Urban Planning and Transport Paradigm Shifts for Surviving the Post-Petroleum Age in Cities by Jeffrey Kenworthy Professor in Sustainable Cities ISTP, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia
Cities vary enormously in the amount of energy they use in passenger transport, especially private passenger transport. In a study of 100 cities worldwide, Atlanta, Georgia residents each consume annually an average of almost 103,000 MJ in private passenger transport energy (about 2,970 litres of gasoline equivalent), while at the other end of the spectrum in Ho Chi Minh City, the figure is a mere 922 MJ or 26 litres. In the developed world, where fairer comparisons can be made, US cities consume on average 60,000 MJ per capita per annum for private passenger transport (1,730 litres) while Australian and Canadian cities average about 31,000 MJ (895 litres). High income Asian cities such as Tokyo, as well as Western European cities, which are wealthier on average than their North American and Australian counterparts, consume only between 9,500 MJ (274 litres) and 15,700 MJ (452 litres) per capita respectively. The large sample of developing cities in the study average only about 6,500 MJ (187 litres). Urban development in the auto-dependent cities of North America and Australia clearly requires abundant and secure quantities of relatively cheap oil, without which these cities would begin to unravel, whereas other high income cities are not nearly so dependent on this non-renewable resource.
At the same time that the world approaches, or perhaps has already reached peak oil production (the “big rollover”) and begins to decline in its output of this resource, newly industrialising nations are dramatically increasing their demand for oil. This growing gap between world oil demand and supply will usher in a period of radically more expensive transport fuel along with uncertainties in its supply due to potential economic decisions on the part of OPEC nations, political instability and possibly armed conflict as countries position themselves to maximise access to remaining reserves. Under this scenario all cities, but especially the auto-dependent ones, will be forced to grapple with how to minimise their consumption of oil and replace it with alternatives, in short how to survive the post-petroleum age.
This paper shows the nature of the transport energy problem facing urban environments through a series of comparative data on cities around the world. It argues that low density sprawling development without effective transit-oriented sub-centres, combined with a focus on private transport infrastructure rather than infrastructure for walking and cycling, are major reasons behind currently high levels of transport energy use in many cities and a significant reason why less developed cities with much lower levels of private transport energy use are motorising and increasing their oil demand. This paper argues that for auto-oriented cities to tackle the oil problem the key paradigm changes that are needed in urban planning and transport are:
• development of a network of effective neighbourhood centres (1 km radius) and town centres (3 km radius) built at a minimum density of 35 people plus jobs per ha. This will allow cities to maintain an overall average 1 hour travel time budget per person (Marchetti Constant) without excessive car use and effectively transform auto cities into a series of more manageable “transit cities”, with each neighbourhood and town centre being a small “walking city”. This will also have many positive urban design, amenity and liveability benefits.
• prioritising the development of fast, reliable and attractive transit, to link all centres together, with walking and cycling priority within the centres.
• a moratorium on all high capacity road expansion to meet traffic demand forecasts; the old paradigm that we always have to keep reducing or eliminating congestion to minimise oil use is challenged and refuted and congestion is shown to be an important factor in mitigating oil use, not increasing it.
• allocating nearly all transport infrastructure investment funds for transit, walking and cycling in order to re-balance the severely unbalanced transport systems in auto cities. The old paradigm that we need “balanced transport spending” today to achieve “balanced transport systems” tomorrow, needs to be replaced with the idea of “biased transport spending” towards non-auto modes to re-balance the system and make up for 60 years or more of neglect in most cities.
• dropping the idea that technological change in terms of new vehicles and fuels alone will save cities from the coming oil crisis. It is argued that only a combination of reduced transport energy demand through urban structural change, as well as fuel conservation and oil replacement through technological change, will enable cities to survive the post-petroleum era.
The following is a slide show presentation from United Nations Resource Management System, UNRMS, in November, 2021. The full PDF file is archived here on the blog at this link. Because these are screenshots, you can’t copy-paste text slices from the slides.
at United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE.
