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January 20, 2006

Burnaby on Peak Oil

Editor's note: This is by Gordon Price, former city councillor for Vancouver, BC, Director of the City Program for Simon Fraser University, and NEW board member.

In my 15 years on City Council in Vancouver, I read a lot of reports. Ninety percent of them were not exactly stimulating: lane pavings, grant approvals, appointment of the external auditor … all the things that keep a city going. Occasionally, a report would appear that grabbed your attention – and on a very rare occasion, would actually change your understanding of the world, or at least your city.

I’d like to say that such a report recently appeared on the agenda of the City of Vancouver. But it didn’t. It appeared in Burnaby – the municipality just to the east. And what a subject: "Global Peak in Oil Production: the Municipal Context."

For those interested in the subject, there’s not a lot that’s new in the report; it’s primarily a background piece. Even on those terms, it makes informative reading. What makes it significant, however, is that it was requested by politicians, prepared by staff and comes with the seal of government –- as far as I know, the first such report of its kind in Canada.

It’s not as dry as you might guess, what with some amusing quotes at the head of each section - "Today no one disagrees that the wolf is out there but differences in analyses and opinions as to when it will attack the sheep still prevail." It provides a Canadian perspective, and, after noting that "It is too late to panic. It is time to plan," it provides an appendix of actions that the municipality might take.

Will action follow? I haven’t heard the results of the debate, but the mere fact that a government body is opening the door to a subject that most leaders would prefer remain firmly shut off is a tangible action all on its own.

Posted by Northwest Environment Watch | Permalink


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» The curve's the thing from City Comforts, the blog
Interesting post on 'peak oil' at Cascadia Scorecard which links to a graph (in Global Peak in Oil Production: The Municipal Context) illustrating the heart of the matter: the rate at which oil production might decrease i.e. is it a cliff or a gentle s... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 25, 2006 11:29:58 AM


This is great. Roscoe Bartlett can talk all he wants on the floor of Congress, but until LOCAL politicians "get it" and start to prepare, it makes no difference.

Of course, Harper might make such talk illegal...

Posted by: Jan Steinman | Jan 20, 2006 5:31:10 PM

Thank you for posting this report. It's just a matter of time until municipalities address the implications of peak oil, and communities in BC may be taking the lead.

Below is contact information for Bryn Davidson, a Vancouver architect who has initiated a new peak oil planning process called the Dynamic Cities Project:

Bryn Davidson
Dynamic Cities Project
3079 W 10th Ave
Vancouver BC V6K-2K7
Phone: 604-267-0606
Email: info@dynamiccities.org
Web: www.dynamiccities.squarespace.com

Peak Oil Planning Files & Downloads

I hope you will continue to report on municipalities incorporating peak oil in their planning process. I hope, too, that planners will look beyond transportation and housing to address the impacts of petroleum decline on issues such as employment and hunger.

Posted by: Mark Musick | Jan 21, 2006 7:04:26 PM

Peak oil, or more precisely, the prospect of rapidly rising gasoline and natural gas prices and potential interruptions in supply are key issues to be grappled with by local governments (especially as national governments are actively working against prudent responses).

The draft Oregon Transportation Plan calls this out as a major external factor to be planned around but includes no responses as of yet. The Portland Metro Regional Transportation Plan will be updated this year and will try to provide a regional response to this issue as well as the fiscal constraints of declining public interest in investing in infrastructure.

Stay tuned. It is difficult to get even knowledgeable planners to recognize that the world changes around them and past trends mean nothing in a time of change.

Posted by: rex Burkholder | Jan 22, 2006 9:03:08 PM

It would be great if this report were picked up by the AP or Reuters and given mass circulation. It is an excellent summery of the problem.

Posted by: Don Hirschberg | Jan 24, 2006 8:07:37 PM