Monday, August 24, 2009

the low down on peak oil

Last week I attended the MAV's Smart Urban Peak Futures conference. The focus on the conference was on sustainable, transport oriented development and the impact of peak oil. It was an excellent conference and very thought provoking.

Key messages from the conference were:

  • any change, whether it be addressing climate change, peak oil or 'smart' land use must be driven by strong, clear leadership at the top

  • people on the fringe of cities spend a lot more of their household income on transport

  • there should be a much greater focus on "away from oil" strategies

  • peak oil will hit in 2013

  • Australia has no strategic oil supply/reserve and only has 20 days worth of supply

  • 79% of oil production sites across the world are in decline

  • 72% to 86% of Australia's oil has already been consumed

  • as an interim measure motor vehicles should be converted to compressed natural gas

  • liveable cities are those with good public transport systems

  • good public transport systems reduce kilometres travelled by cars and ease congestion

  • "transition towns" are becoming more well known as communities prepare for peak oil and a low carbon economy

  • the Energy Descent Action Plan developed as part of the transition town processs are responsive to the town and dependent on its circumstances and seek commitment for action by individuals, households, regions, government, communities and businesses

  • Australia has the highest road congestion costs in the world running at 2.6% of GDP (the OECD average is 2%)

  • we have high motor vehicle ownership and low density, creating a greater reliance on motor vehicle travel

  • urban congestion in Australia was costed at $12.8 billion per annum in 2000

  • electric cars are coming, powered by 100% renewable energy with a planned launch in Australia in 2012 (Canberra), 2013 in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane

  • Maribyrnong Council have developed a Peak Oil Contingency Plan which focuses on business continuity for council in a time of high oil prices and reduced oil supply

Freeways are not a solution, more roads create more congestion. Fast and frequent public transport gives people more sustainable transport options. Increased public transport patronage is good for the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addresses peak oil and creates healthy and well connected communities.

This is only a snapshot of what was presented at the conference but the message is clear. We need to be thinking about planning for a shortage of oil in the future. Peak Oil is something government must be focussing on now, with projections of peak oil starting to impact in 2013, there is not long to plan for less oil at higher prices.

I will be raising the issue with my councillor colleagues at the Shire of Yarra Ranges as the implications will be far ranging and include issues such as staff travel, community mobility, food security, disadvantaged communities, service delivery (ie: Meals on Wheels), climate change and use of new technologies.

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