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Planning for peak oil? : An examination of what municipal and regional planners in Greater Vancouver… Larson, Lisa 2006

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PLANNING FOR PEAK OIL? A N EXAMINATION OF WHAT MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL PLANNERS IN GREATER VANCOUVER KNOW ABOUT PEAK OIL AND THINK ABOUT ITS RELEVANCE TO PLANNING AND A LOCAL PLANNING RESPONSE. B Y L I S A L A R S O N B . A . , S I M O N F R A S E R U N I V E R S I T Y , 2 0 0 2 A THESIS S U B M I T T E D IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E OF M A S T E R OF A R T S IN P L A N N I N G IN T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A M A R C H 2 0 0 6 © L I S A L A R S O N 2 0 0 6 Abstract Canadian suburbs and cities are heavily reliant on inexpensive oil and natural gas; they depend on them for many essential needs including transportation, heating, and the import of goods and foods from distant and neighbouring regions. Growing debate around 'peak oil' has brought the future of these fuels into question. Those who believe in peak oil expect that global conventional oil and gas extraction rates will reach a maximum by 2020, after which they will inevitably decline. They expect that without a corresponding drop in demand the prices of these fuels will dramatically increase and result in future disruptions to fossil fuel dependent lives. In this thesis I argue that the likelihood of peak oil and our dependence on cheap oil and gas epitomize the unsustainable nature of our suburbs and cities. I propose that planning, as a profession oriented towards the future and dedicated to supporting our society's transition to sustainability, has a responsibility to help us prepare for a 'post-carbon age'. Through interviews with 26 randomly selected municipal and regional planners in the Greater Vancouver region I examined what local planners know about the peak oil debate and think about its potential consequences and importance to local planning. I also investigated whether they believe peak oil warrants a local planning response and what that response should be. My results indicate that planners in this region have a limited awareness of peak oil, although the majority agree that the issue is relevant to planning. The majority also agree that it could force our lives to change, but that it is difficult to predict how exactly. In addition, my results show that fifty percent of local planners believe that peak oil is something to which local planning should respond. Their general recommendations of what planning might do to address peak oil are similar to those commonly associated with 'sustainability planning'. While they are a good place to start, I propose that more detailed, energy-centric, and comprehensive policies should be formulated under a precautionary planning approach, together with greater awareness of and dialogue about peak oil within public, political, and planning communities. Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables v List of Figures vi List of Boxes vii Acknowledgements viii Chapter 1: Planning for the end of cheap gas and oil? 1 1.1. Purpose 1 1.2. Problem statement 1 . 1.3. Research questions 1 1.4. Rationale: peak oil, 'the next big thing'? 2 1.4.1. Peak pessimism: the end of cheap gas and oil? 3 1.4.2. Peak optimism 7 1.5. Planning for peak oil 10 Chapter 2: Scope, Methods and Limitations 16 2.1. Research scope 16 2.2. Research process: a qualitative methodology 16 2.3. Preliminary investigations 17 2.4. Interview design and primary data collection 17 2.5. Participant recruitment and sampling 19 2.6. Data analysis 20 2.7. Quality and validity 22 2.8. Threats to validity: research limitations and biases 23 Chapter 3: Results 25 3.1. To what extent are planners aware of peak oil? 25 3.1.2. And what do planners think about the arguments for or against peak oil 28 3.2. And what might be the consequences of peak oil? 29 3.3. Is peak oil an issue of importance to planners and planning? 34 3.3.1. Should planners be aware of peak oil? 34 3.3.2. Is peak oil an issue of importance to planners and planning? 35 3.3.3. Is the issue of peak oil important enough to warrant a local planning response? 36 3.3.4. Why is peak oil of importance to local planners and planning 37 3.3.5. Why might the issue of peak oil not warrant a local planning response? 40 3.4. What should a local planning response to peak oil be? 42 3.4.2. Would a response to peak oil be any different than a response to sustainability? 47 3.5. What might enable or impede a local planning response to peak oil? 48 i i i Chapter 4: Discussion and Conclusions 52 4.1. To what extent are planners in the GVRD aware of the peak oil debate 52 4.2. What might be the consequences of peak oil 54 4.3. Is peak oil an issue of importance to municipal and regional planners and planning? 56 4.4. What do planners believe the planning response to peak oil should and can be? 59 4.5. Proceed with dialogue and precaution: advice to the planning profession 64 4.6. Concluding remarks 70 Bibliography 72 Appendices 82 Appendix A 82 Appendix B 85 Appendix C 88 iv List of Tables Table 3.1. Statements exemplifying participants' awareness of peak oil 26 Table 3.2. Potential consequences of peak oil according to interviewees 30 Table 3.3. How peak oil is relevant to local planners and planning 38 Table 3.4. Why peak oil may not warrant a local planning response 41 Table 3.5. Actions, policies and tools with which local planning might respond to peak oil 45 Table 3.6. Barriers to a local planning response to peak oil 49 Table 3.7. Factors that might enable a local planning response to peak oil 50 v List of Figures Figure 1.1. The g rowing o i l product ion - d iscovery gap List of Boxes Box 2.1. Combined sample line of questioning for both phases of semi-structured interviewing 19 Acknowledgements To all of those without whom this would not have been possible. Thank you. viii Chapter 1: Planning for the end of cheap gas and oil? 1.1. Purpose The purpose of this thesis is to determine: (1) the extent to which professional planners in the Greater Vancouver Regional District are informed about the 'peak o i l ' phenomenon, and (2) in the event of peak oi l what role local and regional planning might play to facilitate the transition to a 'post-carbon' age. 1.2. Problem statement Contemporary Canadian society has been built upon the ready availability of inexpensive non-renewable fossil fuels; they sustain our lifestyles and fuel the nation's economic growth. Our dependence on and confidence in this finite resource base has wavered only briefly over the last fifty years - during the oi l crises of the late 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the nation's demand for both oil and gas has continued since then to grow. A major debate - focussing on peak oi l -however, has brought back into question uncertainty over the long-term supply of both oil and natural gas, as well as the ability of industrialized nations and growing urban regions such as the Greater Vancouver Regional District ( G V R D ) to deal with the consequences of declining and increasingly expensive energy supplies. If those who believe in peak oil are correct, the peaking of global oi l and gas production sometime between today and 2020 wi l l be followed by an irreversible decline in supply and a corresponding rise in price. In the absence of suitable substitutes this wi l l necessitate fundamental changes in the ways we live, work, and play. If they are correct local and regional planners in the G V R D should be aware of, concerned with, and planning for our energy constrained future. 1.3. Research questions The specific research questions that this thesis seeks to address are fourfold: 1. To what extent are planners in the G V R D aware of the peak oi l debate? 1 2. O f those planners who are aware of the peak oil debate, what consequences of peak oil do they foresee? 3. Do planners in the G V R D believe that peak oil is an issue of importance to municipal and regional planning and planners? 4. If so, what do planners believe (a) should be the policy and planning responses to peak oil at the municipal/regional level, and (b) are the policy and planning responses to peak oil that are actually available to municipal/regional planners under existing legislation? 1.4. Rationale: peak oil, 'the next big thing'?1 Oil and natural gas have in the past 100 years become essential elements of Canadian life. Our confidence in the low cost and ready availability of both has wavered only briefly in this time, during the oi l crises of the 1970s-1980s in which prices soared as fuel supplies were constrained by the O P E C embargo of 1973-74 and a decline in oil production in the wake of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. It was during these years of heightened energy concern that Canadian citizens, government authorities, planners, and scholars began discussing the long-term implications of rising oi l prices and domestic oil and gas production decline on Canadian suburbs and cities - which had been built on the assumption that cheap oil and gas would always be available (Foley, 1978; McDougal l & Keller, 1981; Macdonald, 1978; Schrecker, 2001; Wolfe, 1994). Many agreed that Canadians were inefficient in energy use as a result of a "historical cheap energy strategy"2 and that "the sprawling bungalow and the high-rise apartment serviced by freeways and fuelled by o i l " were not viable long-term options (Foley, 1978:23). Various authors (e.g. Macdonald, 1978:13) issued warnings of the unsustainability of modern Canadian cities and suburbs due to their dependence on "vast flows of non-renewable fuels, food, and other resources, drawn often from hinterlands 1000s of miles away". This concern over Canada's fossil energy dependence and supply was, however, short-lived. World oil prices declined sharply in the late 1980s as O P E C nations ramped up production in an attempt to regain the market share they had lost as a result of lower demand and increasing non-OPEC production following the preceding oil crises (Yergin, 1991). Energy anxieties in Canada faded as global oi l prices dropped. We forgot our vulnerability to increases in fuel price and 1 Williams, 2004:15 2 McDougall & Keller, 1981:1 2 shortages in supply, the importance of easing the country into a post-petroleum era, and the need to redesign cities, suburbs, and the national economy to lessen their energy dependence (Schrecker, 2001). Urban and suburban development across the nation has since unfolded as it had before the crises of the 1970s struck - in a sprawling, automobile dependent, energy inefficient form, based again on an assumed ready availability of both domestic and imported cheap gas and oil (Kunstler, 2005). However, a resurrected and highly polarized debate focussing on peak oil has brought back into question the reliability of these finite resources upon which we all depend. This debate has once again highlighted the vulnerability of o,ur society to oil and gas depletion, and leads me to inquire: "In the event of peak oil what role might municipal and regional planning have to play?" 1.4.1. Peak pessimism: the end of cheap gas and oil? Much of the debate surrounding peak oil today is related to the likelihood, timing, and consequences of the worldwide peaking of hydrocarbon4 production - which is said by those who do not refute the concept outright to be the point in time at which the global conventional oil and gas extraction rate will reach a maximum from which it will inevitably decline (Bentley, 2002; Campbell, 2002; Duncan, 2004). According to peak oil proponents, because oil and gas are limited by geological constraints, and because no amount of investment in technology or exploration can lead to ever-increasing production, after passing such a 'peak', barring a commensurate drop in demand (i.e. demand destruction),5 the prices of these fuels can only rise as reserves are exhausted (Bentley, 2002; Campbell & Laherrere, 1998; Campbell, 2002; Duncan, 2004). These trends, it is thought, will signal the beginning of the end of the era of cheap, dependable, and easily accessible natural gas and oil - and will usher in the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era (and in the worse-case scenario, of industrial society itself). The imminent depletion of fossil fuel reserves has been heralded in North America since the early 20 t h century (Deming, 2000; Heinberg, 2003). However, it wasn't until 1956 that geophysicist Marion King Hubbert formally introduced the concept of peak oil. It was then, six 3Macdonald, 1978 4 Although coal contains hydrogen it is generally not considered a hydrocarbon (Bentley, 2002). 5 Demand destruction is the tenn used to describe the (often dramatic) reduction in demand for a commodity in response to high prices. 3 years after he made public his own prediction that the fossil fuel era would be short-lived, that Hubbert forecast that US continental oil production would peak between 1966 and 1972 (Deffeyes, 2001). Few people took Hubbert's predictions seriously until after 1970, the year in which US crude production indeed began to fall (Deffeyes, 2001). Since then, academics, petroleum geologists, and oil investors alike have employed variations of Hubbert's method6 to make their own predictions of when global and regional oil and natural gas production will begin to decline. Their predictions, many of which fall within the current decade, are based on global reserve, production, and demand estimates, as well as on a variety of more general oil and gas production trends. According to peak oil proponents today, of the world's estimated total conventional crude endowment of 2000 billion barrels (Gb), 90% has already been discovered and more than 800Gb have already been extracted (Bentley, 2002; Campbell & Laherrere, 1998). No new oil provinces, it is thought, have yet to be found as few places remain "where oil could be hiding but where oil companies have not already looked" (Roberts, 2004:49). Similarly discouraging to those who believe in peak oil is the fact that 80% of oil produced today flows from fields that were discovered prior to 1973, and that the backdated reserves7 of many (if not most) of these have for decades been diminishing as a result of a steady decline in the discovery of more oil (see Figure 1.1.) (Aleklett, 2004; Campbell & Laherrere, 1998; Campbell, 2002). Like other forms of production, oil extraction cannot escape the law of diminishing returns; the largest deposits are those that are found first, after which average field size and the amount of oil extracted per unit of exploratory drilling continues to decrease (Bentley, 2002). Zagar and Campbell (2004) contend that we are at the point today where, on average, only one barrel of oil is found for every four that are extracted. In other words, peak oil proponents assert that the discovery of new conventional oil sources peaked decades ago and that the corresponding production peak is on its way (Campbell, 1999; Roberts, 2004). In fact, for more than half of the 6 Hubbert's method was based on the assumption that oil and gas production follows a bell-shaped curve, with the rate of extraction growing exponentially, peaking, and then declining exponentially as the recoverable resource is depleted. This method assumes that these fuels are extracted at each stage along this curve with more or less static technology. 7 Backdating is the means by which belated corrections to oil field reserve estimates are referenced back to the year in which a field was discovered. For example, if the estimated 5Gb reserve of an oil field discovered in 1954 was revised to 20Gb in 1973, instead of attributing this increase to a new discovery of 15Gb of oil in 1973 backdating would see reserve estimates and discovery adjusted upwards to 20Gb in 1954. Backdating acknowledges that 'reserve growth' is not new discovery, and it is used to extrapolate more accurate discovery trends. 4 Figure 1.1. The growing oil production - discovery gap. (From Campbell, 2005). THE GROWING GAP 1930 • Past D i scove ry CZD Future Discovery P r o d u c t i o n Past discovery based on ExxonMobil (2002). Revisions backdated TlllllTlmTTmrrrn.r 1950 1970 1990 2010 2030 2050 top 45 oil producing nations, peak oil is said to already have passed (Duncan, 2004). To put this into perspective a little closer to home, consider Bentley's (2002) contention that North America has already burnt nearly three-quarters of its total recoverable conventional oil supply. It is not o only North American conventional oil, but our continental production and discovery rates of natural gas that are also said to be in a long-term state of decline (Bentley, 2002; Simmons, 2004a). As with oil, it is unlikely these trends will be reversed as the biggest and best fields tend to be those that are found first (Bentley, 2002). While gas and oil trends and different estimates of reserve and production data have led to variations in projected dates, many proponents are nonetheless doubtful that the peaking of global conventional oil production will be delayed much beyond 2010, or that a global natural gas peak will be more than 10 years behind9 (Bentley, 2002; Campbell, 2003; Duncan & Youngquist, 1999; Ghouri, 2001). There are however, those who predicted the peaking of oil to While oil is traded on international markets, due to transportation constraints natural gas is still a highly regional market. It is for this reason that declining regional gas production is as pertinent as declining global oil production. 9 Gas is expected to peak 10 years after oil because less gas has so far been used. However, the world is expected to turn increasingly to gas as oil declines, and when gas itself passes its peak it is expected to decline more rapidly than oil (Bentley, 2002; Imam et al, 2004). 5 have occurred at the turn of this century, as well as others who foresee it occurring closer to 2050 (Campbell, 1999; Wood et al., 2004). Whenever the peak of global hydrocarbon production does happen, it is expected that extraction rates will thereafter decline annually by around 3% (Bentley, 2002; Campbell, 1999).10 Coupled with the expected demand increase of approximately 2%/year this would result in a growing annual supply gap of 5%. Both the timing of peak oil and the rapidity with which remaining reserves deplete will depend in part on global oil and gas demand - which according to Simmons (2004b) is becoming 'a runaway train'. Even ExxonMobil (2004), the world's leading oil and gas firm, has predicted that by 2020 oil demand will have increased by upwards of 40%; ardent peak proponents Duncan and Youngquist (1999) predict increases by 2040 of 60% - 70%. Just fifteen years from today oil demand alone may reach 112 million barrels per day (Mb/d)13, up from an estimated average of 86Mb/d in 2005 (Simmons, 2004b). By 2035 it may jump to 140Mb/day (Roberts, 2004). It is important to note though that these are potential demand estimates only, and that actual/realized future demand may be lower if oil consumption declines in response to rising prices. If such 'demand destruction' occurs it will delay or flatten a global conventional oil production peak. To replace 'maturing' (i.e. depleting) reserves and meet potential demand just 10 years from now, however, the industry will need to increase oil and gas extraction by 100 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, an amount close to 80% of today's production rate (ExxonMobil, 2004). Even the normally optimistic14 International Energy Agency (IEA) contends that "by 2030 most of the oil production worldwide will come from supply capacity that is yet to be built" (IEA, 2004 quoted in Aleklett, 2004). In light of globally declining oil and gas discovery and extraction trends, and the fact that ultimately geology constrains supply, where this needed capacity will come from is the critical question. It is unclear whether either of these sources has factored a potential drop in oil consumption as a result of rising prices into their predictions. " Demand for oil is currently increasing at 2%/year. Demand for natural gas is expected to soon increase by 2.4% per year (IEA, 2002. 1 2 This gap would be between supply and unrealized demand. 1 3 Zagar& Campbell, 2004 1 4 According to Roberts energy agencies such as the IEA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the US Energy Information Administration "are under intense pressure to err on the side of wild optimism" in their estimates (2004:62). 6 In sum, the general consensus among peak oil proponents is that eventually it will become impossible to close the growing global hydrocarbon supply-consumption gap. Someday - and likely soon - the 'big rollover' will occur; demand will begin to outstrip supply, and prices will rise as the world's reserves of cheap, dependable, and accessible oil and gas forever decline.15 Regardless of the year in which the peak of global oil production is to occur, most proponents also agree that as a result of our dependence on these resources and their current non-substitutability, the global peaking of their extraction rates will be a historic turning point or watershed in human history (Campbell, 2002; Duncan & Youngquist, 1999). Because industrial society has been built upon cheap and dependable fossil fuels "colossal economic and political consequences" are expected from the declining availability of these resources (Campbell, 1999). The peaking of oil and gas production, proponents assert, will without question affect Western lifestyles as the price of everything dependent upon these resources - including food supplies, consumer goods, transportation, industrial and economic activity - increases as their own prices do (Campbell, 1999; Fleming, 1999; Klare, 2004). What's more, they note that 'on the descent down the oil production mountain', demand will not be met, users may have to ration, and "there is likely to be inflation, recession, and international tension" (Bentley, 2002:203). Past oil shocks, it is believed, will "be mere ripples compared to the changes which will probably occur in the next decade or so" (Robinson, 2003:8). 1.4.2. Peak optimism On the opposite side of the peak oil debate naysayers argue that the predictions made by peak pessimists are much too dire, and very unlikely to ever transpire (Moore, 1999; Simon, 1996; Taylor & Van Doren, 2000). While this side of the debate can itself be seen as somewhat divided - between those like Stephen Moore and the late Julian Simon who believe that there are no real limits to natural resource extraction, and others such as Leonardo Maugeri who do concede that oil and gas are finite and exhaustible - the majority of 'Hubbert debunkers'16 argue against the predictions of peak pessimists on four main points: 1) that past predictions have been continuously revised, 2) that their analyses are based on the false assumption that geology is the 1 5 It is important to note, however, that this supply-consumption gap could be short term. Massive demand destruction could happen and bring supply and demand back in line for a while, and coal gasification and liquefaction may in the future make up for the short fall in conventional oil and gas supply. 1 6 As referred to by Bob Williams (2004). 7 most important limiting factor in oil and gas production, 3) that non-conventional sources can push back any concerns over supply for up to one hundred years or more, and 4) that even if these resources were to become scarce humanity will simply "conserve, substitute, and innovate" (Baden, 1998). According to Maugeri (2004), peak proponents have for decades been crying wolf over fossil fuel depletion; he and others cite the fact that many predictions of imminent gas and oil peaks over the last 20 years17 have continuously been revised as evidence that they are (and always will be) wrong (Baden, 1998; Maugeri, 2004). All pessimistic predictions and the Hubbert curve models upon which they are based can never be accurate it is argued, because they put too much faith in geology and fail to take into account a number of other variables that peak oil optimists see as key - including-growing knowledge, technological progress, government policies, taxes, prices, infrastructure, and consumer demand (Adelman & Lynch, 1997; Baden, 1998; Lynch, 2003; Maugeri, 2004; Simon, 1996; Taylor & Van Doren, 2000; van Mourik & Sheppard, 2004). Resource limits, Adelman and Lynch write, "are a phantom" (1997:56). Peak oil opponents - many of whom are mainstream economists - argue that 'declinists' do not understand how market forces work; that is they do not see that investment incentives are the primary driver of oil discovery and production, that the market encourages exploration, technological innovation, and conservation when commodities are in short supply (Baden, 1998, Moore, 2001, Taylor & VanDoren, 2000, van Mourik & Sheppard, 2004). Some even concede that declines in non-OPEC production from offshore fields may begin by 2007, though not because oil in those regions is growing scarce, but because "the return on investment is not good enough and the associated risk is too high" (van Mourik & Sheppard, 2004:20). As the executive editor of the Oil & Gas Journal notes, the stance of Hubbert debunkers is: "if we were really running out of oil the price signals would be there to turn mud into gasoline" (Williams, 2004:3). 1 7 Past predictions cited by optimists include those made by Kenneth Watt and the authors of The Limits to Growth who forecast global crude oil exhaustion by 2000 and 1992 respectively (Baden, 1998). 1 8 Thomas Gold (1999) similarly believes that global oil and gas supplies are unlimited. According to him they are not finite fossil based resources but are instead renewable and continuously manufactured deep within the earth's core. As of yet, however, few petroleum geologists agree with Gold's claims. 