Peak oil to drive changes in Dunedin

Dr Susan Krumdieck
Dr Susan Krumdieck
Dunedin residents will face radical cuts to car use and fundamental changes in the city's design when peak oil hits in the next few decades, says the writer of a report on the city's reliance on fossil fuels.

With 95% of all trips in Dunedin made in private vehicles, changing such behaviour has been identified as the most effective way of lessening demand for fuel in Dunedin.

"Urban villages" and inner city living will need to replace the system of travelling from suburbs to the city for shopping.

"What we are saying is not opinion," University of Canterbury Associate Prof Dr Susan Krumdieck said of peak oil.

The changes, with their wide-ranging effects on every city resident, were vital, she said yesterday.

Dr Krumdieck's report Peak Oil Vulnerability: Assessment for Dunedin was released at a Dunedin City Council press conference yesterday.

Peak oil is the point when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.

The report said analyses of the world's oil supply showed a 50% reduction in oil production was likely by 2050.

Commissioned by the previous council, Dr Krumdieck's work follows a report on climate change released in April by University of Otago emeritus professor of geography Blair Fitzharris.

Mayor Dave Cull said yesterday both reports would be used across departments to guide long-term planning.

Dr Krumdieck, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, was assisted by Dr Bob Lloyd, from the University of Otago, who provided background research on economic conditions. 

While the goal of cutting consumption by 50% was a challenge, Dr Krumdieck said the issue was a problem only "if you can't start thinking and moving forward".

The surveys showed in the case of only 40% of car trips were there no alternatives, such as walking, biking or public transport.

That figure could move closer to 90%-100% if residents could choose the "optimum location" for their needs.

Shopping trips constituted the highest number of car trips for residents, and central-city and waterfront apartments would have the advantage of being close to the higher density of shopping outlets in the city.

For suburban areas, urban villages would provide shopping, education, medical and other services within suburbs, similar to the historical model before the closure of suburban shopping areas.

The villages would also be a hub for a better public transport system.

The city is expected to benefit from its history as a tramway and cable car centre, with the "skeleton" of that history still in place.

Dr Krumdieck said the council needed to take a lead role in urban design and planning.

It also needed to take a role in encouraging high-efficiency vehicles, and prepare for an "influx of scooters" that met safety, emission and noise standards.

The council needed to make sure traffic engineering developed safe infrastructure for walking and cycling, including 100km of dedicated cycleways.

Dr Krumdieck said technological advances in electric-powered vehicles and biofuels would not result in a fleet of vehicles that would fix the problem.

Hybrid cars "look like the answer", but were not because they could not achieve the levels of consumption savings needed.

"Dunedin has to get past the distraction of promising-sounding alternatives or substitutes, and start working on the transition to a low-energy transport system and urban form."

Mr Cull said a move to the CBD could happen naturally as petrol prices rose.

As the shape of the city was determined by cheap oil, it would be remoulded by more expensive oil.

What 'peak oil' means


The thing about seeing 'peak oil' is not that we're running out - at least not right now. It's more that we've used about half of it. There's not an infinite amount of oil under the ground .
The problems are political, technical and social - we've already gotten at the easy oil, what's left is likely to be in expensive, hard to get to places. Countries that have grown wealthy because the oil flows, will start to suffer as the wells dry up and will want to get more for what they have left. People will hoard and profiteer and try and make what they have last longer. And the demand is still increasing as places like China and India develop and join the world's economy.
The big issue around 'peak oil' is that some or all of these things combined, all of them quite understandable, are going to mean that the amount of oil being pumped each year will start to decrease and we, the end users, will be paying far, far more for the second half of the world's oil than we ever paid for the first half.
What I think we will see are alternatives, born of necessity - hydrogen, electrical etc... all technologies that are possible today but not very economic. As the cost of oil rises they will come into their own.


Climate change

Sorry mate. 2010 was the hottest year on record globally. Considering the West made all its money on the backs of the Eastern bloc, a bit of redistribution's probably fair, but it's the West (except US) that's most concerned so that doesn't figure.
But the good news is that the hole in the Ozone layer overhead has shrunk due to abolition of CFC's some years ago, so taking action does work, despite the sceptics. It's like standing on the road saying the cars will never hit you. Make an awful mess if they do. Why risk it when you can step back on the footpath. The chance is still there that one will bounce off the road and get you but the odds are a helluva lot better. We'll know when we get there, but I wouldn't like to be you if you're wrong. On the other hand, if I'm wrong the worst that can happen is a cleaner world.

