Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dryden Peak Oil Planning

Last week David Makar and Marty Hatch and I met with some people from TC Local, the Tompkins County Relocalization Project. I'm always happy to find people planning more than a week or a year in advance. Some changes take a long time and it's best to start planning a generation or two ahead of the perceived need.

"Peak Oil" is the point in time when oil production reaches it's highest point. As oil reserves become more and more difficult to access, oil production will decline. If consumption does not decline prior to peak production, demand will force oil prices up. I don't see how anyone can deny those two facts, tho' I predict that some people will try.

The questions worth asking are "When?" and "What will happen?" Not to mention "What shall we do about it?" [I'm offering these Wikipedia links, not because they're the best, but because they're relatively objective and easy to understand.]

They're tough questions because, like climate change, information needed to convey the seriousness of the situation sounds alarmist. Let's start from the point where we accept that the problem is serious. The Hirsch Report, published by the US Department of Energy in 2005, which might be considered a moderate document, begins, "The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem." And concludes:
  • World oil peaking is going to happen.
  • Oil peaking will adversely affect the U. S. economy. The decade after the onset of world
    oil peaking may resemble the period after the 1973-74 oil embargo, and the economic loss to the United States could be measured on a trillion-dollar scale.
  • Oil peaking presents a unique challenge (“it will be abrupt and revolutionary.”)
  • The problem is liquid fuels (growth in demand mainly from transportation sector).
  • Mitigation efforts will require substantial time (ideally 20 years. )
  • 20 years is required to transition without substantial impacts.
  • Both supply and demand will require attention.
  • It is a matter of risk management (mitigating action must come before the peak).
  • Government intervention will be required.
  • Economic upheaval is not inevitable (“given enough lead-time, the problems are soluble with existing technologies.”)
  • More information is needed to more precisely determine the peak timeframe.

Nearly half of U.S. petroleum consumption is for transportation and transportation is the one sector for which there is no ready alternative energy. So, it makes sense to focus on a plan for relocalizing the production and distribution of essential goods and services in Tompkins County to ease the impact of increasingly costly transportation. It will make sense in the near future to focus on these points in planning for modest growth in Dryden.


Post a Comment

<< Home