8 That instead of rising, commodity prices have historically tended to drop is also cited as evidence that the global supply of cheap oil is far from running low. When adjusted for wage growth, it is argued, oil is cheaper today than it was 100, 50, or 20 years ago, mostly thanks to human innovation which is said to have allowed for the constant discovery of new sources and the development of new technologies that make it more and more economical to drill (Moore, 2004). Based on this trend, optimists like Bailey (2004) contend that because lower prices in economics are generally indicative of abundance, oil supplies are in fact not growing scarce but instead are growing more abundant. There are some peak optimists who do concede, however, that the amount of oil and gas that it is physically possible to extract may be limited, and that they may eventually be in shorter supply. Unlike many peak oil and gas pessimists, however, optimists like Michael Lynch believe that cost and reserve values, discovery size, drilling intensity, and well productivity do not support a global peak even within the next two decades (Lynch, 2004 in Lorenzetti, 2004). Also unlike peak pessimists, many optimists are hedging their bets on the ability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and non-conventional oil sources such as oil shale and tar sands to supply global hydrocarbon demand for many decades to come (Deming, 2000; Odell, 2004). Peter Odell (2004), for example, foresees that remaining recoverable conventional oil resources will be able to sustain more than half of all oil demand until almost 2060, after which time non-conventional sources 'will take the leading role' before they too peak in the last years of this century. The depletion of any one resource - even the one on which industrial society depends -however, is of little concern even to many who do concede that the world's hydrocarbon supply (whether conventional or not, expensive or cheap) will eventually deplete. They argue that if such a scenario ever came to pass humanity would simply turn to other energy sources and carry on, not simply as they previously had, but with more benefits and greater wealth than ever before. Simon (1996) and others like Bailey (1998), Baden (1998), Huber and Mills (2005) have argued that because the earth's energy supply is infinite - as it is ultimately from the sun - that even if oil and gas were to become scarce, humanity would simply "turn to other sources of 9 energy".19 "Viewed in this light", Bailey (1998) writes, "running out of oil...starts to look a lot less frightening". 1.5. Planning for peak oil Regardless of which side of the debate is closer to the truth - for only time will tell - if there is any legitimacy to the arguments made by proponents, there are ample reasons for which planners should be aware of, concerned with, and planning for peak oil. The most important ground for this, however, is our society's utter dependence on cheap oil and gas. Contemporary Canadian society has quite literally been built upon the ready availability of these (temporarily) inexpensive non-renewable fossil fuels. Our cities and suburbs especially are highly dependent 20 upon them, and are where most oil and gas are consumed. We use these resources directly to heat and light our homes, to fuel our cars and buses, and even to cook our meals. We are also reliant on them in more indirect, and indispensable, ways. The functioning of our complex urban systems relies on them in the building and maintenance of our water, road, and waste infrastructures, as well as in the provisioning of social services related to policing, health care, and fire protection. As well, they are the feedstock of our industries, the raw materials for our paints, plastics, medicines, and through their extensive use in industrial 21 agricultural production they are to a large extent the feedstock for our foods (Duncan & Youngquist, 1999; Giampetro & Pimentel, 1999; North, 2004; Rees, 2003). Cheap oil and gas are also essential to urban and suburban life as they make possible the import and export of agricultural, industrial, and consumer goods to and from both neighbouring and far-flung regions (Darley, 2004; Duncan & Youngquist, 1999; Rees, 2003; Suzuki, 2001). Oil in particular is "the means by which industrial society obtains (and overexploits) all other resources" (Rees, 2003:2). Through their use in transportation and industry, cheap and accessible gas and oil fuel not only our domestic economy but the global one as well. Cheap oil and gas are without a doubt the lifeblood of not only Canadian, but of all industrial society. Unfortunately, despite what some peak optimists might say, there are as of yet no 1 9 Bailey, 1998 2 0 Newman, 1991a 2 1 For every 1 OKcal of fossil based energy used in North American agricultural production only 1 Kcal of food energy is produced (Giampietro & Pimentel, 1994). It is for this reason that modern agriculture has been described as a process through which we turn fossil fuels into food (Bartlett, 1978). 10 substitutes laying in wait that can match the high energy density, convenience, and versatility of 22 either finite resource (Duncan & Youngquist, 1999; Ghouri, 2001; Roberts, 2004).zz Neither, it seems, will the market be able to remedy this dilemma, as had it been functioning properly in the first place - by pricing oil and gas to reflect their true costs and providing consumers with full information about their energy choices - it would likely have long since directed us into a post-fossil fuel age. As a result of their non-substitutability and our dependence upon them, the declining availability and corresponding rise in price of conventional oil and gas has the potential to seriously disrupt our current ways of life. Although the series of unforeseen consequences of peak oil are limitless, the following predictions have been made: • soaring transportation costs and fuel rationing to highest price users and highest needs (Bentley, 2002; Fleming, 1999; Klare, 2004; Simmons, 2005) • soaring heating and electricity costs as gas prices rise and as more people turn to electric heat and put pressure on already strained electrical grids (Heinberg, 2003) • higher priced goods and services (Duncan & Youngquist, 1999; Fleming, 1999) • reduced food production and availability, corresponding higher food prices and food shortages (Duncan and Youngquist, 1999; Fleming, 1999; Heinberg, 2003; Klare, 2004) • rising social inequity as lower income groups and nations are most (and soonest) affected by price increases (Heinberg, 2003) • higher industrial costs and reduced industrial activity leading to lower economic growth, unemployment, inflation, recession, depression or deflation (Bentley, 2002; Fleming, 1999; Klare, 2004; Rubin, 2005) • reduced international trade and the end of globalization (Heinberg, 2003; Simmons, 2005) • the collapse of industrial society as we know it today (Duncan & Youngquist, 1999; Heinberg, 2003; Kunstler, 2004; Savinar, 2005) In light of these potential consequences, peak oil proponents have for decades appealed to policy makers worldwide to face the likelihood of the end of cheap gas and oil. As Ivanhoe (1995) remarked ten years ago, "[T]he economic and social ramifications of that event will require serious planning". 2 2 Given the depleting nature of natural gas and the infrastructural requirements of a global liquid natural gas trade, as well as the energy intensive processing that oil shale and tar sands require, it is unlikely that these sources of gas and oil will be able to take the place of the cheap and accessible substances that we are dependent upon today (Bentley, 2002; Darley, 2004). 11 The long-lived nature of urban and suburban infrastructure is such that, as Kenworthy (2003) writes, the kind of planning principles and policies that we use today can and will significantly affect how we cope with the effects of peak oil, and ultimately, will shape how society deals with the post-hydrocarbon era itself. We can already see that our "urban policy choices made in the cheap energy past are quite literally cast in concrete" (Schrecker, 2001:36). We have long since been warned that "we are making planning decisions now that will last well up to and past" the time in which cheap oil and gas will cease to be (Newman, 1991b: 171). It has also long been recognized that among the most important tasks of a planner is envisioning as far into the future as possible the potential and likely consequences of proposed development and action (Naess, 2001; Trist, 1974; Witty, 1998). To ignore the potential of a future in which oil and gas are no longer accessible and cheap - or in other words to continue to plan as though they will always be just that - would be tantamount to ignoring the rational foundation and future orientation of the planning profession. As Myers and Kitsuse note "[U]nlike demographers or economists, planners have an active role in not only predicting but shaping the future" (2000:9). As such, foresight is essential to the profession's intellectual identity and mission (Markusen, 1998). It has long been lamented, however, that "planning has lost sight of.. .its role as visionary and idealist"23; and it has been argued that what futures it does construct have become hollow, uni-dimensional and short-range (Myers & Kitsuse, 2000). Ignoring peak oil would simply add to this loss. Regardless of whether high prices and scarcity rule conventional oil and natural gas out as 'serious mainstream fuel sources' in 25 years,24 40 years,25 or a century, a global hydrocarbon peak and changes to our fossil fuel dependent lives are somewhere down the line. That there are uncertainties concerning the timing and consequences of this event does not negate the importance of planning for it now. Because the future has never been certain and because it will never be, constant change, ignorance, and uncertainty need to be acknowledged and accepted as part of planning's knowledge base (Dovers & Handmer, 1992; Goldberg, 1985). That is, for long-lived, complex, and unpredictable systems such as our fossil fuel dependent i J Isserman, 1985:483 2 4 Fleming, 2003 2 5 Bourne, 2003 12 suburbs and cities, uncertainty and change are not only given but are increasing. This is the reality that policy makers are going to have to face (Dovers & Handmer, 1992; Goldberg, 1985; Moffatt, 2002; Ratcliffe & Gannon, 2003). If planners and policy makers are truly concerned about and actively involved in the creation of a common desired future, the possible effects of peak oil on our food systems, transportation systems, and suburban and urban lifestyles as a whole need to be considered in decision making today. A "key challenge of sustainability is to examine the range of plausible future pathways of combined social and environmental systems under conditions of uncertainty, surprise, human choice and complexity" (Swart et al., 2004:137). Society's dependence on a finite supply of cheap gas and oil epitomizes the unsustainable nature of our current ways of life, is rife with uncertainties, and raises "serious questions about the direction of urban [and suburban] society" (Newman, 1991a:336). Thus, if planners ignore the peak oil debate they are not only betraying the future orientation of their profession, but also their responsibility to contribute to the "sustainability of safe, healthy, and secure urban environments" and to make "urban and rural life workable, liveable, and prosperous" (CIP, 2005). Fossil fuel dependence is also a sustainability issue because meeting the needs of future generations within the current capacity of the earth necessitates that inhabitants of the planet today limit their consumption of non-renewable resources to ensure that those to come have access to them in order to meet their own needs (Naess, 2001; WCED, 1987). If we consume and deplete our oil and gas today, future generations will not be able to enjoy the benefits of them (such as in the fields of technology and health) that the last five generations have seen. They are more likely to have to deal instead with the costs of their earlier (mis)use. Global climate change is arguably the most serious of these costs. Societies around the world are feeling its effects already. These include rising temperatures, shifts in precipitation patterns and climate variability, and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events (Warren, 2004). These changes are expected to intensify over time and, in turn, to result in the continued melting of glaciers, polar sea ice and snow packs, rising sea levels and the inundation Many have pointed out that the world is changing faster that ever before, that it is becoming more complex, and more uncertain, as a result of increasing global linkages, rapidly changing technologies, and growing knowledge (Abbott, 2005; Moffatt, 2002). 13 of low lying areas, more pronounced seasonal water shortages, a greater incidence of flooding, and reduced agricultural productivity in some regions, among many other things (IPCC, 2001; Service, 2004; Warren, 2004). All of this a product, above all, of the build-up of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere - 90% of which are from our burning of fossils fuels27 (Roberts, 2004). To mitigate the most severe long term social, economic, and ecological consequences of climate change will require that average per capita CO2 emissions -and therefore oil and gas consumption - be reduced to a 'very small fraction' of what they are today (IPCC, 2001:19). As with peak oil, "[H]ow we choose to deal (or not to deal) with climate change will determine.. .whether life in the future will be fundamentally better or worse" (Roberts, 2004:123). No matter how you examine it, the likelihood of a global hydrocarbon peak is a sustainability issue. This is because dependence on finite fossil fuels is inherently unsustainable. Not only is it the root cause of global climate change, but as a result of the non-renewable and depleting nature of oil and gas we will never be able to sustain our current reliance on and rates of consumption of these fuels in the long term. (If peak oil proponents are correct, it may actually be that industrial society's hydrocarbon dependent transportation, agricultural, and economic systems are not even sustainable in the medium term (Fleay, 2003)). If sustainability is a local planning concern, as planning and local government associations, Canadian municipalities, and planners have long claimed,28 then so too must peak oil be. Neglecting to factor its potential effects into current and future plans would be akin to ignoring the reality that planning and sustainability are 'mutually relevant and inextricably linked' (Jepson, 2001). Local governments may in the end be where our fossil fuel-based society's salvation lays as "they plan and control the very elements at stake" including energy consumption, development, resource use, and waste (Glass, 2002:97). In summary, peak oil should be a local planning concern. The reasons are fivefold, as discussed above: 1. Our society and its cities are highly dependent upon cheap gas and oil. 2 7 Including oil, natural gas, and coal. 2 8 CIP, 2005; F C M , 2003; Macdonald, 1978 14 2. As a result of our dependence on these finite fuels the consequences of a global hydrocarbon peak have the potential to be dire. 3. The planning principles that we employ today will determine how future societies deal with the effects and aftermath of peak oil. 4. Ignoring the likelihood of peak oil is akin to ignoring the future orientation of the planning profession. 5. Ignoring the likelihood of peak oil is akin to ignoring the responsibility of the planning profession to plan for sustainability. As Peter Newman and other peak oil proponents have similarly declared, "we must recognize our responsibility to plan for reduced oil use, particularly in our [suburbs and] cities" (1991b:171). 15 Chapter 2: Scope, Methods and Limitations The purpose of this chapter is to describe the scope, methods, and limitations of this thesis. 2.1. Research scope Although the issue of peak oil is pertinent to all corners of the globe and all persuasions of planners and planning, the scope of this research is for a number of reasons limited to the Greater Vancouver Regional District and to municipal and regional planners and planning. I chose to focus specifically on the GVRD, a diverse and populous metropolitan area comprised of 21 municipalities and one electoral district in south-western British Columbia, for three reasons. The first is that along with having been ranked numerous times as the world's most liveable city, Greater Vancouver is widely recognized for its progressive planning activities and is said to be "emerging as a world leader in sustainability"(Fraser Basin Council, 2003:8). Are planners in this region aware of peak oil, a significant potential threat to its sustainability? Are they concerned about its possible implications, and have they thought about what a local planning response to it might be? The second is that the GVRD is familiar to me; it is where I have long resided, as well as where for the past few years I have learned all that I know about municipal and regional planners and planning. Moreover, I chose to focus my research on these types of planners and levels of planning because they play an important role in guiding local growth and change through the development of plans and the provision of professional advice to decision makers regarding current and future development and the implications of a diversity of issues. 2.2. Research process: a qualitative methodology In order to answer the research questions laid out in the previous chapter, I chose a qualitative research strategy. I opted to do so because the issue of peak oil and planning is relatively unexplored and qualitative studies have "been advocated as the best strategy for discovery, exploring a new area, developing hypotheses'" (Miles & Huberman, 1994:10, italics in original). This qualitative approach, including specific procedures associated with participant recruitment, 16 consent and confidentiality, as well as primary data collection and analysis, was approved prior to this research by the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board, application #B05-0379. 2.3. Preliminary investigations A significant amount of preliminary investigation went on prior to formalizing research methods and techniques. This initial research phase consisted of an extensive literature review that served two distinct purposes: 1) to determine what work, if any, had already been undertaken in the field of local planning for peak oil, and 2) to develop a conceptual framework for this study based on the current peak oil debate and evidence in support of the view that peak oil is relevant to local planners and planning. 2.4. Interview design and primary data collection To collect the primary data I would need to answer my research questions I designed a two-phase semi-structured open-ended interview process. I chose to conduct semi-structured interviews because when I began this research I had little idea of how much planners would know about peak oil or how willing or able to discuss its relation to planning they would be. This form of interviewing is flexible and gives the researcher freedom in the amount of time and attention allotted to different topics and in question wording, inclusion/exclusion, and sequencing (Robson, 2002). It allowed me to tailor each interview to the knowledge and degree of interest in peak oil of each interviewee while remaining consistent in speaking with all participants about the study's main themes. Open-ended questions were also well-suited to the goals of this research as they yield in-depth responses and capture participants' points of view 29 without predetermining them through the prior selection of questionnaire categories. They were the key to eliciting spontaneous responses from participants about their knowledge of and opinions about peak oil and planning, as well as their thoughts about what a local planning response to peak oil should be. The first phase of this two part process consisted of telephone interviews (avg. 17 minutes) with 29 municipal and regional planners from throughout the GVRD. The main purpose of these interviews was to determine how familiar each planner was with the peak oil phenomenon and Patton, 2002 17 debate. To open, I asked participants generally about energy and planning, and then more specifically about their familiarity with peak oil. I also asked those who were informed about the issue about what they thought the potential consequences of peak oil to be, and if time allowed if it is an issue that planners should be aware of, and if it is of importance to municipal/regional planners and planning.30 At some point during these first interviews I informed participants about the broader purpose of my research, which until then I had only alluded to (see section 2.5), and at the interview's conclusion I invited each to participate in the study's second phase. My second phase of primary data collection was also in the form of semi-structured telephone interviews with open-ended questioning. A total of 26 planners (out of the initial 29) took part in this stage31 and spoke with me for an average of 30 minutes each. The overarching purpose of these discussions was to determine what each participant thought the relevance of peak oil is to planning, and what (if anything) a planning response to it should be. Each interview, however, picked up on a case by case basis where the first had left off, which was largely dependent on how aware of peak oil planners had initially been. To ensure that all phase two participants had a basic understanding of the issue and therefore a basis upon which to reply to my inquiries, regardless of how un/aware they initially were about peak oil I asked each to read a summary of the peak oil debate prior to speaking with me. (The summary is included here as Appendix A.) They were also asked to take a few minutes to consider a number of questions related to its implications, importance, and planning's potential response before we spoke again. One participant who did not have time to be interviewed a second time replied via email to these questions directly. As in the first phase, the line of questioning in these second interviews went from general to more specific, from whether planners should be aware of peak oil to what particular planning tools and policies should be part of a local planning response. A sample line of open questioning for the first and second phase combined can be found in Box 2.1. These general questions were 3 0 Four planners who were the first of all participants to be interviewed and all of whom were well aware of peak oil were also asked at this time what, if anything, a planning response to peak oil should be. At the time, I deemed them aware enough about the issue to competently answer each of my inquiries without first reading the summary of the peak oil debate that was provided to all other participants with whom 1 spoke a second time. O f these, two later did read the summary and spoke with me again. The two others are further discussed in relation to the second phase of research in the footnote below. 3 1 Of these 23 two were not interviewed twice, though they were administered the same line of questioning as those I did speak with a second time. 18 Box 2.1. Combined sample line of questioning for both phases of semi-structured interviewing. 1. In your opinion, are energy issues factored into municipal/regional planning today? (In what ways?) If not, should they be? Why? 2. Have you heard of peak oil? If so, how would you describe peak oil? What do you think about the arguments made by those who do/do not believe in peak oil? 3. In your opinion, what will the consequences of peak oil be? 4. Do you think that all municipal/regional planners should be aware o f peak oil? W h y or why not? 5. Do you consider peak oil to be an issue o f importance to municipal/regional planning? W h y or why not? 6. Do you believe that municipal/regional planning should respond to peak oil in any way? W h y or why not? 7. In your opinion, in what way(s) should municipal/regional planning respond to peak oil? used to initiate d iscuss ion o f the study's m a i n themes and to lead into more specific inquir ies to reveal participants ' knowledge o f peak o i l and their thoughts about peak o i l and p lanning . Al though each interviewee was queried a long these l ines question w o r d i n g and sequencing i n each interview varied. A l s o , because I wanted to investigate what was salient i n part icipants ' minds, what they k n e w and thought about peak o i l spontaneously, i n both the first and second interviews prompts were kept to a m i n i m u m , and were employed for the most part to c lar i fy something that had already been said or to el ic i t a response o f some sort when none was forthcoming. In both phases I began the interviews w i t h an informed consent process, an assurance o f confidential i ty, and a request for permiss ion to record the conversation - to w h i c h all participants agreed. U p o n their comple t ion , I transcribed each interview verbat im and erased voice recordings. 2.5. Participant recruitment and sampling 32 This study's 29 participants were drawn from a p o o l o f approximate ly 250 planners, managers and directors o f p lanning from m u n i c i p a l and regional government offices w i t h i n the G V R D . I excluded jun io r planners, p lann ing technicians, and assistant planners from m y sampl ing frame because I wanted a more senior cross-section o f planners; I assumed that those w i t h more 3 2 This should be considered a very rough estimation of the number of planners within this study's sampling frame. While I contacted each civic or regional office to inquire about the number of planners (excluding planning technicians, junior or assistant planners) that they employed, one did not get back to me, one was not able to tell me, and I cannot say with certainty that those who did offer me a figure included all of the eligible planners in the number they relayed to me, or that those ineligible were not accidentally included in their tallies. For those two offices with missing information I estimated the number of planners using the number of planners in municipalities of equivalent size as a guide. 19 experience in the profession would have more insight into what a planning response to peak oil should be. To ensure the study's generalizability, I selected prospective participants from within the sampling frame using a disproportionate stratified random sampling technique. I divided the population into groups based on individual civic and regional administrative units and randomly sampled from within each. In an effort to ensure that one planner from every group was included in the study, I sampled municipalities employing fewer planners more heavily. I obtained the names and email addresses of 45 potential interviewees through internet searches of "planner + Vancouver" or "manager + planning + Surrey", etc. Three others were identified, however, from online documents and websites directly because my searches for planners from one municipality were unsuccessful. I contacted all 48 and asked them to participate in a telephone interview to discuss rising energy prices and their relation to municipal or regional planning. The broader purpose of these initial interviews, and of my research as a whole, was not revealed until later to avoid biasing the study's findings in any way (for example, towards those aware of peak oil). While 29 of the planners I contacted replied positively to my request33 and participated in one or both phases of my study, three of them34 were later excluded from my analysis as one was deemed to be outside of my sampling frame and the data that I had collected from two were (as a result of my own interviewing errors) incomplete. Ultimately, 26 planners and managers of planning departments or divisions with an average of 19 years of experience each and from 13 different planning offices and a variety of different specialties - including transportation, social, community, long range, urban design, environmental, and policy planning - form the sample of this study. Of them, 23 are with municipal governments and three are with the GVRD. 2.6. Data analysis I analyzed the data collected throughout both phases of interviewing in an iterative cycle of data reduction, data display, conclusion drawing and verification, as per Miles and Huberman (1994). I summarized and coded (by hand) the data soon after each interview was transcribed. Some 3 3 A handful of people I contacted voiced concerns that energy planning was not their forte, which lead me to include a disclaimer in reminder emails (sent to those I had not heard from after two weeks) that prior involvement in or knowledge of energy planning was in no way a prerequisite to participating in my research. 