Peak Oil, Nanaimo, and Planning for the Future
David Brown: Dec. 8, 2010
Peak oil is defined as that point when the production of oil reaches a level of maximum output. Peak oil occurred in 1970 in the United States when production reached 11 million barrels. Peak conventional oil occurred a couple of years later in Canada; however, our oil production overall has not reached and will not reach peak in Canada in the near future because of non-conventional oil production (production from the oil sands and deep-water wells).Peak oil world-wide? Even the hoary optimists at the International Energy Agency believe that we have already reached peak conventional oil. As to peak oil overall (conventional and non-conventional sources) the extreme pessimists say it has also already occurred; the pessimists say it will occur in the next five to ten years; the optimists say it will be reached in twenty years; the extreme optimists say forty years. Of course, forty years really is not very long – think back 40 years – that puts us in 1970 which for us baby boomers seems like yesterday.
One of the interesting things about Peak Oil is that it is not just another left-wing doomsday theory. The people who believe that Peak Oil is near or already here include oil entrepreneurs such as Jim Buckee, T. Boone Pickens and Gwyn Morgan. In fact, PR aside, I doubt if there are many people in the oil industry who genuinely think otherwise.
It is widely accepted that an oil supply crisis (a supply crunch) will precede peak oil because demand will outrun supply. Even in the middle of a recession oil prices are at levels which would have been considered shocking ten years ago – over recent weeks oil prices have ranged between $82.00 to $88.00 per barrel.
Oil is a terrific source of energy and is wonderfully transportable which is why over 95% of transportation energy is derived from it. Whether we experience an oil supply crunch as huge price increases or as day to day shortages or both, it is undeniable that it will drastically affect our lives. It will have a particularly big impact on retail commercial activities and that means some hard times ahead for places such as Nanaimo. Despite the mantra like reiteration of “sustainability” at City Hall, this community will not be particularly viable in the coming age of scarce and expensive energy. Nanaimo is highly dependent on transportation based on the internal combustion engine (ICE). Strung out along a highway, it has a low population density; it has few food sources in its immediate vicinity; its shopping centre essentially is a twenty kilometre or so stretch of malls and big box store complexes. Believe it or not, building LEED standard civic structures (often at considerable additional cost) will not make Nanaimo sustainable.
City and Regional planning staff project a Nanaimo with an ever increasing population but is this all that certain. Will people continue to retire to a community that is so automobile dependent? Is the City’s service economy going to continue to expand? Is it not a real possibility that once we are past peak oil a multiplicity of factors will work to reduce rather than increase this area’s population. My prediction is that transportation viability will become an increasingly dominant factor in the decisions that individuals make as to where they will live and that businesses make as to where they locate.
Even if electric vehicles displace some ICE vehicles there is likely to be a drop off in road traffic. Does it make sense at this time to continue to add to a road network which may already be excessive? Along with a decline in the number of motor vehicle trips there will be fewer air miles flown. Air transportation is a needy user of oil – fuel price increases quickly translate into surcharges and other “need to keep up” price increases. One can not avoid noting that Nanaimo seems to have a special talent at being behind the curve – it is expanding its airport and has just completed a Conference Centre which relies on cheap air transportation to get people to it.
Unfortunately City Hall despite its lip service to “green” seems determined to continue to build a Nanaimo reliant on oil based transportation. These very unsustainable planning directions need to be quickly reversed.
What are some planning principles that might enhance this City’s ability to survive oil shortages? Firstly, no more large green field developments. Contain, even contract the urbanized area. Secondly, concentrate high density housing along two corridors – the Old Island Highway and Bowen Road (which was the even older up island highway). This will help make it possible to have electrified mass transportation. Thirdly, simplify zoning so that residence and work are not so “tidily” separated from one another. Do you see any of these notions in play at City Hall? An emphatic NO.
have you read the OCP? or the regional growth strategy?
Billfromthesouthside. What is your point? Is it that these platitudinous documents demonstrate that planning in this area is on the cutting edge of new urbanism? Since 2003 there has been a lot of new greenfield developments in and around Nanaimo and not much densification. In fact it has been the same old since the early 1950’s(I dare say that zoning has been the handmaiden of the automobile over the last one hundred years). The two big developments “planned” for the south end of Nanaimo are highly automobile oriented. Planning staff in Nanaimo and the RDN are great at talking about sustainability but in practise are easy facilitators of sprawl.
Island Timberlands (a Bermuda based company) has applied for an extension to the UCB to include yet more Cable Bay lands.
This ,I believe, is to facilitate more development in the Cable Bay area next door to the profitable Harmac Pulp Mill.
Just read the other articles on this blog & others to see just how peed off the taxpayer is with tax increases or the misuse of taxes paid.,
Much of the tax increases are from misguided projects such as the Con-ference Centre and the way too much tax monies that go to facilitating urban sprawl & it’s never ending desire for ,subsidised, taxpayer funded utilities.
As the world around us collapses into financial distress it has become more apparent that “sustainability” applies to much more than green issues & to our chagrin we realise that sustainable growth is an oxymoron.
And so to my last wine fed thought of the day.
Peak oil ; you bet. So why are we (Canadians) trying to send this product ,unrefined, via the Enbridge pipeline to China only to be sent back as cheap consumer goods that will deny even more of us of employment?
Perhaps it’s for the plastic Mounties to be sold to the Cruise ship tourists!
We cannot & should not expand this City forever for many reasons (water supply is at the top of my list) unlimited expansion cannot be facilitated.
