talking a miniscule difference in most areas. I mean, perhaps in areas like Los Angeles, where you spend so much time idling, but for most situations the differential in gas used by traveling at 2pm instead of 8am is negligible.

And it makes a HUGE non-difference if, like me, you're driving 55 miles either way. The amount of gas used up in idling is probably less than a percent.

Re:New Policy (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | about 9 years ago | (#13560668)

I shut off my engine at stop lights.

Re:New Policy (1)

Burb (620144) | about 9 years ago | (#13557921)

You aren't Dilbert by any chance are you?

Re:New Policy (2, Insightful)

gknoy (899301) | about 9 years ago | (#13558111)

So work from home for twelve hours some day, and when he complains, note that it's half of a day.

Policy Recommendation (3, Interesting)

oni (41625) | about 9 years ago | (#13557172)

I work at a university which is pretty liberal about this sort of thing, but I can make a recommendation to any private companies that want to encourage it.

Assign a work-at-home day. If everyone picks their own day then you'll never have a day where everyone is at work.

Make the work-at-home day Thursday. My experience suggests this is the day that you'll get the most productivity at home. Definitely don't do it on Monday or Friday or work-at-home day will just be a 3-day weekend! (what do you think this is, France?)

Have an online meeting at about 10:30. Set everyone up with cheap web cams and just spend 30 minutes to an hour on an informal, "here's what we did this week" meeting. Those kinds of informal meetings are good for small groups anyway.

Use an IM client. It's much better than email or phone calls for quickie questions: "hey bob, tell me again what the param list is."

Require a followup email at 5:00. Even if it's just to say, "I've been working on this all day but I'm not done yet."

On the technical side, obviously you're going to need to let employees set up a secure tunnel into a VPN - not the main company network. They need to be able to get to shares on file servers for example, and to hit their machines via remote desktop, but they shouldn't be able to hit shares on their local machines.

All of that said, I really prefer to be at work. My chair and desk here are more comfortable. I'm also one of the lucky ones who lives close to work and I try to ride my bike at least once a week.

Telecommute? Hah! (3, Funny)

jgerry (14280) | about 9 years ago | (#13557309)

I work for a big telecom that encourages customers to get DSL service so they can telecommute.

Our own telecommute policy? We're not allowed to telecommute. Yeah, we suck that way.

By annoucing ... (1)

LazyBoy (128384) | about 9 years ago | (#13557373)

that they're going to close my building and make 1200 people commute an extra 90 miles a day.

Self-employed... (1)

jar240 (760653) | about 9 years ago | (#13557513)

Being self-employed combined with the fact that my shopping cart uses no fuel whatsoever, I'm not affected -- although, the stuff in dumpsters is looking more like actual trash these days.

Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13558236)

Oh come on, there must be other progressive companies out there? Sun has been encouraging telecommuting for a few years now and I've heard even Intel does it here in Ireland. Petrol has been > $3.00/gallon for years here during a previous fuel crisis, cars were converted from running on petrol to run on gas (not gasoline, gas, you'd call it "natural gas.")

In hiberno-english, gas means something like "unbelievable", or sometimes "humorous."

I work for a gas pump manufacturer... (1)

phallstrom (69697) | about 9 years ago | (#13561350)

... you insensitive clod!
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