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BC Ministry Official States that Peak Oil is Not a Matter of Public Interest

A representative of the BC Ministry of Transportation recently asserted, “the topic of peak oil is interesting, but is not considered to be of public interest in British Columbia”.

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As many of my readers know, I have been attempting to gain information about Peak Oil from the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. My main concern is whether or not they have a plan to respond to the threat of Peak Oil on their infrastructure and transportation in general. This request has been ongoing for months, with the latest argument from the ministry being that the topic of peak oil is “interesting”, but not in their opinion, considered to be “of public interest in British Columbia”. This came as a result of my request for the fees for the search and production of these documents to be waived – the fees totaled an estimated $805.

As you may imagine I’d suggest that this global issue, is of particular interest to British Columbia, and especially the impacts of this phenomenon on the availability of fuel for transportation, which, you guessed it, would be the responsibility and mandate of the Ministry in question.

The following snippets from articles show that there is interest current, particularly with the release of Jeff Rubin, former CIBC Chief Economist’s book, “Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization“, as well as interest from municipalities and other bodies in British Columbia and in Provincial and National Newspapers.

I’m will be sending some of these quotes to the ministry to dispute their assertion that Peak Oil is not a matter of Public Interest. As a matter of interest to my readers, the conversation also discussed the fact that there were really only three documents that appeared to be really relevant to my request within all of the Ministry’s files, a powerpoint presentation, a consultants report that mentions it and a briefing paper. The proposed fee was reduced to  $255 to produce these files rather than the 1000 pages first considered relevant.

There are lots of links below, let me know if there are more links I should include.

And so, as part of the advertising for this, they [Chevron] have a letter from their CEO, which opens with the following words: “Energy will be one of the defining issues of this century. One thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over. What we all do next will determine how well we meet the energy needs of the entire world in this century and beyond.”

Source: Burnaby (BC) engineer and planner Stuart Ramsey on addressing climate change and peak oil | Post Carbon Cities

This Friday (June 5) the former chief economist for CIBC World Markets will address the Vancouver Board of Trade at a luncheon at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre.

He will speak about his book, Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization (Random House Canada).

The Board of Trade’s June 3 press release, sent out by communications director Terry Hadley, describes Rubin as a “Controversial bestselling author & economist”.

A May 22 Board of Trade release described Rubin as an “economist and world-renowned energy expert” who will speak at an “exclusive engagement” on the only West Coast stop of his book tour.
Rubin is “controversial” because he dares to talk about peak oil.

That’s the phenomenon whereby global oil production is expected to peak and then go into inexorable decline. As it does this, prices will skyrocket.

Source: Talking about peak oil makes Jeff Rubin “controversial” | Straight.com

Join us live on Thursday, May 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. ET as former CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin takes your questions on oil and the economy.

His latest book Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization
tackles the link between the latest recession and oil.

Source: CBC – Live discussion: Jeff Rubin on peak oil and the economy

“You never know you’re at peak until after the fact,” says Jeff Rubin, chief economist of CIBC World Markets.
But with 18 months behind him, Rubin is increasingly convinced the days of easy, plentiful oil are gone. Even if December data show record production in the fourth quarter of 2007, there’s growing consensus that, at the very least, oil supply has reached a plateau.
“I just don’t think we’re going to see increases in conventional oil production any more,” Rubin says. “I think (peak oil) is here.”
So do citizens of a local group called Post Carbon Toronto, created in 2004 to “learn about peak oil and its consequences.”

The group holds a public meeting every month, and has for more than three years, to discuss what the city and country can do to avoid the local impact of what they believe is a certain global energy crisis.

Their concern is understandable. Peak-oil theory suggests that once we’ve passed peak production, rising demand combined with declining output will cause oil prices to soar, perhaps dramatically as the potential for conflict escalates in many oil-producing countries.

Daniel Lerch, author of Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty, says knowing the exact date of peak oil isn’t what’s important.

“What matters is that oil prices will become volatile and progressively higher when demand increases and supply can’t keep up.”

If panic sets in, many contend the situation will spark a global depression.

Only those regions that wean themselves substantially from fossil fuels, by switching to emission-free energy resources such as renewables and nuclear, will be able to weather the economic storm.

Source: TheStar.com | Business | Is oil supply at its peak?