3 4 All of whom were interviewed twice. 20 codes were predetermined and corresponded with my four original research questions while others I created (and later revised) inductively from the dataset. Through coding I sorted the mass of verbal information and organized it into the study's main themes. I further reduced the data for display in various tables and matrices, where comparisons between individual responses and data clusters could be made. I employed tables for the most part to compare the responses and opinions of different participants related to one of the study's objectives. For example, in the case of my first research question concerning the extent to which planners are aware of peak oil, a table allowed me to compare in detail the knowledge relayed to me by each interviewee and to then divide the participants into different categories of awareness inductively. As a rule, I included codes and thick descriptions in such displays to maintain their context and allow for the verification of results. Tables also served as jumping off points for the creation of checklist matrices. I used these matrices to illuminate significant trends, patterns, and clustering - or in many cases the lack thereof - and to perform simple quantifications of the data to both verify findings and to reduce the potential for researcher error and biases (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Different checklist matrices also allowed me to compare opinions between different groups of participants (such as those who were more or less aware of peak oil) and helped me to determine whether individual interviewees had responded to questions consistently. Memoing was another important component of my analysis; one that allowed me to step back from the often overwhelming amount of data and to begin to understand on the whole what it was telling me. Over the course of this study, I recorded new insights, ideas, and questions that emerged as memos and later transcribed them into a master memo file. I continued this form of analysis, along with the other methods discussed above throughout the study. As Miles and Huberman (1994) suggest, I include some of the tables and matrices that helped me grasp the drift of my data, as well as verbatim statements exemplifying my results to explain and illustrate my findings in Chapter Three. Where appropriate I have removed identifying information from direct quotations to maintain participant confidentiality and for reference purposes I have randomly assigned identification numbers to each interviewee. 21 2.7. Quality and validity While the meanings that emerge from qualitative data must be tested for reliability and validity, there is no consensus among qualitative researchers regarding just how these issues should be addressed (Creswell, 1994; Miles & Huberman, 1994). In light of this challenge, I built a number of different strategies into the research process to ensure both the validity of my conclusions and the quality of the data upon which they were based. These strategies (some of which will become more evident later in this thesis) are listed below: • Careful and deliberate matching of research methods and objectives to ensure methodological coherence and reliability (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Morse et al., 2002). • Appropriate sampling to ensure data were representative (Miles & Huberman, 1994) and findings were generalizable to a degree (Creswell, 1994). • Detailed documentation of the research process and factors that guided it, including data collection and sampling procedures, data analysis techniques, personal biases, and limitations to ensure confirmability (Miles & Huberman, 1994). • Collecting and analyzing data concurrently and adjusting procedures as new themes or inquiries came to light to maintain an 'iterative interaction' between data and analysis (Morse et al., 2002). • Verifying findings and 'guarding against self-delusion' through counting, retaining thick descriptions of coded concepts in data tables (Miles & Huberman, 1994), and the occasional re-coding of transcribed interviews to check for analytical consistency. • Triangulation of findings/data with other sources and identification of areas of uncertainty to ensure internal validity (Creswell, 1994; Miles & Huberman, 1994). • Using low inference descriptors such as verbatim quotes and close paraphrasing of participants' comments to ensure interpretive validity (Johnson, 1997). • Providing thick descriptions of findings (Creswell, 1994) and identifying threats to generalizability and the scope of reasonable generalization from this study to ensure external validity (Miles & Huberman, 1994). • Constant consideration of my own potential biases (i.e. reflexivity) (Johnson, 1997) and verbatim interview transcription to reduce the potential for researcher bias in the form of selective data recording and interpretation. • Clearly differentiating between the study's analytical framework, collected data, and my own interpretation of it to minimise researcher bias in the presentation of results (Mays &Pope, 1995). 22 2.8. Threats to validity: research limitations and biases While I took a number of steps to reduce the threats to this study's validity, a few nonetheless exist in the form of various potential biases. One of these is a possible sampling bias, with those planners who were aware of or interested in peak oil potentially being overrepresented. While I tried to avoid this by not mentioning peak oil directly in my initial letters of contact, there is a chance that those familiar with the issue recognized my research topic as such anyways and agreed to participate as a result. Conversely, some planners may have declined to participate because they were neither familiar with nor interested in the subject. Another possible threat to this study's validity is social desirability bias, which occurs when research participants misrepresent their own views in an attempt to avoid judgement or to place themselves in a more favourable light (Nederhof, 1985). In obvious instances I have taken this bias into account, such as when respondents who were not initially conversant with peak oil later claimed familiarity with the summary of the peak oil debate that they were asked to read. However, it may not always be so easily detected and it is possible, for example, that participants exaggerated their views regarding the importance of peak oil to planning to present themselves in a more positive light. This type of bias though could also be a product of my own admittedly biased view that peak oil is of importance to local planners and planning, as I could have inadvertently given respondents the idea that that was the opinion that I wanted to hear. Similarly, while I employed a variety of strategies to reduce the potential for researcher bias in 35 the form of selective data recording and interpretation, as in other qualitative research, this form of partiality may be a threat to the validity of this study. However, that I came into this research assuming that planners in the GVRD either knew little or nothing of peak oil, or cared little or nothing about it - an assumption that the data debunked - this bias is less threatening than those outlined above. More probable is that this study and its findings are limited less by those biases and more by my own novice abilities as a qualitative investigator and data analyst. To me, the biggest limitations in these regards are related to the extent to which I was able to get participants to relay to me their understanding of peak oil and the classification scheme that I developed inductively from this data. It is possible that I did not probe each interviewee enough Johnson, 1997 23 to exhaust his/her knowledge o f the issue, that I was perhaps too often satisfied w i t h a s imple explanation or statement about the phenomena or debate. A s a result, there is a chance that participants were classif ied as less aware o f peak o i l when they instead had on ly not conveyed to 37 me the ful l extent o f their understanding. In fact, one participant who is classified in this study as well aware of peak oil noted during their second interview - after I mentioned that during our first talk we had discussed what they knew about peak oil - that they weren't sure they had told me all they knew about the issue, but they had instead 'just responded to my questions'. 3 71 remain confident however in the appropriateness of my inductive classificatory scheme as this limitation would not result in the misclassification of those who were unaware as aware, which in my mind is the most important distinction. 24 Chapter 3: Results The purpose of this chapter is to present my findings from semi-structured interviews with planners in the Greater Vancouver region. They are loosely grouped according to the themes of my four research questions, as laid out in Chapter One. 3.1. To what extent are planners aware of peak oil? Based on participants' responses to my questions concerning their knowledge of peak oil/the peak oil debate, as well as other indicative comments they made without prompt during our first interviews and prior to having read my summary of the debate, I have divided the extent of awareness among participating planners into four different categories: well aware, aware, somewhat aware, and not aware. These categories are described in more detail below, and exemplar statements from them can be found in Table 3.1. Well Aware: Of the 26 planners who form the sample of this study, five (three municipal and two regional) are well aware of peak oil. That is, they are familiar with the basic premise of peak oil and with two or more details about the phenomenon or the debate. Commonly cited 'details' include key sources (such as Campbell and Laherrere's 1998 article 'The End of Cheap Oil'), various proposed dates for a global oil production peak (such as the EIA's estimate of 2037), 3 8 and the fact that predictions are based on a bell curve analysis. An additional commonality among these participants is the belief that among the biggest uncertainties of the peak oil debate is the timing, and not the eventuality, of an oil production peak. What's more, of these five, four launched into the topic of peak oil during our interviews without prompt - one as soon as the conversation began, and three when asked generally about energy and planning. All were both able and eager to discuss the issue and their opinions about it at length. Aware: Planners classified as aware are familiar with the term and basic premise of peak oil -that a peak in global oil production is expected in the future, after which rising demand will outstrip supply. Five (four municipal and one regional planners) of the 26 planners I interviewed are aware of peak oil. Only two of these five provided additional information about the issue -3 8 Wood et al, 2004 25 Table 3.1. Statements exemplifying participants' awareness of peak oil. Extent of Awareness EXEMPLAR STATEMENTS Well Aware "Well , peak oil is, well extraction technology is improving so what's happened is prices have remained relatively stable, so most people don't understand the fact that the total quantity o f oil is diminishing. So basically it's the rate o f discovery is well below the rates o f increased use, so we're approaching the curve, I think its any year now actually, that they'll be reaching the peak o f total known energy and total absolute quantity will start decreasing out to 2031 when we're in a huge crunch. So that's the main thing, is the difference between oil discoveries and so total oil reserves versus demand over the next 20 years. A n y time now we're going to reach that and the only thing that's saving us is, well we're basically depleting our capital." (1) " M u c h of the energy sources that we rely upon, we know the production of it either is dwindling or will dwindle at some point, nobody knows exactly when, but there's a general consensus I believe that certainly fossil fuels or at least fossil fuels that drive production o f vehicle fuels and other things will both become scarcer and more expensive in the future. The timeline and the exact implications are highly debated but I hear virtually no one that says that will never happen, and that's quite a change from 20-30 years ago... [Are you familiar with the peak oil debate?] Yes, I've already mentioned it actually. [Just not in so many words]. I thought I had mentioned it, I certainly tried to mention peak production and peak reserves, there's a debate over whether we're there or imminent but there's little debate about whether it's going to happen." (7) Aware "Well just generally we're basically looking at a point at which our demand continues to outgrow the production of oil and the very rapid increase in oil prices that result from that. A n d that's, I mean, that's what happened in the 1970s as well, I guess we're looking at the complete, total decrease which I guess a fiscal conservative would say is not really there and we're going to find more oil." (10) "Some people are hypothesizing that we are at or near peak oil production and that energy costs will rise, increase, dramatically once we cross that point." (9) Somewhat Aware "The important trend is we're running out of oil and the rising price of gas is going to be just a symptom of the fact that we're running out of oil...I've read it [called peak oil] in the press, yeah." (15) "Well , it [peak oil] is in the paper, you know, it's in the National Post and so forth. Where, you know, M r Foster and M r Corcoran always say that it's a bunch of nonsense.. .But I don't claim any exclusive knowledge on it. I just have the general knowledge." (14) Not Aware "The term [peak oil] vaguely is there somewhere in my memory but I don't really have a good understanding of it." (21) "I don't know. W h y don't you tell me!" (20) with one noting that no new significant oil reserves are expected to be found and the other remarking that there 'seems to be a range of opinions' about when peak oil might be reached. Interestingly, while a few specifically claimed to know no details of the debate, of the three planners in this category interviewed a second time, all later claimed that the information provided in the summary was nothing they hadn't heard or read somewhere before. Somewhat Aware: Six planners, or almost a quarter of this study's sample, are somewhat aware of peak oil. This category is much more broad ranging than the others, as it contains all those who while not fully aware of peak oil are also not 'not aware' of the issue. In other words, 26 planners in this category, while not familiar with the term and/or unable to fully articulate the basic premise of peak oil are nonetheless familiar with the phenomenon in some way. They have: 1) heard of peak oil but talk about it in such a way that I cannot be certain that they are aware of the basic premise, or 2) know that oil is depleting and that a crisis is predicted and have heard this referred to as peak oil, or 3) have not heard of peak oil itself but are familiar with and cite particulars about the discussion around the future of fossil fuel supplies. Two planners fall into each of these sub-categories. Like some planners well aware of peak oil, three classified as somewhat aware began talking about fossil fuel depletion without prompt when asked generally about energy and planning; each cited declining supplies as the main reason why energy considerations should be factored into planning decisions. Unlike those who are well aware or aware, however, two planners in this category admitted after reading the summary of the debate that they were not familiar with the information it contained. Only one noted that is was familiar, while it is unclear what the other participant who was interviewed a second time thought in this regard. Not Aware: This category includes interviewees who have and have not heard the term peak oil, all of whom know nothing about the phenomenon or debate itself. A total of ten municipal planners are classified as not aware of peak oil. Two of them noted that the term was vaguely familiar but that they did not really know what it meant and eight had never heard of the phrase or the phenomena prior to our first interview. This is not to say however, that all planners in this category were ignorant of the fact that fossil fuels are limited in supply and will someday deplete; the majority in fact strongly asserted their familiarity with just that after conceding that they did not know about peak oil. As in the categories of awareness discussed above, there are some participants who, while at first admitting they were not aware, later claimed that the contents of the summary were 'not news to them'. Only three of the ten planners who were not previously familiar with peak oil admitted in their second interviews that what they'd read in the summary was unbeknownst to them before. In all, more than half of the planners in this study were in some way aware of or familiar with the peak oil phenomenon or debate. By far the most frequently cited source of information about the issue was popular media, including newspapers and the radio. Other sources (in order of 27 frequency) include planning related lectures, 'The End of Suburbia', colleagues, planning literature and journals, and planning related list-serves. A few participants simply noted that they were familiar with the issue from 'just reading' and a few also noted that they were familiar with it because it is common knowledge, or because they 'have gone to school'. Only three, all of whom are well aware of peak oil, stated that they had looked into the topic on their own through internet or literature based research. 3.1.2. And what do planners think about the arguments for or against peak oil? If they did not indicate their views without prompt, participants were asked to express their opinions about the peak oil debate. Of those planners well aware or aware of peak oil, the majority (7/10) noted their belief that peak oil will occur and that the arguments for it occurring sooner rather than later are the most compelling. While some spoke indirectly of its self-evidence and imminence or noted that they had not heard any credible arguments to the contrary, others simply stated: "I am a strong believer that we really will reach peak oil production." (6) Of all the planners who participated in both phases of this study (23 in total), only three expressed doubt about whether the arguments made by 'peak pessimists'40 are valid or about whether peak oil will in fact occur.41 Take, for example, the opinion expressed by the following participant who was initially only somewhat aware of the issue: "Whether or not now is the time we reach peak oil I do not know. Experts have previously guessed that the world was running out of oil and gas reserves and they were off the mark as higher prices acted to bring on more exploration and more reserves. Classical economics tells us that an increase in price will stimulate production not only of oil and gas, but of alternative energy sources, o f conservation, o f patterns of shaping the City. A t present, perhaps, the reserves are o f the more easily discovered and extracted resources. However, there are many more reserves, not recorded in most of the official tallies, that wait higher prices. For example, the Athabasca Tar Sands alone could add 50 percent to world reserves and there are probably other similar reserves around the world." (14) Between these extremes though there are two planners who noted that both sides of the peak oil debate are valid to some degree: "Here's the typical planning response, I think there's validity in both sides of that argument." (16) The End of Suburbia is a recently released documentary about peak oil and its implications for car dependent suburbs. 4 0 1 use this term in reference to those who believe that peak oil will occur imminently and will impact us in negative ways. Their views are pessimistic compared to those on the opposite side of the peak oil debate, as outlined in Chapter 1, section 1.4. I also use the term 'peak proponent' to describe this more pessimistic group. 4 1 One also noted that they had no opinion in this regard as the issue was of little interest to them to begin with. 28 However, these two also felt, as did seven other interviewees, that the argument for peak oil occurring makes sense intuitively as fossil fuels are finite and are bound someday to deplete: "Well, it seems to me that fossil fuels and oil is a finite resource so at some time, you know whether its, the debate says it's going to be ten years or twenty years, at some point the situation will occur, so whether you're an optimist or a pessimist. I think i f you're an optimist you're just an optimist for a longer period o f time, but ultimately given that it's a finite resource it will run out." (21) Even one of the planners who had doubts about the strength of the arguments supporting an oil and gas production peak later conceded (as did a few others when prompted) that the arguments for peak oil occurring hold some plausibility. 3.2. And what might be the consequences of peak oil? Questions to planners about what they thought the consequences of peak oil might be yielded a lengthy laundry list of suggestions. As shown in Table 3.2, 53 potential implications, grouped into five themes, were cited by a total of 24 planners.42 Economic consequences were cited most frequently (by 15 participants), followed by those that are social and planning related (cited by 13), those that are transportation and energy related (cited by seven planners), and those of a political nature (cited by five). Overall, the most often mentioned implication was that peak oil could increase the need and demand for denser and more complete transit-oriented communities. Nine planners relayed to me this view. Four of them and two others (for a total of 6/24) similarly thought that peak oil could result in greater acceptance of and support for the use of planning principles and policies common to the smart growth and sustainability planning models - such as higher densities and mixed-use. (In contrast to these views, one participant stressed that peak oil will not change the dominant form of low density auto-oriented development. One also affirmed that despite it there will still be demand for all sorts of communities in the Greater Vancouver region). Another potential consequence cited by 6/24 interviewees is that as a result of peak oil people/society will adapt to some degree and find new ways of heating homes and fuelling cars, and doing other essential things. Two of the 26 planners who participated in this study were not asked about the consequences of peak oil as they were not aware of peak oil to begin with and were not interviewed a second time. 29 Table 3.2. Potential consequences of peak oil according to interviewees.