Peak Oil And US Cities' Efforts To Reduce Oil Dependence

Posted Mar 7, 2008 by Angelique van Engelen
Policymakers begin to pay attention to peak oil doomsayers. But actual large scale programs to cut back oil dependence are still few and far between. In the US, the city of Oakland is the first to implement a program to cut back on oil use.
Last week Oakland held a progress meeting. The city is a brilliant example of policy makers not responding to a crisis (something policy makers tend to be good for), but to foresee one. It is not a common approach, but it's an example of policymakers paying attention to scientists' gloomy predictions.
At country level, only one nation has pledged to become vastly less oil dependent; Sweden is determined to slash oil consumption in half by 2020. The leaders of the city of Oakland say they were inspired by the Swedish example when they launched their Oil Independent Oakland By 2020 Task Force at the end of 2006.
Last week a progress meeting was held on the Task Force’s achievements to reduce oil use 25% in ten years (3% annually). You can read all about it here. Oakland hopes to become a model for other cities. Not surprisingly, the city's leaders say that there is a distinct lack of guidance on the part of the policy makers at Federal level on sustainable energy policy issues. An organisation that aims to fill this gap is the OilDepletionProtocol. Private persons and communities can sign up and Oakland became the US first city signatory.
A very obvious yet persistent anomaly in oil circles is the belief that higher oil prices simply solve the problem of oil shortage. People who believe this argue that higher prices simply finance looking for oil in places that had been bypassed in earlier years because of the costs involved. “Energy isn’t like other commodities. At some stage it will take more than a barrel of oil’s worth of energy to drill for a barrel of oil, so the job won’t be worth doing however high the oil price - not in my back garden or underneath the ocean or in Canada’s tar sands”, retorts a blogger published in the UK newspaper The Times. He has a point.
A book/website entitled How Green Is Your City is also a good resource on the status of play. It ranks 50 US cities in terms of sustainability, reviewing each of the cities on 15 sustainability factors. It was first published in June 2007 and is frequently updated. Currenly, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle form the top three. Oakland ranks fifth.
bio: Angelique van Engelen writes AmplifiedGreen, a blog about micro green issues, macro perspectives.