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Hamilton: the Electric City (local planning for PO)
Richard Gilbert, Hamilton, Ontario via IndyMedia
The City of Hamilton is engaged in a major planning exercise for the period until 2031, embracing most aspects of municipal responsibility. Questions have arisen as to how much regard the exercise should have for possible steep increases in the prices of oil and natural gas during the planning period, and what form the regard might take. This report responds to these concerns.

…The prospect of such high prices provides imperatives to reduce energy use substantially, shift energy use from fossil fuels to renewable resources, and generate as much energy as possible locally. The concerns would be for the City’s operations and for every facet of life and business in Hamilton.

Reasonable planning objectives could be to lower energy use in Hamilton by two thirds and generate most of what is used from renewable resources and waste materials. Implicit in this energy transformation would be extensive use of geothermal resources and district energy applications for heating and cooling buildings and electric traction for vehicles. Energy sources would include the widest array of renewable production of electricity, cold and hot water, steam, and biogas.

Given the likelihood of such high prices, energy use and production could become the organizing principle of the City’s strategic planning, particularly for land use, transport, and economic development. Land uses would be arranged so as to strike balances between maximizing energy production—e.g., from solar arrays— and minimizing in-building energy use and associated energy use for transport. The movement of people and goods would be guided towards use of radically less energy and towards being powered more by electricity than by fossil fuels.

In engaging in planning of various kinds, the City of Hamilton is exercising one of its principal roles: that of a community builder that seeks to sustain the economic, social, and environmental welfare of Hamilton’s residents and businesses. The City has another relevant role: providing services many of which consume fossil and other fuels. The present report also touches on how this role can be exercised in an era of energy constraints, focussing on the City’s transit system and its vehicle fleet. As well, in response to City Council’s direction, the report touches specifically on the aerotropolis proposal and on freight transport issues.

As a leader in facing future energy realities, Hamilton would be well positioned to become Canada’s research and development hub for the new energy paradigm with emphases on local power generation, electric transport, low-energy buildings, and associated information technology. The main focus would be on the use and production of electricity, to be the main fuel in the era of energy constraints.

In the 1880s, Hamilton was one of the first cities in the world to have widespread electric light—for streets, homes, and businesses. It was known as ‘The Electric City’. Hamilton could again be ‘The Electric City’, in the forefront of the transition to electric transport and new electricity generation.

This report has been written for the City of Hamilton. Richard Gilbert wrote the report helped by Julie McGuire. Al Cormier and Brian Hollingworth provided input.

Richard Gilbert is an urban issues consultant who focuses on transportation, waste management, energy systems, and urban governance, with recent or current clients in North America, Europe, and Asia…
(13 April 2006)
Long (76-page) report prepared for Hamilton, Ontario. To get an overview, see the two articles by Ryan McGreal at Raise The Hammer: Part 1 and Part 2

The Availability of Nonconventional Oil and Gas
C.J. Campbell, ODAC
…The Second Half of the Age of Oil, which now dawns, will be marked by the decline of oil, followed by gas, and all that depends upon these abundant, easy to produce, and relatively cheap sources of energy. Possibly the most serious impact will be on the supply of financial capital which has expanded rapidly over the past Century as banks lent more than they had on deposit, confident that Tomorrow’s Economic Expansion was collateral for Today’s Debt. The expansion was fuelled largely by abundant oilbased energy which is set to decline over the years ahead. This in turn has a considerable impact on future stock market movements carrying implications for pension funds and government policy generally. The transition to decline is likely to be a time of increased international tension, as consuming nations vie with each other for access to the dwindling available supplies. Furthermore, countries which are currently exporting surplus production will likely move to conserve national resources, as they come to appreciate the impact of depletion, thus exacerbating the world supply situation.

