Trillions of liters of oil, gas, sewage and water are transported through pipelines to homes and businesses worldwide on a daily basis, and we never even see it. It just magically appears upon request. Now, a UK based group of engineers, project planners and academics has drawn up plans to do the same with food and household goods.
8% of the UK’s CO2 emissions and 80% of their highway damage are caused by inefficient van and lorry transportation. Traffic congestion, road damage and pollution is very expensive and altogether undesirable.
But here’s a solution that is as clever as it is simple.
By transporting food and other goods in 1x2 meter capsules in underground pipelines, the Foodtube group is sketching out a plan that will reduce traffic, carbon emissions and food prices, and at the same time make a very handsome profit.
Foodtubes Group envisions a 1500 km ring around the UK, and another 1500 km of smart grid controlled air pipes to supply individual customers. The capsules, spurred on by vacuum and induction, would travel in packs of 300 or so, at 100 Km/h, one meter apart, and disconnect from the group independently as they approach their destination. Once at a docking station in, let’s say, a Wal-Mart, the goods would be offloaded. But unlike trucks, these capsules won’t leave empty-handed. They’ll take the trash out with them.
Quietly and quickly, pipes would be laid down under the ground to work regardless of weather conditions. Timely delivery would be guaranteed. A computer addressed and controlled smart grid using RFID-tags ensures fast and accurate delivery, not prone to human error.
The profit motive will save the environment.
Who will pay for it? Businesses already pay to have water, gas and oil delivered to their doorstep, and laying food tubes are not much more expensive ($5 million per kilometer, as opposed $28 million per kilometer for 4-lane highways). Foodtubes Group says companies would own or co-own the individual sections of the network that serve them, whereas a nationwide ring would be funded by pooling private and/or public resources.
In any case, Foodtubes have crunched the numbers and the economic benefit to investors is formidable. They’ve developed a plan to implement the system in the London borough of Croydon which would connect all major buildings and food outlets in the area. Noel Hodson of the Foodtubes group explained that it would cost £400 million to build, and would make £80 billion a year. With current technology, the cost per Foodtube cargo load is about one fifth of current freight prices, and that includes a 50% profit margin for the operator.
Imagine the impact this could have on prices of all kinds of goods, once the cost of delivery is slashed. Imagine what water would cost if we used trucks instead of pipes to transport it, and then think how much we're over paying for goods delivery today.
Truck drivers' unions will be up in arms about this.