NOTE: In order to understand better the meaning of data such as “6,000 Terawatt-hours or TWh,” use this conversion to “Quadrillion BTUs (British Thermal Units) from Kyle’s Converter online. The U.S. economy consumes about 36.5 Quadrillion BTUs annually from petroleum; about 28 Quads of that for transportation. Or, 8,200 TeraWatt-hours.
Future world oil production: growth, plateau, or peak? Larry Hughes and Jacinda Rudolph
With the exception of two oil shocks in the 1970s, world oil production experienced steady growth throughout the 20th century, from about 400,000 barrels a day in 1900 to over 74 million by 1999. Conservative projections from the International Energy Agency for 2035 suggest that production will increase to about 96 million barrels a day. If this target is met, world oil production will have exceeded 2000 gigabarrels (billion barrels) in the span of 135 years. Almost all of the oil products humans consume are derived from sources that are non-renewable. With this in mind, this paper considers how long world oil production can continue to grow or if it will eventually plateau or peak and then decline. The paper concludes with the observation that whether peak oil has already occurred or will not occur for many years, societies should be prepared for a world with less oil.
Address Energy Research Group, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Corresponding author: Hughes, Larry (firstname.lastname@example.org) Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:225–234 This review comes from a themed issue on Energy Systems Edited by Shonali Pachauri and Aleh Cherp Received 1 July 2010; Accepted 18 May 2011 1877-3435/$ – see front matter # 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. DOI 10.1016/j.cosust.2011.05.001
Energy is central to the economic and social wellbeing of any society. Of all the primary energy sources available to mankind, three are dominant: oil (33.2% of world’s total energy demand), coal (27.0%), and natural gas (21.1%) . Refined oil products (or liquids), with their high energy density, ease of transport, and capacity to be used in any modern energy service (transportation, heating and cooling, and electrical generation), are the most versatile. The importance of oil to the world’s economy cannot be overemphasized; not only does it meet almost all of the world’s transportation energy needs  but also its byproducts can be used as a feedstock for the petrochemical industry (T Ren, Petrochemicals from oil, natural gas, coal and biomass: energy use, economics and innovation, PhD thesis, s.l.: Utrecht University, Netherlands, 2009, http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/dissertations/2009).
As Figure 1 shows, the first seven decades of the 20th century witnessed the unprecedented and exponential growth in the production of oil, doubling roughly every 10 years, from 435,000 barrels per day in 1900 to over 48 million barrels per day in 1970. The rise in production was interrupted twice, in 1975 and then in 1980, attributable to the two oil ‘shocks’ that reduced oil supply and increased its price 10-fold [2–4]. Despite the shocks and subsequent commitments by western governments to reduce their energy intensity , the growth in oil consumption, and hence production, resumed in the mid-1980s, albeit in a more linear fashion. By the end of the century, world oil production had reached almost 74 million barrels a day.
Increasing demand for oil from China and other emerging market economies pushed world oil demand higher in the early years of the 21st century; by 2008, the world was producing about 82 million barrels of oil a day .
The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Out-look 2010 presents three future energy scenarios to 2035.Table 1 summarizes the three oil-related scenarios.Future production is expected to be driven largely by the growing demand from non-OECD countries. Demand from OECD countries is expected to stabilize because of its aging population and increasing use of non-liquid fuels for energy services that presently use oil products 
Regardless of the scenario, by 2035, over the past 135 years, the world will have produced over 2000 gigabarrels(billion barrels) of oil. There are, not surprisingly,environmental consequences associated with producing this much oil. Like all other hydrocarbon fuels, oil emits carbon dioxide when combusted; between 2008 and 2035,carbon dioxide emissions from oil combustion are expected to increase anywhere from 13% to 57% over1990 levels . One widely discussed approach to reducing CO 2 emissions is carbon capture and storage ; how applicable this will be to oil is unclear, as its principal use is expected to be transportation rather than stationary combustion.