The political consequences of this unprecedented discontinuity in human history are clearly considerable. It is not however necessarily a doomsday message, as much could be done with proper planning to ameliorate the impact, even possibly leading to a more benign age. Of particular importance in this connection is the proposed Rimini Protocol, which would require importers to cut imports to match world Depletion Rate, namely annual production as a percentage of what is left. It would have the effect of reducing world prices by putting demand into balance with supply with far reaching positive consequences, allowing the poor countries to afford their minimal needs, preventing profiteering from shortage, and forcing the consumers to face reality, as imposed by Nature.

In short, there is an urgent need for governments to face up to what has become known as Peak Oil. The first step is to secure better information on the resource base itself. Removing the many veils of confusion and obfuscation would make the need for urgent action entirely selfevident. It makes sense for individual governments to move independently to secure the information and spare themselves the bland meaningless scenarios issued by international organisations subject to political pressures and outdated mindsets.

(May 2006)
Colin Campbell’s latest – a 16-page report prepared for the Office of Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry, London.

King Coal again raises his sooty scepter

Erik Curren, Augusta Free Press
With high gas prices and the coming of Peak Oil, coal is making a big comeback these days. The industry says that it’s not a question of whether we’ll use coal – we’ll need the energy – but how we’ll use coal.

Environmentalists disagree. They say that coal is the dirtiest energy source, emitting far more greenhouse gases than natural gas or even oil. Burning coal would speed up dangerous global warming.

But the industry says they’ve figured out a way to get rid of coal’s traditional pollution – “clean coal.”

…Our apathy has made it easier for mining companies to perpetrate outrages against people and the environment in West Virginia that Americans would not tolerate anywhere else. Yet, the plight of our neighboring state affects us all as the Age of Oil comes to an end and King Coal rises.

First, if mining companies can get away with flouting environmental regulations in Appalachia, they will try to do so elsewhere. That means any place in America with coal, or indeed any natural resource that can be removed for profit, may face a similar fate.

Second, with Peak Oil here and oil supplies beginning their irreversible decline, America and the world are certain to look to coal to fill the gap between dwindling energy supplies and rising demand. Coal is attractive because it can be easily extracted – especially using mountaintop removal – and America has plenty of it, with some estimates putting our supply at 200 years or more under current rates of use. “The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal,” an industry exec told The New York Times in April.

…”Making coal clean is an oxymoron,” Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth, based in Washington, D.C., told me. Whatever the industry claims they can do to eliminate coal’s pollution, “the problem is that the regulations aren’t in place to regulate carbon sequestration and other waste streams. A lot of this is just talk to put a green veneer over a really dirty energy source.”

…The industry may be right that if demand for electricity continues to rise, America cannot do without coal. Truly practical clean energy sources like solar and wind can supply power on a small scale in the future, but energy analysts agree that no combination of clean energy sources can replace coal within the next decade as a source of electricity if demand rises as they predict.

So that just leaves us with coal, clean or dirty. Unless, of course, we take the option that the industry hardly ever discusses. That’s the conservation option: Instead of trying to replace supply, we should simply reduce demand.

Conservation is America’s secret weapon, if only we would use it. It worked in the ’70s, and it can work again.
(21 May 2006)

Peak Oil Taxonomy: the Doombat

Robert McLeod, Entropy Production
It’s become pretty clear to me that technology is not the limiting factor in determining how civilization deals with peak oil as a phenomenon. How culture adapts to the increasing rarity of its favourite fungible energy resource has more to due with sociology than technology or geology. While we can’t say anything about the reactions of the vast majority of citizens that aren’t even aware of the concept, I think it would be interesting to build a graph of the taxonomy of peak oil blogosphere denizens. After all, what better way to offend a bushel of people than to arbitrarily histogram them and make specious claims about the composition of each bin?

There are four major sub-denizen groups in the peak oil blogosphere:

1. Corncucopians
2. Traditionalists
3. Technopeakers
4. Doomers
(13 May 2006)
What group do you fall into? All groups are equally satirized. McLeod also wrote: Five Stages of Peak Oil.