Going back to the increase in desert area: we crossed the Sahara in 1985, going through via Lake Chad, Niger, Algeria. I got talking to a guy in Niger who told me that 10 years previously there had been fishing boats on the lake shores nearby. We never saw the lake. By the time we were there it had shrunk to 10% of its original size. I saw dried hippo bones, but no water, and there was a horrible haze of dust in the air. The guy also told me that the desert advance was driving people to leave and head towards the coastal countries, such as Somalia, where he was originally from. From what we could work out, the problem is exacerbated by the burning of wood for cooking fires, and the keeping of goats, which had browsed and eaten most of the vegetation. People were growing gourds up the thatches of their homes, and I even saw goats reaching up to eat the leaves of these. Apart from scrubby thorn trees, there is little else to bind the land together unless people have made a point of planting. We once got locals willing to trade with us so that we could have wood for a fire. I don't know where they got it, because I could find none lying on the ground, which was where we always took ours from. The desert is a constantly moving thing, and has always shifted, but it is accelerating now, and the build-up of the land levels is making the water level harder to reach. We did see a well-drilling project when we went through Northern Cameroun, and more have begun since then, but we aalso saw many abandoned villages on what was once the shores of a huge lake, and which had become merely a ridge in a desert area. (Ironically, some of the Saharan countries like Nigeria are oil producers. What happens to the revenue from this oil?)
Back to the original - I think a lot of people would welcome alternative energy sources and would use public transport if it was cheap. And reliable. And a real, frquent alternative. My doctor is 4 miles away. My mother is 6 miles away. I would have to take 2 buses to reach my mother, and that is presuming that their timetables are compatible. The fare would be more than the cost of petrol and the 15 minute journey would probably take tha best part of an hour, given the reputation of the buses in this area! We do have a railway station, but there are about 3 trains per day, and as we live outside the Wakefield Met. area (subsidised) most people drive and park to a station within it, and then pick up a train if they want to head west - it still works out cheaper. My mum lives about 6 miles from me and has about 4 miles to get to town. The fare (return) is about £1.90. (She is 84 and on the minimum pension). There is one bus per hour. The local council make the wonderful gesture of giving the pensioners £8 worth of travel tokens per annum. So I do a lot of running around for her, and transporting her to and from the doctor's (which is 3 miles the other way, and 4 miles from me if I need to go).
With running around, taxi-ing teenage kids and also travelling to occasional craft fairs, I changed 6 months ago to a diesel for better fuel economy. 50+mpg has made it worthwhile. Even though the price of unleaded petrol has dropped recently proportionally more than diesel (there's an election this year!)