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As Greater Tucson prepares to plan and implement an acceptable transportation system for the next two decades, energy and economic impacts should figure prominently in the community's decisions.

The following assessment update by the Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission shows that total expenditures for transportation energy increased more than 60 percent during the last two years. In 1998, $480 million was spent locally on gasoline and diesel fuels. In 2000, expenditures for those same fuels increased by $300 million annually to a total of $780 million. This increase is more than seven times larger than the $40 million city sales tax currently identified as a possible funding solution for local transportation "improvements."

The per capita energy costs of transportation are five times greater than the per capita public costs of operating and maintaining the current local system. With oil prices increasing and "vehicle miles traveled" growing three times faster than local population growth, transportation energy consumption and costs are likely to increase significantly, especially if we fail to account for these costs during the current planning phase. Future cost and availability of petroleum resources constitutes one of the most important factors for choosing effective investments in the expansion and mix of future transportation modes.

The consensus among experts is that the peak of world oil production will occur during the next two decades, a time when world population growth (and subsequent energy demand) will increase by 2.5 - 3 billion more people. After this production peak, average demand will exceed average supply and prices for all goods and services, as well as oil, will increase. Dr. Helmut J. Frank, the Commission's consultant and author of this report, advises that recent changes in oil supply and prices do not, in any way, confirm the theory of imminent resource exhaustion. He points out that historically, these conditions typically lead to two modes of economic adjustment: 1) substitution of alternative sources and technologies and 2) increased conservation.

The good news on Tucson's energy front is that the metro region consumed 9 percent less energy per capita overall in 1998 than 1992. This positive trend is saving the local economy $200 million annually and is the result of increased energy-efficiency of residential, commercial, and public buildings and continuing investments in renewable energy sources. The more recent trend of increased transportation energy consumption and expenditures, however, is canceling overall per capita energy savings and leaves us more vulnerable to future price increases and uncertainties in world petroleum markets.

During the past decade, approximately 10 percent of total metropolitan income was spent on imported energy for all uses. Energy and transportation policies which extend the status quo expose the local economy to increased economic risks. On the other hand, policies which foster investments in energy-efficiency, renewable energy technologies, and alternatives to single-passenger vehicle transportation will improve Tucson's future economy -- creating new jobs, lowering costs, and generating further investments.

Bob Cook, Chair
Transportation and Growth Committee
Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission