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Peak oil task force in Portland releases report

Portland, Ore. – The Portland Peak Oil Task Force, a twelve member citizen committee appointed by Portland’s City Council in May 2006, today delivered a strongly worded report advising that the City accelerate efforts to curb the use of oil and natural gas.

The report’s key recommendation is that the City take action to reduce fossil fuel use by half over the next 25 years. The report finds the best path to this goal is in accelerating current initiatives such as high-density planning and zoning, public transportation and acquiring electricity from renewable resources. Additional recommendations suggest specific actions elected officials can take to move towards the goals.

“This is an achievable imperative,” said Task Force chairman Bill Scott, General Manager for Flexcar Portland, a car sharing company. “Rising energy prices are likely to force major change in any case. Portland has an economic stake in getting ahead of those price signals.”

The Task Force found that actions such as increasing housing density and fortifying our mass transit system will be much less expensive to achieve now than they will in ten, twenty or forty years, when materials and transportation costs will be much higher.

“This report represents many months of work by a dedicated group of citizens,” said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “It makes clear that those most affected by increasing fuel costs and fluctuations in supply will be our most vulnerable citizens. The Task Force has sent us a clear signal about the growing costs of our energy dependency, while also pointing out practical solutions.”

“However well Portland succeeds in its energy transition, it will not be able to isolate itself from global energy crises or the resulting economic implications,” the report states. “The Task Force sees the potential for profound economic hardship and high levels of unemployment, and it recommends having plans in place to adapt social and economic support systems accordingly … contingency plans are needed for fuel shortages that may last for several weeks, well beyond the time considered in existing emergency plans.”

City Council adopts peak oil preparedness resolution

At the meeting today, Council also adopted a resolution establishing the goal of reducing fossil fuel use by half, and directing city bureaus to incorporate the goal into both internal operations and programs and policies addressing planning guidelines, building energy use and transportation systems.

“The Peak Oil Task Force report underscores the need to accelerate our efforts,” said Susan Anderson, director of the Office of Sustainable Development. “All of the recommended actions also help the City meet other established community goals such as clean air and water, livability, carbon dioxide reductions and economic growth.”

The Task Force found that Portland residents, businesses and institutions spend more than $650 million for gasoline and natural gas each year. Most of this sum leaves the community, while investments in public transportation infrastructure, energy efficiency and dense urban housing create jobs and keep dollars in local circulation.

Portland has long been known for early action on related issues. The City was the first in the U.S. to adopt a comprehensive Global Warming Action Plan, in 1993, and is known for its dense, walkable urban neighborhoods, high number of green buildings, efficient mass transit and hundreds of miles of bike lanes and bike routes.

Recent City actions that will help Portland meet the goal laid out by the Peak Oil Task Force include a pending agreement to purchase 100 percent of municipal electricity from wind power; participation in transportation initiatives such as Plug In Partners, a national effort to increase the purchase of hybrid electric fleet vehicles; and Solar Now! a campaign to double the number of solar energy systems installed on Portland homes and businesses.

“It is not enough for the City to commit to this goal,” said Scott. “Citizens and business owners also will need to step up. Weatherizing your home and finding ways to drive less or use a more fuel efficient vehicle are the first steps.”

Interested citizens can learn more about peak oil and what they can do through Portland Peak Oil, a grassroots group dedicated to developing strategies for responding to peak oil.

Information is available at www.portlandpeakoil.org. The group meets Wednesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the dining hall at St. Francis Church, 1182 SE Pine in southeast Portland.

For more information and to download a copy of the Executive Summary and full report of the Peak Oil Task Force, please visit www.portlandonline.com/osd/index.cfm?c=42894.

Editorial Notes: Press release from the City of Portland. -BA

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