Bloomington, IN – On December 2, 2009, the Bloomington City Council overwhelmingly approved the report of the Bloomington Peak Oil Task Force entitled Redefining Prosperity: Energy Descent and Community Resilience (PDF 13.36 MB). The report is the product of a seven-member task force and outlines the community’s vulnerability to a decline in cheap oil and proposes numerous mitigation strategies.

The report is premised on the fact that oil infuses just about every aspect of our lives. We rely on cheap oil for necessities such as transportation, food and electricity. However, oil is a non-renewable resource. It is widely acknowledged that the world has reached, or will soon reach, the point at which oil production is at its maximum, or peak. Once the world reaches peak oil production, we will not run out of oil but we will run short of oil. At that point, the price of oil will become more volatile. Given the systemic nature of oil, a decline in the availability of cheap oil will have implications for all aspects of society.

The City of Bloomington formally recognized the peak of world petroleum production via a resolution passed in 2006. In 2007, the City translated that recognition into action with the creation of the Bloomington Peak Oil Task Force. Since March 2008, the Task Force has met bi-weekly to fulfill its charge. The result is a 250-page report focusing primarily on the following community systems: the economic context, municipal services, land use, transportation, housing and sustenance.

The Task Force maintains that it is likely that world oil production peaked in July 2008. Because peak has already occurred, Task Force Chair and City Councilmember Dave Rollo counsels that “Adaptation will require time, and we find that our society is very late in responding to this threat. We need to think through ways to power down our community without delay.”

To prepare for peak oil in a robust way, the Task Force calls for a reduction in community oil consumption by 5 percent per year in an effort to realize a 50 percent decrease in consumption in just 14 years. Toward that end, the Task Force offers many possible strategies, which include:

  • Explore new energy sources, greater efficiencies and conservation opportunities for the following energy-intensive municipal services: water and wastewater treatment; law enforcement and fire protection; heating and cooling municipal buildings; and trash removal and recycling. Immediate attention should be given to off-grid water production to meet minimum community needs.
  • Promote economic relocalization. Our community’s reliance on a steady supply of inexpensive goods from as far as halfway around the world makes us vulnerable to a decline in inexpensive oil and/or shortages. Producing and processing more goods within the community fosters greater security in a post-peak world while strengthening the local economy.
  • Recognize the need for, and the inevitability of, a steady state economy – one that is not predicated on ever-greater amounts of energy and materials throughput, but recognizes the limits of the biosphere.
  • Intensify the City’s emerging focus on form-based development, so that residents can easily live within walking distance of daily needs, such as grocery stores, schools and pharmacies.
  • Increase home energy conservation and aim to retrofit 5 percent of housing per year.
  • Establish community cooperative rideshare programs.
  • Advocate for greater local, state and federal funding for public transit.
  • Accelerate local food production by training more urban farmers and removing legal, institutional and cultural barriers to farming within the city.
  • Plant edible landscapes throughout the city.

As spelled out in the advisory report, the Task Force’s vision for a post-peak Bloomington is one wherein, “most residents live within walking distance of daily needs; most of the food required to feed residents is grown within Monroe County; residents can easily and conveniently get where they need to go on bike, foot or public transit; most of the community’s housing stock is retrofit for energy efficiency; and local government provides high-quality services to its residents while using less fossil fuel energy.”

The Task Force points out that peak oil presents our community with some very serious challenges. Indeed, Rollo states that “the risk entailed in doing nothing until problems arise is too great to ignore. If we wait until shortages arise, we will surely have much more difficulty in adapting to oil scarcity. ” However, according to the report, peak oil also “presents us with an opportunity to make a great community even better.”

“The volunteer citizen-driven report is a remarkable document, which reflects opportunities we have to protect and promote our community’s sustainability,” Mayor Mark Kruzan said. “The City Administration sees the task force report as a blueprint for the Sustainability Coordinator’s role within City government and the larger community.”

Redefining Prosperity is available in PDF format at http://bloomington.in.gov/peakoil.

For more information about the report, please contact the Council Office at 349-3409.