* S P E C I F I C P O T E N T I A L C O N S E Q U E N C E Total Well Aware Aware Somewhat Aware Not Aware 24 5 5 5 9 Economic Rising prices/declining affordability (in general) 4 1 K D (1) Economic • O f transportation/mobility 4 2 1 (1) Economic • O f energy (oil/gasoline/natural gas) 3 1 (2) Economic • O f current lifestyles 3 1 (l) 1 Economic • O f construction/housing provision 3 1 (1) (1) Economic • O f consumer goods and services (including food) 3 (1) Economic • O f heating 1 I Economic • O f electricity 1 1 Economic • O f the provision o f municipal services 1 (1) Economic Declining suburban land/real estate values 3 1 2 Economic Shifts in consumption habits 2 1 (1) Economic Reduction in long distance hauling/global trade 2 1 (1) Economic Replacement o f plastics in goods and construction with conventional materials/metals 1 (l) Economic Changing availability o f imported foodstuffs 1 1 Economic Lower costs of labour/labour intensive products/ processes relative to rising prices o f other goods 1 Economic Limited growth 1 (1) Economic Increasing economic competitiveness o f cities less reliant on oil & decreasing competitiveness of cities more reliant on it 1 1 Economic Increasing use of surcharges/fees to incorporate rising cost o f energy into prices of goods/services 1 Economic Economic recession/collapse 1 1 Planning Related Increased need and demand for denser and more complete transit-oriented communities 9 3 2 (2) (2) Planning Related Increased acceptance o f and support for smart growth/complete community principles (mixed use, higher density, etc) 6 1 2(1) (1) (1) Planning Related Obsolescence of older/major infrastructure 2 (1) 1 Planning Related Less demand for suburban/single family development 2 1 1 Planning Related More demand for/pressure to support & accommodate alternative modes o f transportation 2 1 1 Planning Related Incentive to re-examine current auto-oriented city building trends 2 1 (1) Planning Related Greater need for more self-sustaining communities 2 (1) (1) Planning Related More need and demand for higher quality/more efficient buildings 2 1 (1) Planning Related Planners/municipalities will be forced to examine energy consumption and costs more explicitly 1 1 Planning Related Reversal of current development trends/planning problems (e.g. resistance to density replaced by demand) 1 1 Planning Related Increased importance of and interest in local food policies, local agriculture & urban food production 1 1 Planning Related Increased attractiveness of/higher demand for cities with milder climates 1 1 30 S P E C I F I C P O T E N T I A L C O N S E Q U E N C E Total Well Aware Aware Somewhat Aware Not Aware 24 5 5 5 9 Social People/society will adapt/find new ways of heating homes/fuelling cars/etc 6 1 (1) (4) Social Reconsideration o f individual lifestyles and willing changes to them to consume less gas/oil 2 (l) (1) Social Rising social inequity/exclusion 2 (2) Social Disruption o f lifestyles/changes in day to day lives 2 2 Social Social resentment (suburbanites to urbanites, urbanites to suburban 'refugees', 3rd world to 1st world) 2 2 Social Migration out of suburbs and back into inner cities 1 1 Social Declining standard o f living i f demand does not decrease as prices rise 1 (1) Social Greater awareness that fuel is a scarce commodity 1 1 Transportation Shift in mobility and travel patterns (less mobility, more use of alternative modes of transportation, less commuting or shorter commuting distances) 4 1 1 (1) 1 Transportation Less need to invest in new road capacity 2 1 1 Transportation Changing car ownership trends (less car ownership and more car sharing, purchasing o f smaller cars) 2 K l ) Transportation Pressure to improve public transportation 2 1 1 Transportation Decline in long term demand for/dependence on auto transportation 2 1 1 Energy More interest in and use o f alternative energy sources/technologies 3 1 (l) (1) Energy More efficient fuel consumption/conservation 2 1 (1) Energy Shift in impetus to reduce oil and gas consumption away from greenhouse gases/climate change to peak oil 1 (1) Energy Increased efforts to find more oil 1 (1) Energy Higher demand on electrical grid 1 (1) Political Public demand/pressure for government assistance in offsetting rising price o f energy 3 3 Political Major public policy questions will be raised (e.g. about emissions standards, taxation, energy trade) 2 2 Political Political turmoil 1 1 Political Increased leverage for government funding for research into alternative energies 1 (1) *numbers in parentheses represent responses given by participants after reading the summary It is important to note before going on that some participants (mostly those not previously familiar with the issue) relayed to me their thoughts about the potential consequences of peak oil after having read my summary of the peak oil debate. Opinions expressed at that time are indicated as such in Table 3.2. Because the summary clearly stated oil and gas are ubiquitous in Western/industrial society, and both directly pointed out and hinted at some of the potential implications of peak oil, it is often not surprising that respondents answer the way they do. What 31 is significant in these cases is not that they have thought up these potential implications on their own, but instead that they actually believe that they might occur. Regardless of how informed they initially were about peak oil, on the whole participants were quite willing to conjecture about what a global oil and gas production peak might bring - even the two who began their responses with the comments "it's so speculative as to be unknown" (7), and "now we get into the real crystal ball gazing" (5), and the four others who also noted that the consequences of peak oil are difficult, if not impossible to foresee. A few participants wondered aloud about what peak oil's effects might be on agricultural production, health care, and large scale infrastructures like sewage and waste without elaborating on what they foresaw occurring to them specifically. However, only two planners (both of whom were previously not aware of peak oil) noted that peak oil's consequences may be far-reaching and added little else. On average, those familiar with the issue provided (numerically) more individual and more detailed consequences than those previously 'not aware', as well as more planning related implications. There were also, though, a few points that those who were previously not as aware were most likely to concede. Among the most notable of these are the opinions that as a consequence of peak oil people will to some degree adapt and find new ways of doing things43 and that peak oil itself may in fact be a positive thing:44 "Assuming that oil and gas are going to dry up - i f they do dry up, well, so what, you know? I think eventually people will be forced to find other technologies... Sometimes, I guess, the expression, what is it? Necessity breeds innovation. So we run out o f oil and gas, so what, I mean what does that mean? Let's assume that's going to happen. What does that mean? Wel l , it's probably going to, the worst case scenario, it's probably going to limit growth, at least for a while, at least until we learn how to create different energy sources - and is that a bad thing? I don't see how that's a bad thing. So what is so bad about running out o f oil and gas? I can't really understand what the negatives are.. .If the premise is, gee, we have a major problem, I don't see it as a problem, I see it potentially as a change worthy o f consideration because it will change the way we do things but that probably could be a very positive thing." (20) Aside from the opinions outlined above there were few differences in the responses given by planners more or less aware of peak oil. Many, regardless of how aware they were, asserted that peak oil will have broad ranging implications, with some even stressing that a big or 'fundamental change is coming'. The majority of participants, though, expressed neither certainty nor sentiment about just how lives will change or about what the specific consequences of peak oil will be. Only two, for example, expressed obvious pessimism about society's ability 4 3 4/6 who said this were not aware and 116 was somewhat aware 4 4 2/3 who said this were not previously aware 32 to avoid or even weather the consequences of an oil and gas production peak. In contrast only two others stated with confidence that it is or will be possible to make a smooth and relatively easy transition to a post-carbon age. On the whole, when asked about what the consequences of peak oil would be most planners simply suggested a range or number of possibilities. There is good reason, however, for the apparent lack of conviction among participants in this regard. More than half (14/24) also noted that peak oil's impacts and how they are felt are dependent on a number of economic, geographic, and socio-political factors, as well as on whether new energy sources are found, how high energy prices go, and on the characteristics of peak oil itself - including when it occurs and how quickly oil and gas then deplete.45 The most frequently cited of these was a municipality's density or location within an urban agglomeration. A full third of those asked about consequences (8/24) remarked or implied that lower density areas are likely to be more negatively affected by peak oil. Some of these eight speculated about implications such as declining land values in outlying suburbs or declining affordability of suburban lifestyles while saying nothing of urban regions. Others stated plainly: "Well we've got a huge rural area here which is even worse because its even lower density o f course, ranging from one acre lots up to 20 acre lots or more and the consequences for those areas are even worse." (15) Almost as many planners (7/24) remarked that lower income groups or nations would or could be more negatively impacted than wealthier people and nations since they have fewer resources with which to adapt to a post-peak oil world. Four of these seven noted that economically disadvantaged people in general are likely to be more adversely affected because they will be less able to pay more for more expensive energy, housing and other goods: "Well, I think there's a real equity question, because the bottom line is your wealthy people - your doctors, your lawyers, your business hotshots — at the end of the day they can just keep on paying more for their fuel and they can drive their cars, and maybe they'll benefit by having fewer people on the road to compete with. But I think especially your lower income segments they can face a disproportionate share of the impact, because already for affordability reasons they have fewer choices about where they can live." (3) Three others speculated for similar reasons - lack of energy and monetary resources - that poorer nations may be harder hit: "Well, I think its going to be most pronounced in the Third World . I think that we're, frankly in Canada we're extremely fortunate, we do have an enormous amount of oil at our disposal, far more than we'll use for many centuries i f we're using it on our own. W e also have other sources of energy, hydroelectric energy, we have enormous reserves of uranium, and so nuclear energy is an option, whether it's politically palatable or not I don't 4 5 The latter three points were cited by only one participant each. 33 know. So from a Canadian standpoint I don't think its going to be, we're going to think it hurts but frankly its not going to hurt us that much. In the third world on the other hand, where they've experienced the results not only of transportation benefits but also the agricultural benefits o f oil - that is going to be really painful for them." (6) Accord ing to six o f those who noted one or more o f the 'dependent factors' out l ined above, the magnitude o f peak o i l ' s impacts and people 's abi l i ty to adapt depend not o n l y on geographic location and economic status. T h e y also depend on h o w w e - as ind iv idua l s , as planners, as decision makers, as a society - act n o w and on the k inds o f decisions that are made pre-peak: "It's a question as to whether we've chosen as a community and our leaders have chosen to act." (7) 3.3. Is peak oil an issue of importance to planners and planning? Whi le some o f the potential consequences cited b y participants a l luded to peak o i l ' s relevance to planning they d id not reveal conc lus ive ly whether planners i n the G V R D bel ieve the issue to have a significant bearing on loca l planners and p lanning. T o uncover what their v i e w s were i n this respect, interviewees were asked about whether other planners should be aware o f peak o i l , i f it is an issue o f importance to planners and p lanning, and whether it is something to w h i c h municipal or regional p lann ing should respond. Because they are over lapping, the reasons g iven by planners for their v iews w i l l be discussed together i n section 3.3.4. 3.3.1. Should planners be aware of peak oil? Whi le the v iews o f two are u n k n o w n or unc lea r , 4 6 22 o f 24 p lanner s 4 7 be l ieve that peak o i l is an issue that a l l munic ipal / regional planners should be aware of. W h e n questioned about their opinions i n this regard 13 participants repl ied w i t h 'yeses ' though the degree o f fervour i n their responses varied; some said 'yes, certainly, o f course ' and others mere ly granted that 'yes, education is never a bad th ing ' . Three participants i m p l i e d 'yeses ' (meaning that they i m p l i e d through comments dur ing our interviews that peak o i l is an issue about w h i c h a l l planners should be aware 4 8 ) and s ix others repl ied w i t h 'yes buts ' . T w o o f the latter expressed some reservation about how aware o f the issue planners real ly have to be. O n e o f them noted that planners need to 4 6 0 f these two, one was not asked about their views because they were originally only somewhat aware of peak oil and responded to the questions at the end of the summary via email instead of speaking with me a second time (when most others were asked) and the view of the other participant is unclear. 4 7 The sample size here is reduced to 24 from 26 because two participants who were 'not aware' of peak oil were not interviewed a second time, which is when most other participants were queried along these lines. 4 8 Two, for example, spoke of wanting to educate their colleagues on the issue while another jumped over my question and immediately started talking about how planners had to start informing decision makers about peak oil - something that they would have to know about peak oil to do. 34 be aware of peak oil only in so far as it falls under the environmental and economic 'legs' of sustainability. The other stressed that planners should be no more aware of peak oil than any other consideration related to long-term land use. In contrast, the other four planners who responded 'yes but' did so because they think that while their colleagues should be aware of peak oil, they are not the only ones who need to be. These participants believe that everyone, including planners, politicians, and decision makers at all levels of government, the development community, consumers, and the public also need to be informed about peak oil because they too play important roles in shaping communities. 3.3.2. Is peak oil an issue of importance to planners and planning? Unsurprisingly, the breakdown in the number of planners who believe that peak oil is of importance to planners and planning is similar to the one described above. There are differences though, beginning with the fact that only 18/23 participants49 (as opposed to 22/24) believe that peak oil is an issue of importance for individual planners and their profession. Of these affirmative responses, 12 were 'yeses', four were implied 'yeses', and two were 'yes buts'. As with some of the 'yes buts' related to whether planners should be aware, the two here suggest some reservation in the degree to which peak oil is in fact important. One planner again asserted that peak oil is important not in and of itself but only in so far as it is relates to sustainability. The other conceded that while peak oil is important to planners and planning, consumer demand for gasoline and private automobiles is highly inelastic, and in planning and urban development there are 'other forces at work'. As for the five remaining participants, two thought that peak oil might be an issue of importance to local planners and planning, one was unsure, and the opinions of two are unclear. The latter, however, did clearly state that there are many planning matters that are more important than peak oil. A similar sentiment was echoed by the planner who, while unsure of the importance of peak oil was certain that there are more immediate issues that planners must address: "I 'm in a flux. I'm not too sure i f this is important because the arguments go either side and I try and treat things fairly neutrally so I try and give equally, equal weight to both sides, but the information [in the summary] is 4 9 The sample is reduced here to 23 as one participant who was aware of peak oil and who told me in their first interview that planners should be aware of the issue was not interviewed again and was therefore not asked about peak oil's importance. 35 basically only in some reform, unless I go and dig a little deeper myself... it's either a big issue or it's not a big issue, but in the backdrop I've got all kinds o f issues that I know are immediate that I have to deal with." (20) Two other participants were also not convinced one way or the other about whether peak oil is important to local planning, though each of them conceded that it could be. For one, peak oil's importance depends not only on if it is real, but on whether substitutes exist that in the event of a conventional oil and gas production peak would allow us to continue living as we do today, on how responsive consumers are to higher prices, and on whether peak oil causes society's focus on individual prosperity to change: "In my opinion, peak oil is of importance only i f it marks a significant departure from the previous human propensity to seek individual welfare through separation from the rest o f the community."(14) While the second respondent who conceded that peak oil may be of importance to planners and planning did little to qualify their view, along with another participant they did nevertheless note that peak oil will likely vary in significance in different circumstances and to different planners. According to them, it is likely to be more important to facilities and infrastructure planners and planning than to community planners and planning, and to suburban and sprawling municipalities than to higher density urban cores. Still others (4/23) noted that peak oil has the potential to become more important to planners and planning in the future and more a focal point as energy prices rise, as more about the phenomenon is known, and as planners begin to grasp its implications. 3.3.3. Is the issue of peak oil important enough to warrant a local planning response? While the majority of interviewees believe that peak oil is of importance to planners and planning, only half (12/23) think that it is of enough importance to warrant some form of planning response.50 Of these, three answered my questions about whether they thought that peak oil is something to which planning should respond 'yes but'. One of them noted that local planning should respond but would require the political support to do so and another conceded that a response would have to be driven from a higher than municipal level. According to the third, planning should respond to peak oil but only in so far as it should become one more consideration under the current sustainability planning agenda. There is also quite a range of opinion among the nine planners who answered 'yes' in terms of their conviction that a response Of these 12, four are well aware, two aware, three somewhat aware, and three not aware. 36 to peak oil is required, with some stating 'yes absolutely', and others T think so, hmmm, let me think'. Two in fact note that while planning should respond to peak oil it may not be necessary to do so directly. Interestingly, four of these 12 participants as well as three others (who do not believe that planning should respond) also expressed the opinion that planning is already responding to peak oil, though in indirect ways. According to the five who elaborated on this view, it is doing so through the use of smart growth and sustainability planning principles and policies that while not deliberately meant to address peak oil 'happen to be complimentary': "In a way I think it [a response to peak oil] is occurring now through the whole smart growth thing.. .But I think we are really responding to it here in a backwards way by pushing higher density and trying to become a bit more concentrated... A n d it may not be because of the oil thing, necessarily, but they happen to be complimentary." (15) "And it [a response] is actually going on, sort o f under the sustainability flag." (28) Despite the fact that a third of them hold this view, the majority of the planners who believe that planning should respond to peak oil more directly also believe that a response should begin before too long. Although this result is not drawn from a complete sample of the 12 who think that planning should respond,51 nine participants conceded (eight when asked and one implied) that planning should begin taking action now. Another remarked 'the sooner the better I think'. 3.3.4. Why is peak oil of importance to local planners and planning? As noted at the beginning of section 3.3, reasons offered by participants regarding why planners should be aware of peak oil, why it is important to planning, why it is something to which local planning should respond, as well as general comments made about the issue over the course of their interviews are overlapping. It is on this ground, as well as because they all relate to the overarching theme of why peak oil is relevant to local planning that they are discussed together here. As shown in Table 3.3, there are numerous ways in which peak oil bears on planning. For the sake of brevity only those most often cited will be examined in more detail. 5 1 The question of when planning should respond to peak oil did not come up in every interview and was therefore not asked of all interviewees. Though they do not form a complete sample the views of these 9 planners nevertheless indicate that the majority of planners did feel this way. 37 Table 3.3. How peak oil is relevant to local planners and planning. P E A K O I L IS R E L E V A N T T O L O C A L P L A N N E R S A N D P L A N N I N G B E C A U S E : Total 23 It is part of/related to the larger issue of sustainability 8 Of its potential implications 7 How we plan today can affect how we weather peak oil down the line 4 Planning is about the future/planners are supposed to take the long term view 4 We need to address the issue it i f we are to maintain our liveability & quality of life post-peak oil 3 The way we plan our cities can influence the consumption & sustainability o f resources 2 It touches on all issues that planners deal with 2 There is a compelling argument for peak oil being an important issue 2 Professionals should be informed/knowledgeable about all issues 1 Planners need to know oil will run out and that before then there will be scarcity issues & cost implications 1 It could impact future policy formulation 1 It is part of regional planning mandate to wrestle with issues like peak oil 1 For a third of the planners in this study (8/23), peak oil is of relevance to planners and planning because it is related to the issue of sustainability. Some stated that peak oil and sustainability are in fact entirely interlinked, that peak oil is wrapped up in the current practice of planning for liveable and sustainable communities. One noted 'you cannot claim sustainability and have a different effort on fossil fuels'. Another declared that being sustainable means being resilient to the changes that peak oil might bring. On a similar note, some participants also explained that the issue of peak oil falls into the larger framework of planning for sustainability, under which planners have to balance a number of different things: "If you think about the 3 legged stool, right, this clearly falls into the environmental leg, it's also the economic leg, right, because as gas prices or oil prices go up, due to scarcity or whatever that's going to start affecting the economic health o f cities as well." (23) "I think the whole peak oil thing fits into a larger framework...So, maybe it's not a peak oil framework, it's a sustainability framework and peak oil fits into that.. .the thing I like about plugging that into the sustainability framework is as I said, particularly municipal planners, we have to balance a whole bunch of things, and that's one of those things." (16) A few participants also maintained that peak oil is of importance because it is another supporting element of sustainable planning. One asserted strongly though that peak oil is only a - and not the - reason for planning in this way. The next most frequently cited reason(s) for peak oil being of importance to planners and planning are its potential implications, with 7/23 participants sharing this belief. Planners need to start thinking about peak oil and taking it into consideration, participants told me, because oil 38 is so essential to our economy and way of life that its depletion will have myriad impacts on how 'we live, work and play'. According to one respondent this 'translates for municipal planners into how you accommodate different uses, different lifestyles, and the movement of people from place to place'. Many pointed out that it is not yet clear just how lives will change but nevertheless asserted that peak oil is something that society is not yet prepared to handle, and something, therefore, that planners need to begin to address. The following passages exemplify these views: "Well you touched on in your summary, that oil is so basic to our economy that i f it's limited then it can have consequences on our social environment and economic ways of doing things, and that will affect things as basic as transportation options, urban form, how we move goods and therefore how our economy works. So I think it is fundamental, it's not so clear to us right now how it's going to impact us, and fortunately or hopefully we'll have some time to prepare for this." (26) "Well, our whole infrastructure is based on energy consumption, and i f we lose a key source of energy unless that is somehow replaced or the planning for it takes place in a logical manner I think there is room for a great deal o f public chaos, I think that as resources dwindle, people don't behave very nicely. A n d I don't think that society is generally prepared for the amount o f social upheaval, or really understands the notion of the social upheaval that we would face or may face, will face i f there is specifically a very rapid and dramatic decrease in the availability of fuel." (21) In contrast, for one of these seven planners it is not the potential negative impacts of peak oil that make the issue important to planning but the positive form of development (denser and more mixed-use) and the ease of planning for it that will follow: "I think it [peak oil] changes, it increases the attractiveness of mixed land uses and a finer grain and all I can say is...we've been working for that for a long time." (9) In addition, a number of comments and responses made by 4/23 interviewees suggest that the issue of peak oil is pertinent to local planners and planning because how we plan today can and will affect what the consequences of peak oil will be, as well as how we and future generations are able to deal with them down the line. It makes much more sense, these planners asserted, to anticipate and prepare for a permanent reduction in oil and gas production, to make short term decisions that will make peak oil easier instead of harder to deal with, than to sit back and watch potentially bigger and more difficult to handle changes arise: "So yeah I think rather than say 'oh well we're fine now let's just keep being fine', you know you're going to have a bigger challenge, a bigger problem down the road i f you don't take resource scarcity into being.. .It's like, i f you don't do something then it's going to be a rude awakening, and so it makes a lot more sense to anticipate that and gear up for it rather than all o f a sudden find that we have all these automobiles and no gas for them, this huge infrastructure we can't afford, and then we can't get from A to B . " (3) 39 Related to the belief that how we plan today may affect how we weather a global oil and gas peak is the opinion relayed to me by 4/23 interviewees that peak oil is important to planning because planners are supposed to take a long term view. Planning is about the future, they said, and planners have the responsibility to look towards that time and to prepare people for what might come to be: "It just surprises me that given that it's [oil] a non-renewable resource why there are those that feel that it's [peak oil] not going to be a concern, except that maybe they think that we're rushing the concern now, that it's really way off still in our future and that we have ample time to prepare and I think, and that may be true for people in their day to day life now, but I think planners are in a unique position and have a responsibility to prepare people for the future." (26) 3.3.5. Why might the issue of peak oil not warrant a local planning response? In contrast to those 12 planners who believe that the issue of peak oil is significant enough to warrant some form of local planning response, when questioned along these lines the remaining 11 participants were either much less clear about their views or clearly expressed their doubts. Of them, five believed that peak oil is not something to which planning should respond. Two were unsure, one replied neither positively nor negatively but noted only that municipal planning and planners are already responding, and the opinions of three are unfortunately unclear. Among these 11 planners is one well aware of peak oil, two aware, two somewhat aware, and six who were not previously familiar with the issue. Predictably, seven of them were among those who expressed some reservation about whether all local planners should be informed about peak oil and about whether it is important or relevant to local planners and planning. Ten of them also share a number of opinions related to why the issue of peak oil may not call for a local planning response. The most frequently cited of these (mentioned by three or more planners) are discussed together below. The rest can be found in