High school physics

The greenhouse effect, as it was originally called before the issue became the pseudo-debate and political debacle that it has been made into, and the fact that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere is going to increase the amount of the earth's thermal blackbody radiation retained by the atmosphere, is a simple matter of high school physics.
The same physics that makes your computer work, and governs the way your car bounces along an unsealed road also predicts that increasing ppCO2 will increase the amount of IR radiation absorbed by the atmosphere and stored as thermal energy.
The proof of the pudding is in the NIR calibration curves chemists use for spectroscopy.
What happens to the extra CO2 in the atmosphere, and as a result of the increase in stored thermal energy is the only real question.

Not a naysayer but a realist.

Iran want Middle East power.
Russia and other countries have already offered enriched uranium for research and electricity generation but Iran wants to do that themselves.
Their regime has stated openly that given the chance they will take on all and any infidels.
The price of things going up is as much to do with stupid economic policy (QE2 in the USA for one) causing inflation as much as fuel prices.
Global Warming (that's what climate change was called before people realised that things aren't that hot) is as much to do with re-distribution of wealth from the West to other countries as anything else, as admitted by Ottmar Edenhoffer, UN IPCC Official way back on 18 November. 
I'm constantly upgrading my information, have been since before Climate Gate, that predates Wikileaks I think.

Fuel price can be mitigated

I agree that price will probably be the biggest impact of fuel usage, more so than scarcity.
The ETS, GST and a few other charges have pushed the price up too.
A lot of our cost of fuel is in tax and charges as per this site
When you last bought petrol, 59.129 cents per litre was collected by the government as taxes, duties and levies, made up of:
48.524 cents - National Land Transport Fund
9.90 cents - ACC Motor Vehicle Account
0.66 cents - Local Authorities Fuel Tax
0.045 cents - Petroleum or Engine Fuels Monitoring Levy
In addition, GST is collected on the overall price of fuel, which amounts to a 7.7 cents per litre "tax on taxes".
There are no taxes on diesel other than GST. Instead, diesel vehicles pay Road User Charges. All fuels also pay an Emissions Trading Scheme charge (approximately 3 cents per litre).
The problem with removing this easy source of revenue is that the way our governments are so free and easy with spending, they will want to replace that revenue rather than cut spending elsewhere, so fat chance of any savings there.

It amazes me

It amazes me that people are capable of reducing this most serious of issues to matters of whether it is preferable to live in the inner-city, as opposed to the suburbs. It goes way beyond that simplistic sort of thinking. The structure of the earth allowed for the extraction of minerals, which represented, in effect energy locked away below its surface. Those energy sources, will never be replaced at a rate which equals their rate of depletion.
Hydrocarbons, the petroleum products, were, initially, the easiest to extract, and mankind has been getting-by on the 'quick-fix' of their consumption, for more than a century. Alternative energy sources, which many of your contributors assume will be next in line for exploitation, become more difficult to extract on a sharply rising scale, and in fact, their production may well call for the expenditure of more energy than the fuels provide. Lignite is most likely a case-in-point, and the most efficient use of that resource might well be its conversion into products other than motor fuel.
The one ray of hope, literally, is that the unlimited power of the sun may be put to some direct use, to enable replenishment of energy resources at a rate closer to that of their consumption. Which is why the photo-voltaic energy industry, already features major players, such a BP of green service-station fame. At least, they are having a 'bob-each-way' on energy consumption, which, perhaps, illustrates where they see their own industry heading in the foreseeable future.


The problem with nay-sayers of Peak Oil (as well as climate change) is that they haven't taken the trouble to investigate the issue themselves and thus educate themselves. Listening to hear-say in either direction is dangerous. People need to become proactive in upgrading their information base about what is happening to the world both politically and environmentally. I did this several years ago and got a shock. Ask yourselves: why would Iran, with all the oil they have really be wanting nukes? Not to blast Israel. They could get someone else to do that easy enough. No, they know they have less oil than they had and need an alternative.
Ask yourself, why costs of everything are going up. Price of petrol affects everything from manufacturing to transportation. Market forces that we are all so fond of dictate that scarcity drives prices up, as does difficulty with processing. Getting oil from the Middle east is getting harder and harder. Why? Because they haven't had enough to meet US demands for greater production for years.