In addition to the environmental impacts of consuming this amount of oil, it is important to consider where the oil comes from and whether there are limits to the amount of it that can be produced. The remainder of this paper considers the state of the world’s oil supply, the question of when production will reach a maximum and start to decline, and possible responses to the decline.
The world’s liquid fuels come predominantly fromreserves of fossil-energy: conventional sources or ‘crude oil’ (usually defined as fields that produce light and medium crude oil), nonconventional sources (heavy oils, tar sands, and shale oil), and natural gas liquids (NGLs) (the liquid component of natural gas) . Liquid fuels are also derived from biological (i.e. potentially renewable) sources, but these are normally omitted from discussions relating to the extraction of oil from fossil-energy sources. Presently, more than 85% of the world’s oil production comes from conventional sources, while the remainder is predominantly from NGLs [7,11]. In a conventional field,production is ramped up to a plateau and maintained at this level until primary (natural pressure), secondary (pumps to maintain flow), and tertiary/enhanced (chemicals or othertechniques to encourage flow) recovery methods have been exhausted and production declines .
Any oil production can be affected by ‘below-ground’ (the geology of the field) factors as well as ‘above-ground’(politics, economics, and corporate objectives) factors. As the volume of conventional oil from existing oil wells declines because of below-ground or above-ground reasons, other sources must be found. For example, in the 1970s, production from the newly discovered oil fields of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and the North Sea meant that western countries were no longer at the mercy of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OEC). More recently, declining onshore production has forced international oil companies such as BP, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell to drill offshore in deep (300–1500 m) and ultra-deep (more than 1500 m) locations in order to maintain their production levels because they are not welcome in a number of oil-producing countries due, in part, to the rise of resource nationalism [13,14]. The offshore has allowed some countries to maintain or even increase their domestic production of conventional oil (Angola, Brazil, Nigeria, and the United States are all reliant on the offshore to meet a growing percentage of their oil production ). It is reasonable to assume that before April 2010, few people gave offshore oil production much thought; however, the blowout of BP’s Macondo exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico highlighted thehuman and environmental risks — and consequences —associated with deepwater drilling . One of the last regions available for exploration and potential production is the Arctic where the melting of the polar ice is resulting in many countries pursuing national strategies to explore and exploit whatever fossil-energy sources may be found[17,7].
NGLs or ‘wet’ gas, a byproduct of the extraction of natural gas, are another fossil-energy source that can be used in the production of liquid fuels. There is an increasing supply of NGLs in the United States becauseof the growing reliance on shale gas — a natural gas that is particularly rich in NGLs .
In addition to conventional sources of oil and NGLs,there are also non-conventional (or unconventional) ones. These energy sources are feedstocks to a variety of conversion processes that produce a liquid fuel that can be used with or in place of conventional oil. Canada’s tar sands and Venezuela’s heavy oils are examples of non-conventional oil sources. The tar sands are being mined for their heavy crude and bitumen in an effort to replace Canada’s dwindling supplies of conventional sources of crude oil. The water and energy required to produce a barrel of synthetic crude — and the associated greenhouse gas emissions — go well beyond those of conventional oil production .
Coal-to-liquid (CTL) is another example of a non-conventional oil source. The technology is often used in jurisdictions with limited access to oil-derived liquid fuels and is energy intensive; meaning that using coal as the energy source of the process will produce more greenhouse gases [20,21]. Another non-conventional source is natural gas. It is a cleaner fuel that can be converted to methanol for use as a transportation fuel ; although some sources of natural gas, such as shale gas or coal-bed methane in the United States, are not without their environmental impacts .
