In amongst the flurry about what happens in the next three weeks this news story about what happens in the next 15 years caught me eye:
Senior North Shore City transport strategist Archer Davis, speaking on behalf of Engineers for Social Responsibility, said a conservative estimate of a 4 per cent annual decline in oil supply raises the prospect of a 12 per cent contraction of New Zealand’s economy over 15 years.
Peak oil came storming forward as an immediate problem several months ago as the price of oil, and petrol soared. But one economic crisis later and it has receded from our consciousness again. We do need to be aware though that peak oil theorists have stated that a sign that peak oil is upon us is that the price of oil will fluctuate dramatically up and down, whilst in the long term winding its way inexorably upwards – and taking everything else with it. Note for instance Jeanette’s comments this morning about the role peak oil is playing in driving up inflation – Inflation is no longer just the result of economic boom-bust cycles but is driven by the fact that the world is reaching the limits of key natural resources.
Anyway Davis continues:
New Zealand could be left on even shorter rations as bilateral deals between producers and large consuming nations such as the United States and China sew up dwindling supplies.
Although the international body believed energy use could be reduced by 7 per cent by voluntary efforts, his conservative assessment was that New Zealand would need some type of rationing to achieve a 10 per cent cut by 2018.
Far more forceful measures would be needed to achieve the 20 per cent needed by 2022, requiring a lead time of about 10 years.
That was how long it had taken in the past to develop transport initiatives such as North Shore’s network of cycling paths and the Northern Busway.
Davis has a string of solutions but they require us to respond now while we have the time to make the long term investments we will need:
Mr Davis said New Zealand’s only hope was to “decouple” energy consumption from gross domestic product by using oil and other resources far more efficiently.
Urgent measures needed in transport included ending government subsidies for “personal car infrastructure”; stopping free parking; converting public transport vehicles, including buses, to electricity; converting motorway lanes to public transport; supporting car “clubs” of shared vehicle use rather than individual ownership; and focusing on the development of small mixed-use town centres, but not remote “dormitory” communities, to reduce travel needs.