This next one is how I’m feeling at the moment…

At some point, the message that Jeff Rubin wanted to give began to diverge from the message he was expected to deliver as CIBC’s chief economist.

You could see it in his research reports over the past 18 months – talk about the urgent need for energy conservation, the inevitability of carbon pricing, oil at $225 (U.S.) a barrel by 2012, and how the high cost of transportation as a result of peak oil will throw the machinery of globalization into reverse.

His conclusions were frequently controversial and certainly unconventional, particularly in a country so dependent on the global trade of its oil and other natural resources.

Source: TheStar.com | Business | A maverick’s message on oil

While he offers a nod to climate change, peak oil—or more precisely, peak energy—is at the heart of his argument. Holmgren summarizes the growing case that the world has reached or will soon reach maximum oil output. More controversially, he argues that production of natural gas will peak within the next couple years, with coal’s peak likely to follow around 2015.

Source: Rethinking the Future — In These Times

The end of cheap oil is confronting society just as it’s grappling with climate change which will make adaptation more daunting. After all, if climate change weren’t a problem, we could turn to coal — not an option when greenhouse-gas cuts have been mandated by an international protocol.

And so, “the age of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad is coming to an end,” declares New York author James Kunstler in The End of Suburbia, Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream, a documentary film produced in 2004 and being shown tonight in Vancouver.

Transport is fuelled 95 per cent by oil. And it’s not just California lettuce that may not be viable. The North American way of life is on the chopping block.

Source: ‘Peak oil’ crisis, and drastic change, coming our way – Vancouver Sun

Even the City of Vancouver has discussed Peak Oil!

Mayor Gregor Robertson and Coun. Andrea Reimer are promising they will make Vancouver ready for peak oil.

“We have to address peak oil,” Robertson told the Georgia Straight at City Hall. “That’s a hard reality.…I think it could end up compounding the looming challenges we face with oil supply and an economy that’s totally dependent on cheap energy right now.”

Source: Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson promises action on peak oil | Straight.com

Jeff Rubin, who until two months ago was the chief economist and strategist at investment bank CIBC World Markets, argues that the days of cheap oil are over, making the global economy unsustainable and turning back the clock on the way we live.

“Everything we have taken for granted is about to change,”

Source: Looming oil shock means globalization’s end: author | Reuters

Yet oil, the elixir of growth and Viagra for the species, has left Canadians fat, lazy and flummoxed. We can’t imagine a world, as writer Ronald Wright puts it, without “speed, mobility, headlong economic growth and an array of dazzling consumer goods.” Oil removes the toil.

Source: Canada’s reckless carbon habit – The Globe and Mail

Here’s the upshot: if you plan to drive a car or heat a house or light a room in 2030, The Talk is telling you your options will be limited, to say the least. Even if you’re convinced climate change is UN-sponsored hysteria or every last puff of greenhouse gas will soon be buried forever a mile underground or ducks look their best choking on tar sands tailings, Dave Hughes is saying your way of life is over. Not because of the clouds of smoke, you understand, but because we’re running out of what makes them.

Source: Walrus Magazine » Energy Crisis 2009: An Inconvenient Talk

The best chapters of his book, however, are its extrapolations of what the world of higher oil prices will look like. Distance costs money – and the higher the price of fuel, the more distance becomes a barrier.

This means that expensive oil will make our world smaller in many ways: cities will have to become more compact so that people use their cars less; consumers will have to buy more locally produced goods instead of exported ones. As a result, says Rubin, globalisation, “a fancy word for moving your factory to the cheapest labour market in the world”, could go into reverse.

For countries that rely on long-distance exports, this will threaten their prosperity. For western manufacturers
fighting to compete with cheap Chinese imports, it would be welcome. For the world as a whole, however, growth will be slower, as the power of comparative advantage – countries concentrating on what they do best – is blunted.

Source: FT.com / Books / Non-Fiction – Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller

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.”:

“We are heading for a peak in global oil production. The timing is uncertain, but it appears to be relatively soon. Estimates of the impact of peak oil on global society range from the moderate to the catastrophic. While the scale is difficult to judge, the sectors are easier to identify. Figure 6 illustrates the uses that oil is put to in the U.S., which dominates the North American market. Two-thirds of oil is used for transportation, and much of the remainder is used as ingredients in manufactured products ranging from food to fabrics.”