Peak Oil challenges

Despite the seriousness of these topics, they really do seem to bring out the most wilfully blind of our society.
@commonsense: inner-city living was one choice, and Dunedin can do it. I have lived in the city and found it a great place to be. And the village-aspect which the article talks about can allow for appreciation of our landscapes.
@waynewhoever: so if you hear something consistently for a long time then it means it's unlikely to be true?
@house: yip, all the scientists hate you and hate freedom. 
I don't mean to make presumptions but you guys really need to think about whether it is appropriate for you to be so certain of you're ideas (which you more-or-less make up) and can challenge these people who spend around a decade at uni and dedicate their lives to these topics. Pardon me, but I think I'll go with the experts. Just because you don't like what they're saying, doesn't mean it's not true.

Peak Oil ramifications

Of course the ramifications of Peak Oil go way beyond transport options and living arrangements.
Ongoing global economic growth is dependent on increasing global energy supply, and if we can't do that - then the prognosis, whether we like it or not, is for the world to face economic contraction for the forseeable future.
Since entities that take on debt rely on future economic growth to pay off that debt, then it is not a good idea right now to take on excessive debt - otherwise you are in for big problems.
Fortunately, Dunedin, as a clever Peak Oil-aware city, would realise this and wouldn't take on huge debt for sports stadia etc.... Oh, hang on.

Not anti but common sense

For me, peak oil is not about running out but about the cost of the product. While of course new oil fields will be found and new technologies invented, the issue is what these will cost.
When we came to Dunedin in 1997 we bought on the peninsula and diesel for our 4WD was about 40cents/litre. Today it is close to $1.30 - and in another 13 years time will be at least $4 at current rates of increase. With Peak Oil factored in, that $4 could easily be $5 or $6 per litre - that's nearly $500 for a tank a fuel which lasts a little over a week.
The question we need to ask now is how are we going to get to work, sports and recreation in our city when the average person can't afford to live in the suburbs and drive. City planners must take this into account when approving new subdivisions, building sports facilities and providing infrastructure.
I certainly want to see many more of these discussions in the next few years rather than relying on blind faith that something will come along to save us.

Peak oil?

Are these people serious? Why does a city of 120,000 need to be the flag bearer on this (unclear) issue? Dunedin had suburbs long before widespread car usage. Why? Because many people prefer suburban life, particularly in smaller cities which lack the land economics or inner city vibrancy which normally supports dense inner city living. This is academic arrogance that won't see the light of day because people will still exercise choice. Why in the world would a small city like Dunedin, with such beautiful surroundings and availability of land choose to cram its residents into the downtown area?

Are we really going to run out of petrol?

Oh ha ha. I have been hearing this nonsense for over fifty odd years now ever since I was at Kings High School. Has associate professor of mechanical engineering Dr Krumdieck never heard of the Southland Lignite Coal and the magic process that turns it into diesel? There is enough of that horrible carbon stuff down there to keep us going for just about ever.
Oh ha ha ha ha again.Has Dr Bob Lloyd who provided background research on economic conditions for this mumbo jumbo who is from the University of Otago and has a PhD in physics and and a Master's degree in History and Philosophy of Science never heard how the almighty dollar drives the market.
Where there is the will($) there is a way.
There are many other substances to fuel the "evil polluting motor car" Next sceptical comment poster please.

Bikes: a better alternative than you may think

A new generation of electric bicycles make the hills in Dunedin quite achievable even for the (ahem) only moderately fit.  A nice old-fashioned cycling cape and a jumper keep you warm and dry. Dunedin traffic is already pretty bike friendly, and the infrastucture is improving. I've started biking here in the last year, and been quite pleasantly surprised.

None of the above

It's still possible to live a rural lifestyle and adjust to expensive oil. We recently shifted to near a "village" way out of town, and with a combination of careful planning, bikes, walking and a reasonable bus service, only use our single car a couple of times a week. And one of those times is usually because we haven't planned well enough.

Peak Oil timing

It is great to hear that this topic is being dealt with by local government. It is worth noting, however, that Peak Oil may already be here. In their 2010 World Energy Outlook report released in November, the International Energy Agency (who are usually quite optimistic) have predicted that oil production peaked in 2006 and is unlikely to reach that level again. See this link

Anti-rural, anti-car, anti-freedom

I cannot help but wonder that these reports are an attack on personal freedom of where people choose to live and where to go when they want.
Ask yourself if you'd rather live in the inner city (apartment) or suburb.
We have been "warned" of "peak" oil now for about 30-40 years and each time this happens production stays the same. So perhaps this is a bit "cry wolf"?
Maybe we have already hit peak or maybe there are more fields like that off Brazil to be found?
No-doubt we will one-day run low on oil but there will be technological advances to replace the dependency for transport at least, so that oil can be used elsewhere in the economy.

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