Sustainability can equal growth but not when the foundation, network and boundaries are all broken. This city needs to provide for the residence but it must first get its head-out of the sand and fix some of the major infrastructure and safety issues with it before it addresses the next major change.
Change will happen, some like it and others don’t. The difference is that planned change can be a very good thing and unplanned well, you get the idea.
The city lacks true neighbours except for maybe parts of the old town and Harewood, everything else is just a strip mall. The potential for an area like Brechin /Stewart or Departure Bay to become Nanaimo’s version of the westend is an opportunity lost. The problems created by making all these malls and other retail outlets single storey, drive in and out applications is yet another BAD idea that does nothing except promote more sprawl.
A truly complete community must provide professional services, coffee houses and other such gathering places, a pub that WALK to, an eatery of sorts, a postal outlet and medical services. Instead we have square acres of single family homes and nothing but a weak transit system and a requirement to get into a car to drive to a mall to address specific needs.
Next on the list of major problems is there is no major industry left here. Anyone that stands against the Enbridge pipe line must understand the number of jobs at stake. There are many more pipe lines in this province and country have don’t have and haven’t had any environmental impacts yet we still demand that we get petrol (both diesel and gas) at the station, burn fuels in our homes for heat and burn fuels to generate power for all the other stuff like our computers and big screens. Do you see a problem with that? Wait until all the masses climb on board with GM and buy a Volt, watch as BCH jacks with the rates and we suffer brown and black outs because the infrastructure is so old it can’t handle that.
Sustainability means more than just green and it means more than just the environment. You must use triple bottom line accounting to make sure you are true to the word.
Just my thoughts.
I find it quite incredulous that you do not understand the meaning of sustainability particularly when the introduction to this thread is prefaced with”Peak Oil”..
How anyone can follow that with a promotion of Tar Sands a product with a huge carbon footprint. To add insult to injury you consider a 1000 mile pipeline through forest & over rivers carrying a toxic tar to be shipped through relatively pristine waters to be proccessed in China for the use by Chinese with their negligent environmental standards to be returned to Canada as substandard throw away plastic goods.
If we must use this awful product & we agree that there is a decline in the availability of oil of any quality then surely it had better be used here in Canada?
As for sustainabilty can equal growth !! I fail to understand.
Sustainable growth is an oxymoron ; just look around you..
I’m not sure I agree with the assertion that “Sustainable growth is an oxymoron.”
A forest can grow, and yet when left on its own its sustainable. Even when managed correctly a forest can sustain a good many people, and still grow sustainably.
Growth is an important part of a process that involves adaptation, rejuvenation and renewal, without which sustainability is irrelevant.
Yes, growth beyond the limits of environmental resources, economic capacity and human ingenuity are foolish efforts that will lead us to calamity, and we are certainly far down that road, but growth is a necessary component of sustainable systems. Reconciling ourselves to that difficult truth is one of first steps towards applying intelligence to the problems we face.
Agreed. Others consider growth to be more people more houses etc.This is what I consider unsustainable.
On this Island we have the opportunity to pursue three sustainable industries. Fishing Farming & Forestry,
Sadly at this time these industries are being mismanaged but that can & should be changed.
Building a bigger City is not a good option to strive for; it may come to pass but it is not something to promote.
Change will happen regardless of what you or I wish.
The question is do we promote change for changes sake?
Do we promote building & expansion as a (unsustainable) industry?
I say no.
As for China becoming a trading partner, no problem.
As for China taking our unprocessed natural resources; I have a big problem.
Bleeding our resource industries for short term construction jobs is not sustainable resource wise or business wise.
Melvin, I’m not disagreeing with you, but I do want to sound a note of caution.
Often those who argue against growth, or for limits to growth, maintain these arguments because they do not want to change the way they behave. They want everything and themselves to stay the same.
Unfortunately, we are so far down the road of mismanaging all our resources (natural, capital, and human) that change is the only option for all of us.
Change is hard. The change will be either slow and relatively peaceful or it will be dramatic and painful. This change will happen even if we don’t grow as a city. And not growing doesn’t make this change easier.
So in my mind, at least, it is the method of change that is critical, not so much the growth.
I don’t want to speak for Wyatt, but I do believe this is the direction of his argument, at least this is how I understand his position. Please feel free to correct me, Wyatt, if I’m wrong.
You fail to recognize that we must look at the issues as far more regional. Sustainability has a HUGE economic factor. Without it, we fail to support, sustain the level of demand we have for the government programs out there. Our tax dollars do that and yet as the seperation of wealth continues between what is left of the middle class and the upper and lower classes we will continue to want to eat the cake but won’t be able to pay for it.
All natural resources are exploited. Whether we like it or not, clean water, fish, forestry, mining, energy – what you need to do is recognize that, embrace it and determine how it can be used to make the rest of what we “desire” obtainable.
Like it or not India and China will replace the USA as our trading partners in the coming years. I suspect that your objection to the construction of the Enbridge pipe line fails to recognize the other 10 that already exist in this “beautiful” province. I bet you didn’t know that there are 4 that leave the Peace District and flow to Edmonton. There is one that comes from Alaska that goes through BC and AB and heads to Chicago.
So, what I suggest is determine how we can make this a value added situation and not another example of raw log exports.
On the subject of growth, in no way do I think Nanaimo needs to grow out any more. It does however need to grow up, both at City Hall and within its existing boundaries.