Table 3.4. One of the most often cited counterarguments to a local planning response to peak oil was that there is a limit to what local planning and government can do to affect the problems associated with the phenomenon itself (such as rising energy prices) and the factors (such as auto-dependence) that make us vulnerable to it. A total of four planners shared this view, which is exemplified by the following two remarks: "We don't regulate cars for example, so there would be some limit to what we could do to affect it." (23) 40 Table 3.4. Why peak oil may not warrant a local planning response. PEAK OIL MAY NOT WARRANT A L O C A L PLANNING RESPONSE BECAUSE: Total 11 There is a limit to what municipal planning can do to affect the issue 4 Peak oil is only one of many reasons to plan sustainably and does not change what is already considered good planning practice 4 Are more important/pressing reasons to build in a sustainable way and reduce reliance on gas and oil 3 Peak oil is not the root problem 2 Peak oil is/would be low on the public and political agenda 2 The public is unlikely to accept peak oil as a rationale for change 2 There are still too many uncertainties to plan for peak oil outright 2 Peak oil is debatable and responding to it could limit credibility o f sustainable planning i f it is not real/if experts are incorrect 1 It would be 'hard to sell' peak oil as a municipal planning issue 1 We shouldn't pin too much on it given consumer ability to spend on oil and gas 1 Have to wait to see how society/the market respond before planning does or could 1 It is more o f an energy planning issue than a community or land use planning issue 1 The cost of energy doesn't change the way you plan 1 We don't have to worry about peak oil because we are a rich society with the resources to adapt 1 We already know how society will respond to peak oil 1 Unsure if the issue is important to local planners and planning 1 "The control of gas prices I think is more o f a federal environmental issue. I think it's something a municipality has to be aware o f - in terms of what municipalities can affect, I'm not sure they have a huge role in that." (11) Two of them, along with another pair (for a total of four), also noted that peak oil is only one of many reasons to plan sustainably and that it does not change what is already considered good planning practice: "It's [peak oil] another straw on the camel's back as far as decision making goes around how we plan, what values we hold dear and prioritise in making land use planning decisions...there are so many reasons why we should be -and why we should even more - maintain our vigilance to continue to design communities that are walkable and that are mindful of how energy is used, and not just gasoline and vehicles but heating and lighting and the green building strategies and all o f those things. But peak oil is only one of the arguments for why we should be doing all o f that...it's just another argument." (19) "Well, we already have reasons to do that [build mixed use/compact development], which is simply to do those things, reduce the number of people driving on the street and to have them drive less, I mean that's been a land use objective, at least in our case all along." (9) Similarly, three participants also shared the view that there are more pressing reasons than peak oil to build in a sustainable fashion and to reduce our reliance on oil and gas. Among these more important reasons are quality of life, health, air pollution, and traffic congestion. Consider the following passage: 4 1 "We should be responding to environmental concerns and reducing our reliance on and our use of oil and gas but not because of peak oil, but because of problems with pollution and our need to get residents out o f their cars and into their communities and walking around, and there are about ten other reasons that I would put before it. So I'm not saying we should ignore it, I'm saying that there are other things that affect us as planners more directly and that affect our communities more immediately so I think there are other more pressing reasons to do the things that we would be doing i f we were thinking about peak oil." (18) Despite the views discussed above and those listed in Table 3.4, six of the 11 participants who were unsure, unclear, or not in favour of a local planning response to peak oil nevertheless did not dismiss the issue altogether. Two in fact asserted that planners should at least take peak oil into consideration, while two others (one of whom is quoted above) noted that although it may not be the most important planning matter it should nevertheless not be buried or ignored. What's more, this pair, along with another participant who stressed that we should be planning in a way that is mindful of limited resources regardless of peak oil, was open to the possibility of an eventual local planning response. Of these three one relayed to me their view that a local response could only occur as that to climate change did - following the lead of scientists, environmentalists and senior levels of government. Another stressed that while conflicted about the issue themselves, for a planning response to peak oil to happen local politicians would have to be convinced of its importance and involved. The third stated that while they thought municipal planning is already moving in the right direction, planners 'stand to be informed' on whether a particular approach would assist in mitigating and solving the potential consequences and problems associated with peak oil. 3.4. What should a local planning response to peak oil be? Each of the 12 planners who asserted that peak oil is something to which planning should respond was also asked what that response ought to be. Specific answers to my inquiries along these lines however were for the most part not forthcoming. The majority of these participants proposed very general approaches or policies that could or might be employed in response to peak oil as opposed to prescribing detailed or coherent plans of action and tools with which to put them into practice. The six specific tools that were proposed were often just one concrete recommendation in a sea of generalities, and not a single one was uttered in clear correspondence with any one principle or policy. A few participants were hesitant to offer any suggestions at all and some were much more willing and able to speculate about what barriers local planners and planning would face in trying to respond to peak oil (see section 5). It is also 42 important to note that two participants who did suggest numerous ways in which local planning might respond later qualified their recommendations. One stated that it is 'really early days' in terms of knowing what a local response to peak oil could or should be. The other contended that while municipalities can have a response they would not be particularly strong as "most of the impact or most of the things that can be done towards peak oil are mostly provincial responsibilities" (6). As was the case when they were asked to conjecture about what the consequences of peak oil might be, those who were more familiar with peak oil prior to this study suggested more ways in which planning might respond (and with greater ease) than those who had previously been less familiar with the issue.52 Some of these suggestions are best conceived as overarching approaches or directions in which planning should proceed in light of peak oil. Among the most frequently cited of them (by five participants) is building liveable, compact, complete cities and communities. Arguments for doing so include the negative relationship between land use density and oil consumption, and the assumption that higher density and more mixed-use communities can reduce longer-distance travelling (and therefore fuel consumption) needs: "There's an overwhelming relationship between land use mix and density and oil consumption. So, I've argued that one of the fundamental things we can do is to just create liveable compact urban centres that people want to live in and that will inherently reduce energy consumption dramatically." (1) Only three of these interviewees went on to mention planning policies or tools that could be used to build such communities, though five other participants also suggested a number of more specific actions that fall broadly under this theme. Some of these include offering incentives for compact development (see below), allowing higher densities, focussing on town centres and urban villages, and ensuring an equal mix of jobs and residents in each community. Four of the 12 participants who believe that planning should respond to peak oil also remarked that a response must begin with or include peak oil becoming part of the municipal and/or regional planning dialogue. Opinions in this regard include that planners should be discussing peak oil (at least 'as an option'), and should be bringing politicians into the dialogue and informing and advising them about decisions that should be made with peak oil in mind as any form of local planning response to the issue requires that local decision makers be on board: 3 2 On average, planners who were well aware each cited 8.5 potential ways in which to respond to peak oil, those who were aware each cited 4.5, and planners who were only somewhat aware or not aware cited 3.3 each. 4 3 "I think that i f we can begin to have that discussion [about peak oil] at the G V R D level and that the discussion leads to developing some kind of a policy response and that this discussion is specifically targeted at politicians, because they're the ones that actually are the ones who both direct staff and policy makers to focus on certain things and they're the ones who also endorse them." (17) A few others suggested that in light of peak oil municipal and regional planners and planning might try to change behaviours and fossil fuel consumption patterns through planning and design, and should aim to reduce our vulnerability and increase our resilience to the effects of oil and gas depletion. Both of these suggestions were made by two planners each. As far as more specific actions and policies in response to peak oil are concerned, the 'laundry list' and accompanying 'instruction guide' (in the form of suggested tools) that I had hoped to collect was, in the end, not what I retrieved. Because few participants elaborated on just how to put their suggestions into practice, the majority of the strategies listed in Table 3.5 are best regarded as starting points or leads. An anomaly though to this end, and among the most frequently cited is the suggestion that in response to peak oil local planners should be raising public awareness of the issue. Three interviewees voiced this opinion spontaneously, while eight others agreed when prompted that planners have a role to play in informing the public about peak oil.53 I was told that not only is informing the public about new issues in general a fundamental part of a planner's job, but raising public awareness about peak oil specifically is an important part of responding to it because planning policies intended to address the issue would receive little political buy-in without the public's support: "I think we're uniquely positioned in that we do interact with the community on an ongoing basis, at the municipal level anyway. A n d planners tend to have the tools and skills to bring a number o f people together including experts in their fields when required, which is almost all the time, in order to inform the public. So I think as facilitators that we have the responsibility of informing the public as part o f our job. A n d there would be very little buy-in i f it [a policy in response to peak oil] was regulated without that." (26) According to four interviewees, among the different avenues through which individuals and communities could be engaged in the issue in a meaningful way and informed about the importance of considering peak oil as a factor in community and land use planning-related decision making is through discussions at public processes when official community plans (OCPs) are being updated or other local policies are being made: All participants that were prompted regarding planners' role in raising public awareness in response to peak oil first mentioned the need for the public to be informed of the issue. Only after they had already brought the subject up were they asked whether they thought planners should be involved. 44 Table 3.5. Actions, policies and tools with which local planning might respond to peak oil. PLANNING MIGHT RESPOND TO PEAK OIL BY: Total 12 A C T I O N S & P O L I C I E S Raising public awareness about peak oil and development decisions that should be made with it in mind 11* Supporting the use of and planning for alternative modes o f transportation (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, transit) 6 • Ensuring that all communities are pedestrian and bicycle friendly 4 • Building to densities that support public transit 2 • Designing a pedestrian conducive public realm 2 • Working with transit authorities to ensure that communities are well served 1 • Enshrining pedestrians as the transportation priority 1 • Developing community road networks with high degrees o f connectivity 1 • Providing more inter-trip cycling facilities 1 • Providing more and better transit 1 Allowing higher densities than permitted under existing zoning Working to improve housing affordability in transit accessible communities • Collaborating with lenders to support location efficient mortgages 1 • Planning more communities that would be eligible for location efficient mortgages 1 Being proactive and leading by example/adopting own better practices and demonstration projects Adopting local food policies to support/promote local and urban production • Promoting consumption and purchasing of local foods 1 • Planting productive street trees and cultivating boulevards 1 • Promoting roof-top urban agriculture and roof-top greenhouses using waste building heat 1 • Supporting community gardens 1 Reducing auto-dependence • Providing support for innovative ideas like car sharing networks 1 Implementing/supporting waste management programs Increasing the focus on town centres and urban villages 1 Increasing mixed-use in business parks 1 Ensuring an adequate mix o f jobs and residential within each community 1 Setting long range targets and backcasting to determine steps to achieve them 1 Improving goods movement and maintaining goods movement capacity 1 • Designating freight lanes/prioritizing access to transportation corridors 1 • Providing loading spaces for delivery vehicles 1 • Protecting rail corridors and land around them from incompatible uses 1 Lobbying for higher efficiency standards through provincial and national municipal associations 1 Promoting/supporting home occupations 1 Renewing emphasis on protection of Agricultural Land Reserve ( A L R ) 1 • Defending municipal policies to retain agricultural lands 1 • Producing plans that are more conscious of protecting the A L R 1 Examining implications o f ever increasing fuel costs 1 Monitoring trends in attitudes towards alternative modes of transportation 1 Promoting green buildings 1 Undertaking contingency planning. 1 Planning for the accommodation o f new technologies and different industries that are less oil dependent 1 45 P L A N N I N G M I G H T R E S P O N D T O P E A K O I L B Y : T o t a l 12 A C T I O N S & P O L I C I E S Changing by-laws and rules and regulations that inadvertently promote auto-oriented development, tear down instead o f reuse, etc 1 T O O L S Offering incentives for compact and transit oriented development, energy efficiency, developer contributions to transportation infrastructures that (theoretically) use less fossil energy 7 • Higher densities 4 • Top o f queue processing/fast-tracking 2 • Reducing parking requirements 2 • Lowering development cost charges 2 • Changes to the tax system 1 • 'Other' financial incentives 1 Evaluating new developments & plans against energy considerations/oil and gas consumption 3 Reducing parking requirements/implementing maximums in bylaws or discouraging stalls 2 Including requirements for energy use, water, light, etc in zoning bylaws and municipal building codes 1 Undertaking municipal energy audits 1 Introducing road tolls to reduce number o f vehicles on the road 1 Three of these responses were spontaneous and eight were in direct response to my questions in this regard. "Like when we're doing our planning exercises, like updating our official community plans or doing neighbourhood plans, I think that's a really good opportunity to bring the issue up as a significant factor to be considered in decisions about land use planning. So, yeah, I think that that would be a really appropriate place for municipal planners to help to raise awareness of the issue." (12) An additional way in which planning might respond to peak oil, according to six interviewees, is by supporting the use of and planning for alternative modes of transportation. Some of the suggested policy variations on this theme include: ensuring that all communities are pedestrian and bicycle friendly; working with transit authorities to ensure that communities are well served; building to densities that support public transit; designing a pedestrian conducive public realm; enshrining pedestrians as the transportation priority; and developing community road networks with high degrees of connectivity: "And then in terms o f transit, we as a city don't deliver transit per say but certainly I think we would try to work with transportation authorities to ensure that our communities are well served by transit, but also provide appropriate densities that would support transit. A n d I think in terms o f non-fossil fuel types of modes we would want to promote pedestrian friendly environments to actually make it conducive to walk so you don't have to take your car across the street to buy a quart of milk, you could actually walk in a safe, pleasant environment. A n d same with bicycles, try to improve the safe, pleasant routes for cycling. So off the top those are some of the things that we could do." (3) In terms of more specific tools that could be part of a local planning response to peak oil, participants most often recommended offering incentives for energy conscious and efficient 46 developments and communities. Six suggested incentives in the form of development related-bonusing. They proposed that municipalities offer higher densities, top of queue processing, reduced parking requirements or lower development cost charges (DCCs) in exchange for compact and transit oriented development, energy efficiency, or developer contributions to transportation infrastructures that (theoretically) use less fossil energy. One suggested changes to the tax system and 'other financial incentives', though did not elaborate on either of these. 3.4.2. Would a response to peak oil be any different than a response to sustainability? As is obvious from the list in Table 3.4, many of the policies and tools suggested as potential components of a local planning response to peak oil are similar to those endorsed under the broad umbrella of 'sustainability planning'. Because this became evident within the first few interviews, after they seemed to have exhausted their own ideas concerning planning's response I began asking participants whether and in what ways a response to peak oil might differ from that to the need to develop sustainably. Of the ten who were questioned along these lines,54 only one asserted that it should be unique. This planner suggested that a response to peak oil would need to be more drastic and energy centric, and also wondered aloud whether in light of potential energy related problems with large scale infrastructures such as water, waste, and sewage collection the urban population might not need to be more dispersed. In contrast, one participant believed that a municipal planning response to peak oil would be identical to the response to not only sustainability, but to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the ecological footprint of our society. Seven others similarly noted that a response to peak oil would probably not be fundamentally different from that to the need to plan sustainably. Five of them, however, asserted that it may vary in some small ways. It might, for example, be more rushed, more intensive (e.g. higher densities), more coordinated across the region, more strict about the rules and regulations of development, or put more emphasis on the provision of public transportation. Two added that how a local planning response to peak oil would differ from that to the need for 'smarter' growth or sustainability55 depends both on when peak oil affects us and on what our future energy options might be. The suggestions - including increasing densities, land use mix, and supporting alternative modes of transportation - of two other participants with whom 1 spoke first prompted me to begin asking how a response to peak oil would differ. 5 5 Many participants used the concepts of smart growth and sustainability interchangeably. 47 Another remarked rather ambiguously that existing sustainability planning principles (mixed usage, increased densities, etc) would probably be part of a 'growth management response to peak oil'. Four other participants (only two of whom supported a planning response) similarly noted that current planning policies are or seem to be oriented in the right direction at least: "I think we're trying to do the right things now.. . A n d not to take away from the type of planning, it's not all perfect, but the 22 member municipalities o f the G V R D coming together and supporting the liveable region strategic plan that calls for complete, compact communities that have greenbelts and are connected by rapid transit, I mean that basically sums up what the liveable region strategic plan is, and that fits into all these other things, whatever you want to call it. Y o u could label that the peak oil debate, or a response to the peak oil debate, there are other more detailed things and policies that need to happen to support that but it all fits into kind of the general way things are going." (16) "It's not like some unusual thing we've never heard of, so I think a lot o f what we would do is strengthening of existing directions." (5) However, three planners (only one of whom supported a local planning response) also cautioned that the kind of planning we are engaged in now will neither stop the problem nor ensure that we are resilient enough to be able to respond as a society to peak oil when it occurs: "The question is are we doing enough, are they pushing region building far enough now to be resilient enough to respond to peak oil? A n d the answer for me would be no." (7) 3.5. What might enable or impede a local planning response to peak oil? Although I did not originally set out to determine what planners in the GVRD believe might enable or impede a local planning response to peak oil it became apparent after only a few of the second interviews that there are, according to many participants, a number of factors (real or perceived) that may affect what role municipal and regional planners play in our society's transition to a 'post-carbon' age.56 Because discovering them is not one of my research objectives they will be listed in Tables 3.6 and 3.7 and discussed only briefly below. Each of the 12 planners who believe that planning should respond to peak oil suggested at least one factor that they perceived would impede a response, though a few rattled off up to seven or eight. In total, participants put forward 22 barriers, which are grouped in Table 3.6 into seven main themes. Interestingly, some of these challenges are the same as the reasons given by other A number of the first few planners with whom 1 spoke regarding what planning's response to peak oil might be relayed to me without prompt a variety of barriers that local planning might face in trying to respond. This prompted me to ask other participants who believed that planning should respond to peak oil what (if any) the barriers to a local planning response to peak oil might be. Similarly, without having been asked many interviewees also suggested a number of conditions (called enabling factors here) that would have to be met before a local planning response could happen. None of these interviewees were asked about these conditions outright. 4 8 participants concerning why planning should not respond to the potential for a global oil and gas production peak. These include that peak oil is low on the political agenda, that the public does not care about the issue, and that there are more pressing matters that planners have been directed by their councils to address. A few of the cited barriers themselves are overlapping and also interdependent. For example, the lack of incentive for politicians to make short term decisions that have mostly long term benefits is related to the three year local political cycle. Table 3.6. Barriers to a local planning response to peak oil. C H A L L E N G E S A N D B A R R I E R S T O R E S P O N D I N G T O P E A K O I L : Total 12 Lack of Political Will 1 Lack of public support needed for political support 3 No motivation to respond as a result of 3 year political cycle 2 End of career politicians have little incentive to take up the issue 1 Difficult to convince politicians to make difficult changes before a crisis 1 Little incentive to make decisions now that have mostly long term benefits 2 Peak oil is low on the political agenda 1 Political mindset of decision makers is at odds with the mindset that is needed for a response to peak oil 1 Lack of Community Pressure 6 Public denial/preference to ignore the issue and hope for a miracle cure 3 Most people don't understand/are unaware of the issue 3 The public doesn't care about the issue 1 Nature of local planning 5 Can't get ahead of public/consumer opinion & demand 2 Forced to look at short term issues instead of longer term ones like peak oil 2 Would be a challenge to tie benefits directly to policies 1 More pressing/current issues that have to be dealt with (as directed by council) 1 Lack of time/resources 1 Municipalities do not cooperate/work at cross purposes 1 Resistance to policies that would help to address the issue 5 Public resistance to policies that would address the issue (higher densities, incentives/disincentives) 4 Political resistance to policies that would address the issue 1 Public resistance to change 3 It is difficult to get people to change their ways 3 Lack of certainty 1 Peak oil is still a debate/there is no consensus 1 Nature of Urban Development/Developers 2 Communities change more slowly than what may be required to reduce vulnerability to peak oil 1 Mindset of development community is at odds with the mindset that is needed to respond to peak oil 1 49 Table 3.7. Factors that might enable a local planning response to peak oil.