The nature and magnitude of this issue will involve every level of government. Possible interests include:

  • Federal: national-level policies and international action and commitments. Develop policies and strategies that allow us to “decouple” economic growth from energy consumption. Create national awareness program. Conduct and disseminate research. Influence corporate and consumer decision-making through tax policies.
  • Provincial: primary responsibility for energy. Constructor of new highway capacity that may no longer be needed, potentially funded by toll revenues that may not live up to expectations. Responsible for protecting agricultural land.
  • Regional: TransLink may find that demand for its services escalates, at the same time that revenues from the gasoline tax decline and operating (fuel) costs rise. The Greater Vancouver Regional District has a role in air quality, as well as owning the Waste-to-Energy Facility in the Big Bend.
  • Municipal: defining the shape and character of our cities, and the resultant energy that is expended on transportation and heating.

Source: Cascadia Scorecard Weblog: Burnaby on Peak Oil

North American cities had better start adapting to a future characterized by climate change and depleting oil. Fewer parking lots. More condominiums. No more big highway upgrades. No further airport expansion. Emergency response and health care systems that can respond to the potential impacts of global warming and energy shocks.

The future is here, declares Bryn Davidson, a Vancouver engineer and architect who, with fellow planners Jonathan Frantz and Tom Lancaster, established the Dynamic Cities Project in 2005.

The project is a non-profit organization aimed at jolting designers and planners out of a torpor that has them carrying out business as usual.

To date, only the municipality of Burnaby has done any formal analysis of trends that are starting to hit North America.

Source: Vancouver needs to plan for a post-oil world — now

We were the only party to propose innovative solutions to deep-rooted social and economic problems and their underlying causes and were widely recognized by media, pundits and the public for doing so. Of fundamental importance, these solutions are essential for real action on climate change, preparing for peak-oil and over population the critical moral and ethical issues of our time.

Source: Post-Election message from Jane Sterk | Green Party of BC

The environmental costs of flying or ferrying to work—as against the vision of the Metro Vancouver Liveable Region Strategic Plan, which promotes compact communities—are obvious. Anthony Perl, the director of Simon Fraser University’s urban studies program, called the growth in supercommuting a “self-correcting problem”, as fuel costs will soon crunch the lifestyles of even the most flush among the suit-and-tie set.

Source: Vancouver’s long commuters face problems of peak oil | Straight.com

The concept of Peak Oil is developing quite a political following. It is the idea that we have reached or will soon reach the point at which half of all the easily extractable oil and gas around the globe has been consumed. Although the pumps will not suddenly run dry, the cost of the remaining oil, both in money and effort, will continue to escalate, with unforeseeable impacts on the American and global economies.

Source: 50 Things You Can Do To Get Ready For Peak Oil | Watershed Sentinel – Environmental News from British Columbia, and the world!

How will we get to the grocery store if there is no gas to fill our tanks? How will the grocery stores stock the shelves with tomatoes in February if food cannot be trucked in from California? How will we heat our homes if there is not enough natural gas to meet demand? These are difficult questions to ask, but it is time to start thinking about them if we are to prepare for coming fossil fuel energy shortages. Experts tell us that we may be approaching “peak oil”, which refers to the point at which oil availability will start to decline (Heinberg 2004). The same is being said for natural gas in Canada (Darley 2004).

Source: Peak Oil: Transforming the Way We Live

I’ve got until the 10th of June to respond, if you have any suggestions, let me know. At the moment these links are feeling a little disorganized, I might group all the ones about Jeff Rubin together or something.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

3 thoughts on “BC Ministry Official States that Peak Oil is Not a Matter of Public Interest

  1. Did they give any explanation why the amount of information being requested dropped by more than half?

    There’s also the Vancouver Peak Oil group – http://vancouverpeakoil.org/vpoe/ Nothing currently listed for events, but they may be able to steer you toward other evidence that the public IS interested.

    Adam

  2. Perhaps we could write letters thereby demonstrating “public interest in British Columbia”?
    Who would we address letters to?

    1. I have mostly been in contact with Elizabeth Horn, an Information Access and Privacy Analyst for the Ministry of Transportation. However, if this is the sticking point, and to me this is the real news story here, perhaps our MLAs could help? I’ve drafted a letter to our MLA and the Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure – might send it later today.

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