* E N A B L I N G FACTORS: Total 24 Increased awareness and education about peak oil 9 Political awareness/education 7(3) Public awareness/education (includes development community) 6(1) More awareness of peak oil within municipal planning departments 1 Political and community support 8 Political support 6(3) Public support for political support 4 (1) Political will 1 Lead of higher levels of government 5 Higher level lead (regional, provincial, or federal) 3(1) Regional lead 1 Federal push for a more drastic response 1 Paradigmatic shifts 5 Paradigm shift away from suburban dream 1 Change in political mindset 1 Change in mindset o f development community 1 Paradigm shift 1 Change in mindset o f other professions (engineering) 1 Public acceptance that there will be no technological solution 1(1) Support from/lead of NGOs and other organizations and professions 4 United front of professionals, business, etc 2 Outside champion to bring the issue to the forefront 1(1) Outside support in the form of promotional and educational help from N G O s 1 Open debate by those outside the municipal or regional planning system 1 Coordinated public education campaign with N G O s , other professions, business community 1 Support/lead from Union of British Columbian Municipalities and the Federation o f Canadian Municipalities 1 Support and encouragement from higher levels of government 2 Provincially legislated level regional playing field 1 Provincially legislated discretion over environmental/energy efficiency building features 1 Regional discretion over land use (whether legislated or through a different governance system) 1 Encouragement/support from higher levels o f government 1 Federal money to support/encourage sustainable municipal planning 1 Regional coordination 1 Other enabling factors 3 Rising cost of fuel/wake up call 1 Commitment to keeping the issue in the forefront/maintaining focus on it 2 ^numbers in parentheses represent factors mentioned by participants who are at present not fully supportive of a local planning response to peak oil. 50 Predictably, there is also significant overlap between the factors that participants believe may hinder and those that may enable a municipal or regional planning response to peak oil. Many of the 29 enabling factors (grouped into six main themes) listed in Table 3.7 are the inverse of the challenges in Table 3.6. There are also a number of obvious mutual dependencies between some of the enabling factors themselves. For example, political support is dependent upon public support which is dependent on public awareness. Each interviewee who believed that local planning should respond to peak oil mentioned at least one of these conditions (though the majority referred to more). Even five of the 11 participants who were either opposed to a response, who were unsure if one was required, or whose views on the matter were unclear, made note of what they saw as prerequisites to a local planning response to peak oil in the GVRD. 51 Chapter 4: Discussion and Conclusion Where Chapter 3 laid out what planners in this study knew about peak oil and thought about its relevance to local planning, the purpose of this chapter is to discuss these findings in relation to the research questions that this thesis seeks to address. They are fourfold and include: 1. To what extent are planners in the GVRD aware of the peak oil debate? 2. Of those planners who are aware of the peak oil debate, what consequences of peak oil do they foresee? 3. Do planners in the GVRD believe that peak oil is an issue of importance to municipal and regional planning and planners? 4. If so, what do planners believe (a) should be the policy and planning responses to peak oil at the municipal/regional level, and (b) are the policy and planning responses to peak oil that are actually available to municipal/regional planners under existing legislation? 4.1. To what extent are planners in the GVRD aware of the peak oil debate? When I began this thesis there was little to suggest whether civic planners in the GVRD (or elsewhere for that matter) were aware of peak oil. The issue is increasingly discussed in popular newspapers, websites, and magazines, and has even recently found its way into online planning forums,57 planning bulletins, journals, and workshops designed for and by non-professional 58 'citizen planners' who serve on regional or city planning commissions and boards. And yet, peak oil is not mentioned in any local policy statements or OCPs, has seldom appeared in academic and professional planning journals and magazines59, and has rarely been a topic of discussion at local, provincial or national planning conferences or events.60 This evidence that 3 7 A search of the PLANetizen website (http://www.planetizen.com) for the term 'peak oil' brings up a long list of articles related to peak oil that have been posted by visitors to the site. 5 8 A discussion of peak oil was featured in an Australian Town and Country Planning Association Bulletin in 2003 and a few short articles about it appeared in the winter 2005 issue of the Planning Commissioners Journal. In the summer of 2005 the Vancouver City Planning Commission held a day-long workshop largely focused on discussing local responses to peak oil. 5 9 An article by planner Daniel Leeming, entitled Energy: The End of Cheap Oil appeared in the November/December 2005 edition of the Ontario Planning Journal. 6 0 According to a number of participants peak oil was discussed at the 2004 B C Land Summit (which was co-hosted by the P1BC) and was also briefly mentioned at a recent PIBC PlanTalk event. At the 2005 Atlantic Planners Institute conference one presentation focused specifically on peak oil and its relevance to local planning. In January 2006, a report prepared by the City 52 planners had little knowledge of peak oil was one of many factors that inspired me to undertake my research. It seemed an obvious gap in planning's knowledge base. Knowledge is the basis for action and without an understanding of a wide range of topics planners can neither meet their responsibilities to provide "reasoned analysis and recommendations to both the public and the private sector" (CIP, 2005) nor to "link knowledge and action in ways that improve public and private development decisions which affect people, places and the environment" (CIP, 2005). Two participants did in fact strongly assert that planners have a responsibility to keep informed of up and coming issues, and the vast majority (92%) agreed that peak oil is something about which all local planners should be aware. Exactly half stated the latter, however, only after having become familiar with the issue through my summary of the debate. Prior to then while each participant was well aware that fossil fuels are finite and bound someday to deplete, just 38% were conversant with the concept of peak oil and in some way familiar with the current debate surrounding it.61 This leads me to conclude that on the whole planners have a limited awareness of peak oil - the phenomenon and debate. Although on the surface this finding may seem discouraging, I find it quite promising as when I began this research I was doubtful that more than a few participants would be familiar with the issue in any way and certainly did not foresee that so many would be either so knowledgeable or so willing to learn about it and to discuss it with me at length. It should be kept in mind however, that despite my efforts to the contrary, sampling biases may have skewed my results in favour of those with an awareness of and interest in peak oil. Even though I avoided mentioning it in my initial letters of contact it appears as though some participants who were previously aware of peak oil 'guessed' the broader purpose of my research prior to our interviews as they began talking to me about it at the beginning of our conversations without prompt. It is possible that these planners and others agreed to be interviewed because they were familiar with the issue and, conversely, that those who declined to participate did so because they were not. The latter is suggested by the fact that a number of planners I initially contacted expressed concern over their unfamiliarity with energy issues. Although I tried to reassure them that neither knowledge of nor experience with energy planning were prerequisites of Burnaby BC's planning department, entitled Global Peak in Oil Production: the Municipal Context, was presented to city council. 6 1 This 38% includes those planners who were well aware and aware of peak oil. 53 to taking part in my study, many nevertheless chose not to participate. It is also possible, despite the fact that I employed a random sampling technique, that a small group of colleagues informed about and keen on peak oil are overrepresented in my sample; a number of those well aware or aware of peak oil suggested I contact other planners that they thought might be interested in 62 being interviewed, many of whom were already participating. Unfortunately, as this (at least to my knowledge) is the first research of its kind there are no previous studies with which to compare how aware local planners here or elsewhere are of peak oil. The views of participants themselves in this matter do not confirm or disconfirm my finding that planners in the GVRD have a limited awareness of peak oil as the 11 who broached the topic during our interviews were divided on how aware of the issue they thought the local planning community to be. Whether or not this finding holds true there is still a long way to go before the more than 250 municipal and regional planners in this region are adequately informed of peak oil. Getting to that point may take some time given that local governments, and therefore local planners, are taking on more and more responsibilities. It is encouraging, though, to know that if the results of this study are any indication once they are aware of peak oil local planners are most likely to agree that a global peak in conventional oil and gas production will occur and that it should be taken seriously. 4.2. What might be the consequences of peak oil? Just as there is a general consensus that peak oil will occur, my results indicate that there is also a general consensus among respondents that as a result of the pervasive use of oil and gas in our society peak oil will affect us in myriad, though rather unpredictable ways. Direct statements to this effect along with the long list of potential consequences that came out of my interviews indicate that the majority of planners (regardless of how aware of peak oil they initially were) recognize that the depletion of these vital though finite resources could disrupt social, economic, and infrastructural systems at both local and global scales. However, planners also recognize (as do many peak proponents) that peak oil's potential ramifications are nearly infinite and cannot be forecast with certainty. Most only suggested a number of possible implications instead of While participants were not asked to divulge the names of others who they thought might like to take part in this study, a number of them did just that at the closing of our conversations after they'd asked how many planners 1 would be interviewing. 6 3 CIP, 2002; Gateau, 2004 54 asserting what will occur in the wake of peak oil and many prefaced these predictions by noting that the effects of peak oil are difficult to foresee. Over half also qualified their speculations by asserting that how, when, and by whom the consequences are felt will depend on a number of factors. On the whole, the predictions that participants did make are similar those that have been put forward by peak oil proponents, who also foresee that, among many other things, following peak oil the price of just about everything will rise, that social inequity will increase, that there may be political unrest, reduced global trade, and that the affordability and appeal of auto-oriented suburban lifestyles will decrease (Bentley, 2002; Fleming, 1999; Heinberg, 2003; Kunstler, 2004; Simmons, 2005). There are also, though, a few differences between the predictions made by these two groups. To begin, while many peak proponents (e.g. Bentley (2002) and Fleming (1999)) warn of peak oil's overarching economic implications - such as economic recession or collapse - only two participants in this study expressed similar views. Others did assert that peak oil will 'affect how our economy works' and many conjectured about consequences of an economic nature such as rising prices and limited growth. None, however, speculated on what the potential broader effects of peak oil on the economies of individual municipalities in the region, the region itself, or even the province might be. This, despite the fact that the economies of all of these are dependent to a large degree on the use of oil and natural gas for resource extraction, goods movement, agricultural production, tourism, and industrial processing. Similarly, while a number of ardent pessimists like Duncan (1996) and Savinar (2005) expect that peak oil will instigate the breakdown of industrial society, not a single participant expressed this view. Two in fact noted that such dire predictions are likely over-stated. Even when considered collectively, the 52 specific potential consequences listed in Table 3.2 do not paint an apocalyptic picture of a post-peak oil world. While they perhaps do not signal the end of the heavily industrialized world as we know it, many of the consequences that planners put forth nevertheless point to the potential for significant disruptions to current urban and suburban ways of life. These include rising disparities between higher and lower income groups, declining housing affordability, and the obsolescence of large infrastructures such as major roadways and suburban single use neighbourhoods. These and other potential challenges touch on nearly all aspects of local planning - from land use to 55 community services, economic development to transportation, housing provision to urban design - and are useful as a basis for further discussion regarding what role municipal and regional planners and planning might play in our society's transition to a post-carbon age. As Bresee and Room (2005) note, thoughtful consideration of the likely consequences of peak oil "could be the tipping point that springs local government into planning and even pre-emptive action." 4.3. Is peak oil an issue of importance to municipal and regional planners and planning? My results suggest that the majority of participants recognize what many planners and peak proponents have been advocating for decades - that fossil fuel depletion is a significant issue for society that deserves attention by "those who think about, plan and decide the future of our cities" (Newman, 1991b:173). They believe, (as I and many peak pessimists64 do) that peak oil is an issue of importance to municipal planners and planning because (among various other reasons): there is significant evidence that future generations will have less of these vital resources to use; the depletion of these cheap fossil fuels could impact us in countless ways; the long-lived nature of urban and suburban infrastructure is such that how we plan today can influence what the consequences of peak oil will be; planners have a responsibility to prepare society for a future in which fossil fuels are more costly and in shorter supply; and peak oil and sustainability are interlinked. Of course, not all planners feel that peak oil is important to the same degree. While 22/24 agree that peak oil is something that all planners should be aware of, only 18/23 believe that peak oil is of particular relevance to local planning, and just 16/23 assert that it should not be ignored in planning related decision making. Three planners are unconvinced of its significance65 and three feel that there are many more pressing local planning matters. Only half - 12/23 - believe peak oil to be an important enough issue (or a strong enough threat) to warrant a local planning response. The latter are those who most clearly echo peak pessimists' admonitions that peak oil is not just a significant issue but is something for which society must begin to plan and prepare for immediately (Darley, 2004; Fleming, 1999; Heinberg, 2003; Hirsch et al., 2005; McKibben, 2005; Newman, 1991b; Room, 2005a). Including Newman (1991b), Kenworthy (2003), Fleming (1999), Ivanhoe (1995), and Room (2005a) to name only a few. This includes two who said that peak oil might be important to planning and one who was unsure. 56 In contrast, those who are less convinced o f the necessity o f a loca l p lanning response to peak o i l hold opinions that are more al igned w i t h D e m i n g (2000), Baden (1998), and M a u g e r i (2004) on the opposite side o f the peak o i l debate. L i k e these and other 'peak o p t i m i s t s ' 6 6 a few planners question not on ly whether peak o i l w i l l actually occur but also whether a g lobal convent ional o i l and gas product ion peak w o u l d be o f part icular s ignif icance to society. People , they assert, have the resources w i t h w h i c h to adapt to changes i n o i l and gas prices and supply, and non-conventional sources (such as A lbe r t a ' s tar sands) w i l l l i k e l y be able to supply our foss i l fuel demand for decades to come. M a n y factors help to exp la in these differ ing v iews among planners. T h e y inc lude misunderstandings o f the peak o i l debate, different perceptions o f the degree to w h i c h our society is dependent on cheap o i l and gas and vulnerable to their deplet ion, different understandings o f a planner 's roles and responsibil i t ies and also va ry ing v i ews o f loca l p l ann ing capacities. E a c h o f these w i l l be addressed be low. A m o n g those less supportive o f a p lann ing response to peak o i l are two planners w h o w r o n g l y equate the issue to the o i l crises o f the 1970s 6 7 and one w h o sees the issue as one o f p r i c i n g structures instead o f o i l depletion. T h i s suggests that misconcept ions o f the issue are a determinant o f h o w relevant to their profession planners think peak o i l to be. Op in ions about peak o i l ' s importance to loca l p lann ing m a y also be inf luenced b y different notions o f h o w vi ta l o i l and gas are to the funct ioning o f our society and h o w w e cou ld be affected i f they were to permanently deplete. A m o n g the planners who question peak o i l ' s s ignif icance and/or the necessity o f a concerted p lann ing response are most o f those who bel ieve that the consequences o f peak o i l might be posi t ive (2/3) and that i n its wake people w i l l l i k e l y adapt and f ind new ways o f do ing things (4/6). F o r example, two o f the latter bel ieve, respectively, that 'the direction o f Western society seems to be towards f ind ing (technological) solut ions ' to energy-related problems and that al though o i l and gas are important resources they on ly provide 'another comfort l e v e l ' to society. 6 6 I use the term 'peak optimists' to refer to those who either do not believe in peak oil or those who believe it will occur but that it is not a significant threat to society and therefore that there is no reason to be alarmed or to decrease our consumption of cheap gas and oil. Their opinions are discussed in more detail in Section 1.4.2. 6 7 Though comparable in some ways, these two phenomena are fundamentally unique. While past oil crises were temporary and the result of political crises in the Middle East, peak oil will signify the beginning of a permanent reduction in global conventional oil and gas production rates (and therefore supply) as a result of ever increasing global fossil fuel consumption and the exhaustion of the earth's cheap, accessible, and finite hydrocarbon supplies. 57 A comparison of the reasons given by participants for and against peak oil's importance and a local planning response also suggests that their views might differ in these regards on account of differences in their perceived roles and responsibilities. For example, four of those who support a local response to peak oil believe, as do many academic planners like Abbott (2005) and Myers and Kitsuse (2000), that planners have a role to play in guiding society towards a common desired future. This implies that they also have a responsibility to address the future's inherent uncertainty. In contrast, two planners who are not supportive of a response noted that there are too many uncertainties to plan for peak oil, with one even noting that planning would have to wait until peak oil occurred to see how society would respond before planning did or could. Similarly, while almost all of those who support a response (11/12) believe that planners have a responsibility to educate politicians and the public about peak oil and to bring the issue to the fore, two of the five participants who argue firmly against a response reason that the issue would be low on the political and public agendas, and that peak oil would be 'hard to sell' as a municipal planning matter. These differences suggest that instead of seeing planning as proactive, visionary, and advisory (as those who support a response seem to do) planners who think that peak oil is not something to which planning should respond may see their jobs as reactive, administrative and regulatory. Further comparison of the reasons participants cited for and against a local planning response to peak oil, as well as proposed planning actions, suggests that planners' views concerning the need for and utility of a response may also vary as a result of differing opinions concerning local planning's capacities - namely its ability to affect resource consumption and demand. On one hand, participants in support of a response assert that the principles, policies, and tools with which we plan and build our cities can influence energy efficiencies, automobile use, and general oil and gas demand. On the other, four of those who are not as supportive of a response argue that local planning has little control over local fossil fuel consumption. It is true that local municipalities have virtually no control over energy prices. However, to say that local planning cannot affect local energy demand is to ignore what many planners and others involved in municipal affairs have been saying for decades - that although not exclusively 58 mandated to address energy matters local governments and therefore local planning nevertheless have significant influence over local energy use and consequently oil and gas dependence. They can affect fossil fuel consumption through land use and transportation planning, building and land use permit control, zoning regulations and bylaws, design standards, industrial policies, taxation and parking fees, recycling and waste collection services (BCEC, 1994; Macdonald, 1978; Newman & Kenworthy, 1999; Wiggin et al., 2002). Because local governments can influence energy consumption, resource use, development and waste, many people concerned about the future of our (fossil-fuelled) society believe that local policy responses to global problems (like peak oil) are where our hope for sustainability lays (Dubos, 1981; Glass, 2002; Voisey et al., 1996). 4.4. What do planners believe the planning response to peak oil should and can be? • Like Dubos (1981) and Glass (2002) who believe that global problems demand local attention and solutions, many of the 12 planners who think that peak oil is something to which local planning should respond similarly assert that we must do so in order to maintain our liveability and quality of life post-peak. Addressing peak oil, they contend, is essential if we are to make a transition to sustainability. However, while these planners are sure that a local response is necessary, they are much less certain about just what that response should be. Participants did not recommend coherent plans of action so much as offer a handful of potential directions and general policies. Many were more willing and able to conjecture about barriers to a response than a response itself and most used the words could and might - as opposed to should and can -in reply to my inquiries about what a local planning response to peak oil ought to entail. This apparent indecision likely stems from a number of different (though rather speculative) factors, including the uncertain nature of the peak oil debate itself. Some planners may have found it difficult to prescribe concrete solutions to a problem with so many unknown and unknowable aspects (such as its timing and consequences); one in fact pointed out that it is almost too early to know or even guess at what a response should or could be. Individual ignorance about the issue is another factor that could have contributed to planners' hesitancy. While the B C Community Charter (Govt of B C , 2003) does not even mention energy, the Local Government Act (Govt of B C , 2004) does say that regional growth strategies should work towards "planning for energy supply and promoting efficient use, conservation and alternative forms of energy". 59 M a n y participants who support a p lanning response to peak o i l had never heard o f the issue before this study and therefore had never considered its relat ion to p lanning. It was evident f rom their responses that quite a few were th ink ing on their feet, that they were exp lo r ing new territory and testing new ideas as we spoke. The newness and complex nature o f the issue may also have influenced the tendency o f many participants to identify challenges that loca l p lann ing would face i n responding to peak o i l instead o f suggesting potent ia l ly useful po l ic ies . Regardless though o f the potential reasons why , because planners repl ied to m y inquir ies so generally, because they d i d not suggest concrete ways i n w h i c h m u n i c i p a l and regional p lann ing should and can respond to peak o i l , I cannot answer m y fourth research question outright. W h a t I can say, however , is that some o f the specific tools that were suggested are avai lable to loca l planners w i t h i n exis t ing p rov inc ia l legislat ion (see A p p e n d i x B ) . A l s o , when considered col lect ively m y results suggest that the majority o f planners w h o bel ieve that p lann ing should respond to peak o i l bel ieve that a response w o u l d not differ fundamentally f rom that to the need for 'smarter' growth or sustainability. Th i s is to say that it might inc lude pr inc ip les and pol ic ies aimed at b u i l d i n g complete and compact communit ies and support ing alternative modes o f transportation, as w e l l as tools such as mun ic ipa l by laws , development incentives and requirements related to the form, density, and energy eff iciency o f new bui ld ings and developments. W h a t ' s more, as many academic planners concede is essential to p lann ing for smart growth and susta inabi l i ty , 6 9 according to many participants a loca l response to peak o i l wou ld also have to include an ongoing dialogue about the issue and a great deal o f education to bu i ld support among both the pub l i c and loca l pol i t ic ians for related p lann ing pol ic ies . It is promis ing , i n a way, that those who support a loca l p lann ing response to peak o i l seem to generally be i n agreement about what such a response cou ld be and might require to succeed. However , that so many either i m p l i e d or declared that a response to peak o i l w o u l d be s imi l a r to that to sustainabili ty and that many also bel ieve that p lanning is already responding to peak o i l indirectly raises an important question. Is the p lanning w e are d o i n g n o w (supposedly guided b y the tenets o f 'smart g rowth ' and sustainability) reducing our consumpt ion o f o i l and gas and therefore reducing our vulnerabi l i ty to whatever consequences a g loba l peak i n their product ion might br ing? 6 9 Bell & Grinstein, 2001; Tregoning et al., 2002; Wheeler, 2000 60 It is beyond the scope of this thesis to investigate this question in great detail. However, a number of development trends in the G V R D suggest that despite a near region wide declaration 70 of the importance of decreasing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiencies, a rise 71 72 in transit ridership, and an increase in the number of people l iv ing in compact communities, the region's oil and gas dependence and thus its vulnerability to their depletion may not be diminishing. These trends include a steady rise in the number of registered vehicles in the region,7 3 a small decrease in the proportion of free-standing office space in regional town centres and a large increase in (auto-oriented) business park locations, 7 4 a rise in the number of natural gas-heated greenhouses on fertile agricultural lands, 7 5 and the building of new 'sustainable' communities that are unlikely to decrease fossil fuel demand significantly. 7 6 That the G V R D is not becoming any less reliant on oi l and gas begs another question still. Why are so many planners recommending a response to peak oi l so similar to the current approach to sustainability that has yet to be shown to reduce the region's demand for fossil energy? Again, one can speculate about a few factors that may have influenced planners' views in this regard. The first is that many of their suggested approaches and policies have become accepted components of smart growth, sustainability, and community energy planning practice; that is, they have become the theoretical status quo. 7 7 As Bourne (2003) writes, the enormity of challenges associated with peak oi l can be paralyzing and "defending the status quo can seem a safer, more appealing option than embracing a challenging future". It is also possible, though, that planners truly believe that i f implemented widely enough (and not just paid lip service to in OCPs) cities and suburbs embodying related planning principles could 7 0 With only a few exceptions each municipal OCP in this region states the importance of decreasing our energy consumption and promoting the efficient use of energy. Even the few municipalities that do not officially recognize the need to decrease energy consumption nevertheless note the importance of reducing auto-dependency. 7 1 GVRD, 2004a 7 2 As of 2001 62% of Greater Vancouver's residents lived in compact neighbourhoods (those with 12 or more residents per acre), up from 46% in 1986. Over this 15 year period the percentage of the population living at transit-oriented densities rose from 40% to 51 % and the population living at pedestrian-oriented densities grew from 6 to 11 percent of the metropolitan area's residents (NEW & SGBC, 2002). 7 3 Between 1994 and 2004 vehicle registrations rose from 986 032 to 1 286 887 (GVRD, 2003b). 7 4 GVRD (2004a) & Royal LePage (2001) 7 5 The square footage of greenhouses in the A L R increased by 73% between 1996 and 2001 (GVRD, 2003a). The vulnerability of these operations to price shocks is evidenced by their reaction to natural gas price spikes in 2000, when against environmental regulations many switched to burning dirtier fuels in order to control their rising costs and remain profitable (Gulyas, 2003). 7 6 One such example is the Northeast sector of Coquitlam. The plan that will guide new greenfield development in this area -though praised for its community energy planning approach - is set to reduce total energy consumed for all purposes in the new community by only 5% (Community Energy Association, 2005). 7 71 say theoretical status quo as many municipalities are still struggling to implement related policies on the ground. 61 very well reduce residents' consumption of fossil energy. Indeed, i f planners' often cited suggestions related to building compact, complete, and multi-modal communities were applied regionally and comprehensively (that is in all planning decision making) they probably could -but to what degree? Many of these policies - such as increasing land use mix and residential densities - only indirectly address the consumption of energy. Whether planning based on these principles alone would be enough to significantly reduce our vulnerability to peak oi l is debatable. While it makes sense intuitively that more compact and mixed-use development can influence a reduction in local demand for transportation related energy especially, there is still no consensus on the extent to which this happens in reality (Anderson et al., 1996; Boarnet & Sarmiento, 1998; Jarvis, 2003; Neuman, 2005). More direct action on reducing both the operational and embodied 7 8 consumption of oil and gas in suburbs and cities w i l l l ikely be needed i f they are to successfully adapt to a future in which these fuels are increasingly expensive and in shorter supply. O f course, there is also the potential that participants recommended a response to peak oi l that is so similar to the current sustainability status quo because they see it as the most feasible. Planners have battled for decades to get to a point where politicians and the public are beginning to accept the goals of sustainability and smart growth; they may see a similar approach to peak oil as the least l ikely to 'rock the boat'. Two participants in fact point out that it might be best to couch a local response to peak oil within that to sustainability as this concept is becoming more and more accepted by mainstream society. Although they have only recently become (somewhat) accepted by politicians and the public, planners have supported policies related to building more sustainable and less energy demanding communities for over 25 years. In fact, many of the specific policy and planning responses to peak oil suggested by participants are the same as those advocated following the oi l crises of the 1970s. At that time, to decrease our society's reliance on oi l and gas and our vulnerability to future increases in price and shortages in supply, planners in both the G V R D and elsewhere were calling for: higher density and more compact nodal growth (City of Toronto, 1980; Griggs, 1978; Operational energy is energy consumed on a daily basis by a given activity, for example, by heating a house. Embodied energy is energy that is consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a given good, material, or building. The embodied energy of a house would include all of the energy expended in its construction, from the extraction of natural resources to their transportation and the construction process itself (Troy et al., 2003). 62 GVRD, 1980); increased mixed-use development (City of Toronto, 1980; Griggs, 1978); a balance of jobs and residents in each community; support for alternative modes of transportation; mandated energy efficient design requirements; and development reviews that assess the energy impact of new buildings and communities (GVRD, 1980). Many of today's peak proponents similarly advocate ways for society to address peak oil that are akin to those suggested by municipal and regional planners in this study. Some of these include: building dense, mixed use, and walkable communities in which transit can operate and where people can meet their daily needs (Groppe, 2005; Newman, 1991b; Noland, 2005; Kenworthy, 2003; STC, 2003); raising public awareness so that the electorate can give politicians a mandate to address peak oil (Campbell, 2003); and reducing energy consumption and auto dependence through sound design and coordinated land use and transportation planning (Kenworthy, 2003; Morris, 2005). (For a more detailed comparison of the recommendations made by participants, peak oil pessimists and others who believe a response to peak oil is required see Appendix C). As some of the recommendations outlined above suggest, like participants, a number of proponents believe that peak oil can be addressed - or that its potential impacts can be mitigated - using principles and policies common to smart growth and sustainability planning. In his recent presentation 'Land use and transportation planning as if peak oil mattered' Morris (2005) states that "planning for a future in which oil doesn't have a starring role" should rely on the "fundamental principles of "smart growth"". Unlike many planners, however, he and Gilbert (2003) are quick to note that while 'smarter growth' may encourage a reduction in energy demand it should not be taken for granted that it will accomplish a reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels. Another way in which peak proponents' recommendations are similar to those made by planners is that many are best considered proposed approaches and directions, and little attention is paid 7 0 to the mechanics of implementing related policies on the ground. That many proponents are so general in their suggestions for how society should address peak oil is unsurprising, however, as most are proposing solutions to the whole of the Western industrial world and are not A few exceptions include suggestions to provide incentives for energy efficient development, mandating energy efficient design requirements and new building standards, and introducing road user charges (Campbell, 2003; Gilbert, 2003; Room, 2005b; STC, 2003). 63 particularly focused on municipal and regional planning. (Despite this difference in scope many of their recommendations - such as halting the construction of urban freeways (Fleay, 2003) - are nevertheless relatable to a local scale). Besides this variation in scale, suggestions made by some peak pessimists and planners concerning how to address peak oil differ most conspicuously in regards to the necessity of what Julian Darley (2004) refers to as 'contraction planning'. Where he and a number of other 81 ardent proponents assert that the re-localization of almost everything - including energy, goods, and food production - is the key to building local resiliency to the potential effects of a hydrocarbon peak, not a single planner expressed this view.82 While two do stress the need to reduce our vulnerability and increase our resilience to peak oil, both only specify this end and do not elaborate much on the means. Similarly, though three planners caution that today's planning is unlikely to improve our ability to successfully confront the challenges that peak oil might bring, neither they nor any other participant avow that in light of peak oil cities need to be re-83 invented or that planning should be "re-examined very critically" (Darley, 2002). It is evident that some peak proponents believe more strongly than many participants that our current reliance on imported goods and energy cannot continue in the wake of peak oil and that in order to successfully adapt to an energy constrained future our current social, economic, and infrastructural systems will have to change dramatically. Nevertheless, planners do agree that how we plan and develop our cities and suburbs today - taking heed of or disregarding peak oil -will in large part determine how they will be affected as the world's cheap and accessible sources of oil and gas deplete. 4.5. Proceed with dialogue and precaution: advice to the planning profession Failing to consider and implement the changes that peak oil might require us to make could, as both planners and peak proponents assert, result in a significant reduction in the high quality of 8 0 Little has been published specifically about municipal or regional planning for peak oil or the role of local government in society's transition to a post-peak oil world. Even peak proponents with a more local scope - including Kenworthy (2003), Newman (1991b), McKibben (2005), Noland (2005), Morris (2005), Groppe (2005) and Room (2005b) - seldom discuss what planning tools might be used to implement their recommended policies. 8 1 Such as Heinberg (2004), Murphy (n.d.), and Room (2005b). 8 2 Two participants did mention the need for local food policies and one mentioned the importance of planning for less oil dependent local industries. None spoke directly to 'relocalization' as a way to increase our resilience to peak oil. 8 3 Heinberg, 2005 64 life that we enjoy today. Campbell (1999), Ivanhoe (1995) and other peak pessimists warn that without major reductions in our dependence on cheap oil and gas the social, economic, and political consequences of peak oil will be dire. Our society's general lack of interest in and initiative on the issue thus far, along with its dependence on these finite resources are two important reasons why such predictions have and continue to be made. We depend on oil and gas for many essentials, including food production, heating, and transportation to name only a few. For the most part society assumes that there will always be enough of these fuels to go around and meet its ever increasing needs. Peak oil optimists actively promote such beliefs. Their arguments in support of this view, however, are rather unconvincing. More pessimistic views that peak oil will occur and that it demands not only a planned societal response but the rethinking of conventional urban and suburban development practices are more sound. For example, optimists contend that rising prices and consumer demand will forever stimulate increasing oil and gas production and reserve growth. However, as many peak oil pessimists and even the Director of ExxonMobil point out, despite high prices and growing global demand there has for years been a falling oil discovery trend (Campbell, 2005; Longwell, 2002). What's more, since 2001 "the cost of exploration has been exceeding the net present value of the discoveries in absolute terms" (Campbell, 2005:9). Without government subsidies to oil companies it would no longer be worth their effort to explore for more fuel. The free market, revered by many peak optimists as the solution to all of our energy supply concerns, has already failed. Similarly, contrary to what some optimists claim, suitable substitutes for conventional oil and gas are unlikely to be able to take their place in the long term. This is particularly true for oil, a fuel with no known equal in versatility, portability, and power density (Hoffert et al., 2002; Roberts, 2004; Skrebowski, 2005). As Kaufmann notes, oil creates a large energy surplus which "powers the non-energy sectors of the economy, such that goods can be imported and exported at little extra cost, people can live far from work, and a small fraction of the workforce can feed those that produce the goods and services we associate with modernity" (2006:20). He adds that "[N]o alternative fuel now being researched generates a greater surplus or can be used more efficiently than oil. This reduction in the energy surplus differentiates the peak in global oil production from previous energy transitions" (Kaufmann, 2006:20). 65 Aside though from the near certainties that the coming energy transition has the potential to be more 'abrupt and revolutionary'84 than previous ones have been and that there is unlikely to be any fuel capable of sustaining the energy intensive lives that we lead today, little is actually known about this coming change. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly when peak oil will occur or accurately predict the hardships that it could force us to face. For example, while a more pessimistic scenario might come to pass, it is equally possible that people will react to price increases prior to peak oil by consuming less of these fuels, thereby delaying a peak, slowing the subsequent depletion of conventional fossil fuel reserves, and winning time for society to respond to peak oil more intelligently. The certainty that peak oil will occur, along with the uncertainties surrounding its timing and our ability to adapt demand a precautionary planning response aimed at increasing our resilience to whatever and whenever the consequences of peak oil will be. The application of the precautionary principle should, of course, underlie this approach. Though defined in a number of ways, essentially this principle holds that where there is a threat of serious or irreversible harm, action to avoid it should be taken despite a lack of solid proof of the need to do so on the grounds that a delay would be more detrimental to society and unfair to future generations (Jordan & O'Riordan, 1998; Tickner et al., 1998). Judging by the likelihood that peak oil will occur, our dependence on cheap fossil fuels and the reality that no substitutes for them are waiting in the wings, delaying a response to peak oil could be very damaging. It would also be unfair to future generations because by continuing our excessive consumption of these fuels we are squandering their opportunity to use oil and gas to meet many of their own essential needs. A precautionary approach to peak oil would - by the very nature of the problem - involve taking action now to (1) significantly reduce the extent to which our suburbs and cities are dependent on cheap gas and oil and, (2) to maintain their existing capacities to function on a lesser amount of more expensive fossil energy. Many of the tools, actions and policies that planners suggested as part of a planning response to peak oil could be used to do just that. For example, retaining urban and suburban rail corridors and protecting surrounding lands from incompatible uses would ensure that municipal and regional goods movement is not dependent on cars and trucks alone. Similarly, evaluating development proposals against projected energy consumption 8 4 Hirsch et al, 2005:64 66 considerations and including energy related requirements in zoning bylaws and municipal building codes could help to reduce oil and gas demand in new buildings and communities. Of course, the magnitude of demand reduction would depend on how broadly applied and stringent such rules and regulations were made to be. Ideally they would be imposed on both large scale and single lot developments, would consider both their operational and embodied energy needs, and would require reductions in demand far below those of conventional buildings. More specific strategies might be to set minimum reclaimed materials standards for all new buildings and to require the incorporation of district energy and cogeneration schemes in all new developments exceeding a certain size or number of units. Other general recommendations that planners made can also serve as a basis for developing more specific policies to be used as part of a precautionary response to peak oil. To 'renew the emphasis on the protection of agricultural lands' municipalities could decline to approve applications for the removal of local farmland from the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). In addition they could allow the transfer of development rights from non-ALR farmland on the suburban fringe to areas where more intensive development is desired. To 'build to densities that support transit' minimum density requirements could be placed on all new larger-scale residential, commercial, and institutional developments. Local planning regulations could also require that development proposals include plans for encouraging walking, cycling, and transit ridership to 'ensure that all communities are pedestrian and bicycle friendly'. An effective response to peak oil, however, cannot be built on planners' suggestions alone. This is because, for the most part, they neglect to consider how to reduce the embodied energy that we consume through imported goods and municipal services, as well as the energy demands of local industries. Their recommendations also overlook the need for a more concerted effort to change peoples' energy demanding behaviours, as well as the importance of building strong and resilient human communities that will be better able to cope with the potential consequences of peak oil. A precautionary approach would, therefore, have to be based on a more comprehensive set of policies and aim to increase our resilience to peak oil through a greater variety of means -from community engagement to community economic development to water and sewage planning to eco-industrial schemes. Some specific policies might include: requiring all new developments (regardless of size or use) to incorporate grey water recycling systems and on-site 67 storm water management techniques to reduce their demands on energy dependent municipal infrastructure; retaining existing urban and suburban industrial lands to maintain local manufacturing capacity; encouraging cooperative and co-housing developments in all neighbourhoods to support the development of strong community networks and relationships; limiting the size of retail businesses to encourage smaller and more distributed locally owned stores; and requiring industrial permit applicants to work with neighbouring companies to investigate (and implement where feasible) waste heat and energy networking opportunities. It should be kept in mind that like those suggested by planners, the handful of recommendations I've made here are preliminary. (Notice that like them, I have used the words could and might as opposed to should and can). To ensure its efficacy a precautionary response to peak oil would have to include a thorough investigation of the operational and embodied energy demands of various local development alternatives and related policies. What, for example, is the least fossil energy intensive regional settlement form? Public transportation system? Waste management model? Moreover, what changes in local and provincial legislation would be needed to put them into practice? It is outside the scope of this thesis to answer these and other similar questions in any satisfactory detail, and therefore outside of its scope to formulate and suggest a complete and reasoned set of planning tools and policies in response to peak oil. It is, however, within the scope of a precautionary approach to assess what alternative courses of action will be most successful85 at reducing our local vulnerability and increasing our resilience to a global oil and gas production peak. A precautionary approach requires that policy makers anticipate and act to avoid problems before they occur. This implies "committing current resources to investments for the future, the benefits of which may be uncertain or at worse non-existent" (Jordan & O'Riordan, 1998). Jordan and O'Riordan (1998) caution that if the adverse consequences of a given threat "turn out to be less important than predicted", the net social cost of adopting precautionary measures could be huge. However, even without the likely occurrence of peak oil there are many reasons to rethink the way we plan our regions, suburbs, and cities, and to reduce our dependence on cheap oil and natural gas. Achieving the massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to halt climate change and mitigate its own serious potential impacts is perhaps the most significant 8 5 Tickner et al, 1998 68 one. Additional rationales include improved air quality and public health, enhanced social equity and community liveability, to name only a few. Taking action now to minimize or avoid the potential threats associated with peak oil will help us to concurrently address these and other important planning goals. For each, the earlier and the greater our reduction in fossil fuel use, the better the long-term prognosis will be. Unfortunately, the precautionary principle currently "swims against the economic, scientific and democratic tides. It requires 'sacrifice' of anyone who cannot see the justification of taking careful avoidance" (Jordan & O'Riordan, 1998). Given the limited awareness of peak oil among planners in this region there is little hope that planning in the GVRD will at any time soon respond to it with a precautionary approach. In fact, before municipal and regional planners will be able to address peak oil in any way the entirety of the planning community must become more informed of the debate and more dialogue about it must take place. Appropriate venues for the dissemination of information and discussion of peak oil include planning journals and magazines, speaker series', workshops, and annual conferences published and hosted by provincial and national planning associations such as the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Planning Institute of BC. Journal issues, seminars, and conference sessions could - and should -be dedicated to a peak oil theme. What's more, because local planners cannot address this issue alone and because the significance of peak oil to society and the severity of its potential consequences are so hotly contested, it is equally important that the public and politicians also be informed of peak oil and be included in an open dialogue and debate. As Klinke and Renn (2002) write, contested views about the gravity of a given hazard and the value conflicts and divergent worldviews upon which they may be based demand communicative processes and the participation of stakeholders and decisions makers at all levels. At the local level, planners can help to raise the public's awareness of peak oil and foster its participation in the debate through community planning processes and events. Information about peak oil and its relevance to planning could also be included in municipal publications and brochures available at civic information desks. Similarly, planners can help to raise political awareness of the issue and increase the participation of local decision makers in the dialogue by incorporating information about peak oil into planning reports, discussion 8 6 This was suggested by two planners. 69 papers, and proposed plans. Interested municipal and regional planners could also target a wider political audience through presentations about the issue at annual municipal affairs conferences hosted by organizations such as the Union of British Columbian Municipalities and the 87 Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Increasing the awareness of and dialogue around peak oil among planners, politicians, and the public are critical first steps in the much needed rethinking of current local planning practice that the issue of peak oil demands. A more precautionary and energy centric planning approach is required if we are to descend gently and intelligently into a post-carbon age. That little attention has yet been paid to addressing peak oil at any level and that communities are slow to change increases the urgency of beginning to plan for this coming transition today. 4.6. Concluding remarks Since the oil crises of the 1970s planners, policy makers, and academics alike have warned of the unsustainable nature of modern Canadian cities due in part to their dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels, and have advocated the need to plan for a 'post-petroleum era' (e.g. Foley, 1978; Macdonald, 1978; Newman, 1991a). Through the lens of peak oil, this thesis revisits these decades-old concerns and appeals. Generalizing the results of this study to the entirety of municipal and regional planners in the GVRD indicates that although the local civic planning community has a limited awareness of peak oil, it nevertheless believes peak oil to be an important local planning matter. It also reveals that the vast majority agree that peak oil has the potential to impact society in myriad ways, and that all planners should be informed of the phenomena and debate. Nevertheless, planners in this region are divided over whether a global peak in conventional oil and gas production is something to which local planning should respond, and those who do support a response are undecided about just what that response should be. At the beginning of this thesis I argue that our ongoing dependence on cheap oil and gas, the likelihood that peak oil will occur, and the potential for its consequences to be dire raise many questions about the future of our cities and society - questions that planning, as a future-oriented 8 7 David Hughes of the Geological Survey of Canada is scheduled to offer a session entitled 'Peak Oil and the Future of Energy' at the 2006 Sustainable Communities National Conference and Trade Show hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM, 2005). 70 profession committed to the goals of sustainability, has a responsibility to not only ask but to help society to address. I hope that this thesis, in adding to the scant (but slowly growing) dialogue about local planning and peak oil will in some small way assist planners in this task. 71 Bibliography Abbott, J. 2005. Understanding and Managing the Unknown: The Nature of Uncertainty in Planning. 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Retrieved February 10 2005 from http://www.otcnet.org/2004/presentations/pdf/otc04_jzagar.pdf. 81 Appendices Appendix A U B C The University of British Columbia School of Community and Regional Planning Faculty of Graduate Studies #433-6333 Memorial Road Vancouver, B C , V 6 T 1Z2 A Summary of the Peak Oil Debate Peak oil was first brought to public attention in 1956 by chief Shell geologist Dr Marion King Hubbert; it was then that based on reserve estimates and the production profiles of typical American oil fields, he forecast that US continental oil production would peak between 1966 and 1972. Few people took Hubbert's predictions seriously - that is until after 1970, the year in which US crude production indeed began to fall. The debate surrounding this concept today is related to the timing, likelihood, and consequences of a global peak in conventional oil and gas production - which is understood by those who do not refute the concept outright to be the point in time when the extraction of the planet's easily accessible oil and gas resources will reach a maximum beyond which rates of production and overall reserves of these fuels will decline. According to advocates of peak oil, because oil and gas are limited by geological constraints, no amount of investment in technology or exploration can ultimately lead to ever increasing production; as a result, after passing an oil and gas extraction 'peak', barring a commensurate drop in demand, the prices of these fuels can only rise as reserves of cheap and accessible natural gas and oil deplete. Many of those who support this theory (among them academics, petroleum geologists, and oil investors) are doubtful that the peaking of global conventional oil production will be delayed beyond 2010, or that a global natural gas peak will be more than 10 years behind*. These predictions are based on conventional oil and gas reserve, discovery, extraction, and demand estimates and trends. These include that: 90% of the world's conventional oil reserves have been discovered and nearly half have been extracted from the ground; 80% of all oil produced today flows from fields discovered prior to 1973 which have for decades been in a * Gas is expected to peak 10 years after oil because less gas has so far been used. However, the world is expected to turn increasingly to gas as oil declines, and when gas itself passes its peak it is expected to decline more rapidly than oil. 82 state of decline; no new oil provinces remain to be found; on average only one barrel of oil is found for every four that are extracted today. Proponents of this side of the peak oil debate expect that following a peak in global gas and oil extraction, production rates will decline annually by 1.8% to 3% - as global demand increases at a similar rate. Rising demand, they assert, will someday outstrip supply, and oil and gas prices and the cost of everything dependent upon them will rise as the world's reserves of these cheap fossil fuels deplete. Because industrial society has been built upon these finite resources advocates foresee serious social, economic, and political consequences to an oil and gas extraction peak, particularly because no satisfactory substitutes for them are waiting in the wings. Peak oil advocates Duncan and Youngquist assert that "[I]n all human history, no substance has so changed economies, social structures, and lifestyles so rapidly, so profoundly, and affected so many people as has oil."** They and others note that industrial society, and its cities in particular, are utterly dependent on cheap oil and gas. They heat and light our homes, fuel our cars, and make possible, among other things, automobile-oriented urban forms and the import and export of industrial and consumer goods to and from both neighbouring and far-flung regions. They are the feedstock of industries, the raw materials for paints, plastics, medicines, and through their extensive use in industrial agricultural production they are to a large extent the feedstock for our foods. Their declining availability and rising price, peak oil advocates contend, may lead to inflation, recession, depression, and international tension; without cheap gas and oil, they write, Western lifestyles as we know them today are unlikely to be sustained. On the opposite side of the peak oil debate it is argued on a number of grounds that the predictions made by those who believe in peak oil are much too dire and unlikely to ever take place. Pessimistic peak oil predictions are not accurate opponents argue, because they put too much faith in geological limits and fail to take into account other key variables such as growing knowledge, technological progress, government policies, taxes, prices, infrastructure, and consumer demand. Optimistic opponents (many of whom are mainstream economists) contend that investment incentives are the primary driver of oil discovery and extraction, that price signals and the marketplace will encourage exploration and technological innovation if ever ** Duncan & Youngquist, 1999:219 83 conventional oil and gas were in declining supply. That instead of rising, oil prices have historically tended to drop is cited as evidence that the global supply of cheap oil is far from running low; based on this, a few of those who challenge the concept of peak oil argue that because lower prices in economics are generally indicative of abundance, oil supplies are in fact not growing scarce but instead are growing more abundant. Thank you for taking the time to read this summary of the peak oil debate. If you wish to investigate this topic further please refer to the resources cited below. In preparation for your upcoming interview please take a moment to consider the following questions: • Is peak oil an issue of importance to planners and planning? • Should municipal/regional planning respond to peak oil? Why or why not? • How should municipal/regional planning respond to peak oil? • What tools do you and other planners in similar positions have at your disposal to respond to peak oil? Peak oil advocate references Bentley, R . W . 2002. Viewpoint. Global oil & gas depletion: an overview. Energy Policy 30: 189-205. http://www.energycrisis.com/bentley/depletionOverview.pdf. Campbell, Col in J. & Jean H . Laherrere. 1998. The E n d of Cheap O i l . Scientific American 27'8:7'8-83. A l so available at http://www.dieoff.org/pagel40.htm. Duncan, Richard C . and Walter Youngquist. 1999. Encircling the Peak o f W o r l d O i l Production. Natural Resources Research 8:219-232. ExxonMobil . 2004. A Report on Study on Energy Trends, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Alternative Energy. http://www.exxonmobil.com/corporate/files/corporate/Energy_Brochure.pdf Ivanhoe, L . F . 1995. Future W o r l d O i l Supplies: there is a finite limit. World Oil 216:77-81. Simmons, Matthew R. 2004c. The Peak Oil Debate: Crisis or Comedy? http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/files/SPE%202004%20Annual%20Conference.pdf. Wood, John, Gary R Long , & David F Morehouse. 2004. Long-Term W o r l d O i l Supply Scenarios: The Future Is Neither as Bleak or Rosy as Some Assert, http://www.eia.doe gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/feature_articles/2004/worldoilsupply/pdf/I twos04.pdf Peak oil opponent references Adelman, M A & Michael C Lynch. 1997. Fixed view of resource limits creates undue pessimism. Oil & Gas Journal 95: 56-59. Huber, Peter & M a r k Mi l l s . 2005. Oil, oil, everywhere. http://www.digitalpowergroup.com/downloads/oil_everywhere.htm. Lynch, Michael J. 2003. Petroleum resources pessimism debunked in Hubbert model and Hubbert modelers' assessment Oil & Gas Journal 101: 38. Maugeri, Leonardo. 2004. O i l : Never Cry Wolf—why the petroleum age is far from over. Science 304:1114-1115. Also available at http://energybulletin.net/347.html. van Mourik, Maarten & Richard Shepherd. 2004. Investment incentive concerns overlooked in peak-oil debate. Oil & Gas Journal 102:18-22. Additional online sources of information about the peak oil debate include: The Association for the Study o f Peak O i l and Gas. http://www.peakoil.net/ Global Public Media, http://globalpublicmedia.com/ 84 Appendix B Are suggested tools available under existing legislation? Only some of the tools that participating planners suggested are available to local governments (municipalities or regional districts) under existing provincial legislation. They are detailed below, but briefly, include: • municipal energy audits • lower DCCs for denser, more compact and transit oriented developments • 'top of queue' processing priority for developments that are more compact and transit oriented or energy efficient • evaluating new developments and plans against energy considerations/oil and gas consumption • reducing parking requirements/implementing maximums in bylaws • including requirements for energy use, water, light, etc, in zoning bylaws and municipal building codes Suggested tools that are not currently available to them include: • density bonusing in exchange for compact and transit oriented development, energy efficiency, or developer contributions to less fossil fuel demanding transportation infrastructures • lower DCCs for energy efficient developments and developer contributions to less fossil fuel demanding transportation infrastructures • introducing tolls to reduce the number of vehicles on the road 1. Offering incentives for energy conscious and efficient developments and communities: a. Density bonusing: At present Section 904 of the Local Government Act (LGA) only allows density bonusing based on the provision of affordable or special needs housing as well as the provision and conservation of amenities (Govt of BC, 2004). While the term 'amenity' is not defined "it is generally understood to be something that enhances the desirability of a property such as a view, access to the water, underground parking, child care space, open space or an environmentally sensitive area" (Govt of BC, 1997). Though the case can be made that energy efficiency or developer contributions of, for example, car coop shares would enhance the desirability of a property, according to West Coast Environmental Law (2002) the LGA would have to be widened to allow municipalities to offer density bonuses based on energy efficient building and 'green' development practices. What's more, municipalities are not currently empowered to enforce 'green' development commitments, and may therefore be reluctant to offer density bonuses in exchange for them (WCEL, 2002). b. Top of queue processing: There is nothing in provincial planning legislation prohibiting local governments from prioritizing the processing of applications for developments that are compact and transit oriented or energy conscious in some way. 85 c. Reduced parking requirements: see #3 below d. Lower development cost charges: At present development cost charges (DCCs) may only be imposed to assist a local government to pay the capital costs of constructing, providing, altering, or expanding specific types of infrastructure including water, sewer, drainage, roads, off-street parking, and parkland (Govt of BC, 2004). DCCs cannot be based on transit servicing costs or be put towards improvements in transit services, and cannot be charged based on projected energy consumption alone. However, local governments can impose different DCCs on new developments based on floor space or the number of dwelling units, which means that they could be lower for denser, more compact and transit oriented developments as it can be argued that they would place less demand on major infrastructures like roads. Theoretically local governments could also charge lower DCCs for higher performance buildings that would reduce the demands associated with large scale infrastructures like water and sewer (Coriolis Consulting, 2003) . However, municipalities do not currently have the authority under the LGA to negotiate DCCs (to waive or lower them) for individual developments based on 'green' or energy efficient features (WCEL, 2002). Subsection 933 (1 Instates that DCCs cannot be decided on a case by case basis but must instead be pre-determined (Govt of BC, 2004) . 2. Evaluating new developments and plans against energy considerations/oil and gas consumption: There is nothing in the LGA to suggest that municipalities cannot evaluate development proposals based on energy considerations and no reason why local councils could not do the same for proposed plans. Section 920.1 of the LGA states that local governments can evaluate/approve developments based "on the anticipated impact of the proposed activity or development on the community"(Govt of BC, 2004). It lists a number of impacts regarding traffic flow, local infrastructure, and the natural environment of the area but does not limit local government's evaluations to those alone. New developments that encourage more conservative energy consumption can be argued to have the potential to impact a community more positively than those that are less energy efficient. 3. Reducing parking requirements/implementing maximums in bylaws: Under section 906 of the LGA municipalities do have the power to regulate - and therefore reduce or implement maximum - parking requirements by bylaw. They may "classify uses, buildings and other structures and differentiate and discriminate between classes with respect to the amount of space provided", exempt a class of use, building or structure from a parking requirement bylaw, and "impose different requirements for different areas and zones or different uses within a zone" (Govt of BC, 2004). 4. Including requirements for energy use, water, light, etc, in zoning bylaws and municipal building codes: According to Section 8 of the Community Charter councils may by bylaw regulate and impose requirements on buildings and other structures (Govt of BC, 2003). Local governments may also adopt energy codes voluntarily. 5. Undertaking municipal energy audits: There is nothing prohibiting local governments from undertaking their own energy audits. 86 6. Introducing tolls to reduce number of vehicles on the road: The provincial government has not delegated the power to implement road user charges to individual municipalities in the GVRD. However, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (GVTA) does have the power to apply and enforce tolls and motor vehicle charges to roads within the region's 'major road network'89 under section 29 of the GVTA Act (Govt of BC, 2005). The GVRD's board of directors - made up of appointed mayors and councillors from across the region - must approve any charges proposed by the GVTA (whose board is itself made up of 12 appointed GVRD board members and 3 provincially appointed MLAs). The province, though, retains the discretion to allow or prohibit the region's transportation authority from imposing road and vehicle related fees. The major road network consists o f key roadways that link different regions within the G V R D ( G V T A , 2004). 87 Appendix C A comparison of suggestions made for responding to peak oil and reducing urban and suburban oil and gas demand. S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y P A R T I C I P A N T S S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y O T H E R S General Directions Building liveable, compact, complete cities and communities. Building mixed-use liveable communities (Morris, 2005). General Directions Ensuring daily needs are within walking distance (Darley, 2004). General Directions Increasing community uses within 5-minute walking distance (Leeming, 2005). General Directions Defining urban growth boundaries ( S T C , 2003). General Directions Including peak oil as part of the planning dialogue. Engaging city officials and communities in a dialogue about peak oil and an energy constrained future (Bresee & Room, 2005). General Directions Engaging "other levels o f government in a dialogue on coordinated responses to peak oil" (City o f Burnaby, 2006: 15). General Directions Reducing vulnerability/increasing resilience to peak oil. 'Relocalizing' energy supplies, economic activity, and food production to reduce vulnerability (Darley 2004; Fleming, 1999;Heinberg, 2005; R o o m 2005b). General Directions Building locally-based economies and social structures that will have an advantage when oil is more expensive and in shorter supply (Morris, 2005). General Directions Localizing economies and industrial production to shorten supply lines (Fleming, 1999; Room, 2005a; S T C , 2003). General Directions Influencing fossil fuel demand through planning and design. Reducing energy consumption and auto-dependence in cities through sound planning and design (Kenworthy, 2003; Morris , 2005; Schrecker, 2001). General Directions Continuing to improve environments in inner cities and compact communities (Gilbert, 2005; Groppe, 2005) General Directions Developing strategies for urban restructuring to deal with fuel supply constraints and rising costs (Fleay, 2003). Actions & Policies Raising public awareness about peak oil and development decisions that should be made with it in mind. Raising public awareness about peak oil so that the electorate gives politicians a mandate to address the issue (Campbell, 2003). Actions & Policies Supporting the use o f and planning for alternative modes of transportation (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, public transit). Encouraging employer provision of public transport fares, bike transport expenses, and cashing our of car/parking options ( S T C , 2003). Actions & Policies Allocating 20% of urban road funding for safe and efficient transportation facilities for pedestrians and cyclists ( S T C , 2003). Actions & Policies Allocating transportation funding "on the basis of regional transport plans and inter-modal, triple bottom line project appraisal" ( S T C , 2003:5). Actions & Policies Increasing the deployment of tethered vehicles/trolleys that run on electricity (Gilbert, 2003; Post Carbon, 2003). Actions & Policies Offering free public transit or lower fares (Noland, 2005). 88 S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y P A R T I C I P A N T S S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y O T H E R S Actions & Policies Supporting the use of and planning for alternative modes of transportation (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, public transit). Prioritizing street access for pedestrians, cyclists, transit (Kenworthy, 2003). Actions & Policies Designating bus priority lanes (Noland, 2005). Actions & Policies Designing multimodal streets to support pedestrians, cyclists, transit (Kenworthy, 2003; S T C , 2003). Actions & Policies Improving public transportation/increasing service (Campbell, 2003; Kenworthy, 2003; Noland, 2005). Actions & Policies Al lowing higher densities than permitted under existing zoning. Developing location policies and targets for residential density increases ( S T C , 2003). Actions & Policies Increasing densities, compact nature of development, and infilling (McKibben , 2005; Newman, 1991b). Actions & Policies Working to improve housing affordability in transit accessible communities. N / A Actions & Policies Being proactive and leading by example/adopting own better practices and demonstration projects. Leading by example and developing/implementing civic "fleet purchasing and management policies that require use o f energy efficient vehicles and alternative fuels as the first preference" ( S T C , 2003:6). Actions & Policies Adopting local food policies to support/promote local and urban production. Relocalization of food production (Darley 2004; Fleming, 1999;Heinberg, 2005; R o o m 2005b). Actions & Policies Encouraging street markets to support local producers (Post Carbon 2005). Actions & Policies Reducing auto-dependence. Implementing demand management initiatives (Fleay 2003). Actions & Policies Promoting cooperative car networks (Post Carbon, 2003). Actions & Policies Designating carpool lanes and park-and-ride lots (Noland, 2005). Actions & Policies Implementing driving bans based on license plate scheme (Noland, 2005). Actions & Policies Ending the building of urban freeways (Fleay, 2003). Actions & Policies Integrating land use and transportation to reduce travel demand ( S T C 2003). Actions & Policies Increasing the use o f parking meters (City o f Burnaby, 2006). Actions & Policies Considering "trip reduction plans for larger new developments" (City o f Burnaby, 2006:16). Actions & Policies Implementing/supporting waste management programs. N / A Actions & Policies Increasing the focus on town centres and urban villages. Focusing on nodal development and mixed use urban villages (Newman, 1991; S T C , 2003). Actions & Policies Defining neighbourhoods with clear centres and edges (Leeming, 2005). Actions & Policies Increasing mixed-use in business parks. Increasing mixed-use development (Kenworthy 2003; S T C 2003). Actions & Policies Ensuring an adequate mix of jobs and residential within each community. Building mixed-use liveable communities (Morris, 2005). Actions & Policies Improving live/work relationships (Leeming, 2005). Actions & Policies Setting long range targets and backcasting to determine steps to achieve them. Defining future goals and casting back to establish a path to meet milestones (Bourne, 2003). 89 S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y P A R T I C I P A N T S S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y O T H E R S Actions and Policies Improving goods movement and maintaining goods movement capacity. Changing mode split in freight transport from roads to more rail ( S T C , 2003). Actions and Policies Improving use o f available containers and truck capacity ( S T C , 2003). Actions and Policies Lobbying for higher efficiency standards through provincial and municipal associations. N / A Actions and Policies Promoting/supporting home occupations. Supporting home businesses/telecommuting (Noland, 2005). Actions and Policies Renewing emphasis on protection of Agricultural Land Reserve. N / A Actions and Policies Examining implications o f ever increasing fuel costs. N / A Actions and Policies Promoting green buildings. Incorporating L E E D (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards in buildings (Leeming, 2005; Morris , 2005). Actions and Policies Undertaking contingency planning. Undertaking transportation contingency planning (Fleay, 2003). Actions and Policies Developing a contingency plan that addresses how essential fossil fuel dependent systems will function with less energy (Room, 2005b). Actions and Policies Planning for the accommodation o f new technologies and different industries that are less oil dependent N / A Actions and Policies Changing by-laws, rules and regulations that inadvertently promote auto-oriented development, tear down instead o f reuse, etc. Reviewing and addressing "taxation measures that bias modal preferences towards car commuting" ( S T C , 2003:5). Actions and Policies Changing outdated practices and rules and moving to more progressive policies that emphasize form and function over use (Morris, 2005). Actions and Policies N / A Using storm water management techniques such as reducing impervious pavement areas, capturing storm water runoff, creating stormwater corridors, using natural elements in parks (Leeming, 2005). Tools Offering incentives for energy efficient or conscious developments and communities. Providing incentives for energy efficient development (Gilbert 2003; R o o m 2005b). Tools Evaluating new developments & plans against energy considerations/oil and gas consumption. N / A Tools Reducing parking requirements or implementing maximums in bylaws or discouraging stalls. Considering revising parking standards for multi-family residential and commercial developments (City o f Burnaby, 2006). Tools Providing preferred parking for hybrid vehicles and/or hybrid access to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (City of Burnaby, 2006). Tools Reducing the amount of area devoted to parking in commercial areas (Dutzik et al., 2004). 90 S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y PARTICIPANTS S U G G E S T I O N S M A D E B Y O T H E R S Tools Including requirements for energy use, water, light, etc in zoning bylaws and municipal building codes. Implementing new building standards (Campbell, 2003) and "going beyond R-2000 to incorporate new efficiencies through orientation, solar gain and landscape design" (Leeming, 2005). Tools Mandating energy efficient design requirements (Gilbert, 2003; Room, 2005b). Tools Implementing water conservation measures such as grey water reuse in buildings and xeriscaping in communities (Leeming, 2005). Tools Applying L E E D standards to buildings, entire communities and neighbourhood scale developments (Leeming, 2005; Morris , 2005). Tools Undertaking municipal energy audits. Undertaking community-based L E E D reviews judged on location efficiency, resource efficiency, environmental preservation, and compact, complete and connected neighbourhoods (urban design) (Leeming, 2005). Tools Introducing road tolls to reduce number of vehicles on the road. Introducing road user charges ( S T C , 2003). 91 

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