Many governments envisage the use of biologically derived liquid fuels from feedstocks such as algae, woody and waste biomass, and agricultural biomass for transportation purposes. There are challenges associated with each of these potential replacement fuels, including social (the use of agricultural land for food rather than fuel), economic (the costs of subsidies for biological fuels), environmental (the destruction of equatorial regions for sugar cane and palm oil and the removal of ‘waste’ biomass from forests), and energetic (biological fuels such as ethanol do not have as high an energy density as petroleum) . Despite these challenges, a number of organizations are expecting biofuels to make a significant contribution to world liquid fuel supply. For example, the IEA is projecting that biofuels will meet between 3% and 10% of the world’s liquid biofuels demand by 2035 , the OECD expects about four percent of the world’s total energy demand to be met from liquid fuels (including the use of ‘second generation’ cellulosic biofuels that offer the promise of not using food products for fuel) by 2050 , while an EU biofuels project expects 80% of the EU’s transportation to come from biological sources in 2050 .
Although the end product may be the same, there are two significant differences between the production of conventional and non-conventional oil sources. The first is the cost of production; because of the additional processing costs, non-conventional energy sources typically have a lower EROI or energy return on investment. Some of these differences are shown in Figure 2.
Both conventional and non-conventional energy sources require some form of energy input in order to produce them; this can be referred to as an energy return on energy investment or EROEI. In the 1930s, finding and producing conventional crude oil in the United States had an EROEI value of more than 100; by 1970 it had declined to 30; recent estimates for production from new conventional crude oil wells put the EROEI value as low as 11 . For non-conventional sources of oil, the EROEI values for Canada’s tar sands are about six , while for biofuels, it ranges from less than 1 (according to corn ethanol opponents) to as high as 3.2 (according to biodiesel proponents) . In all cases, the non-conventional EROEI is considerably less than that of conventional EROEI because of the energy needed in the conversion process.(a)
For more than a century, discoveries of new conventional oil fields and the development of new technologies for the production of both conventional and non-conventional oil have ensured ever increasing world oil production. The challenge facing the oil industry is how to increase production when existing fields are experiencing depletion rates of 5% or more while annual demand for oil is expected to increase at rates exceeding 1% . One can argue that what is being experienced today is no different from what has happened in the past — the oil is there to be discovered, given sufficient investment and technological advances, such as horizontal drilling and tertiary extraction techniques. While there may be truth to this statement, the oil industry is being forced to look for conventional oil in locations that are both risky and more expensive, such as deep and ultra-deepwater and the Arctic , and non-conventional sources, notably Canada’s tar sands, that are expensive, energy intensive, and damaging to the environment .
a EROEI can be misinterpreted to mean that the energy input is oil, implying, for example, that 1 barrel of oil is required to produce 3.2 barrels of biodiesel. This need not be the case. However, energy still is needed; for example, steam from natural gas is employed to liquefy and extract bitumen from Canada’s tar sands; in order to use natural gas for other services an approach being given serious consideration is produce steam from a fleet of nuclear reactors 
Since all sources of oil derived from fossil sources are non ince all sources of oil derived from fossil sources are non-renewable, oil production cannot be sustained indefinitely.This simple fact has many people claiming that world oil production has reached or is about to reach the point at which the production from a particular oil-producing region — in this case, the world — is at its maximum or peak and will begin to decline. This is referred to as peak oil.
Claims that a particular jurisdiction has reached its peak production capacity have been made by many people over the past 150 years — most have been proven wrong . Probably the most significant exception was Marion King Hubbert’s prediction in 1956. Hubbert, a geophysicist working for Shell in the United States, predicted that crude oil production in the United States would peak around 1970 . Hubbert based his prediction on the time of discovery and production from oil fields, the volume of crude oil extracted, and an estimate of the ultimate recoverable resource (URR); from this, he assumed that oil production would peak when half of the resource had been extracted, producing a bell curve (a symmetric logistic curve) now referred to as Hubbert’s curve . At the time, Hubbert was ridiculed; however, in 1970, oil production in the lower 48 states peaked at 10 million barrels a day . Although production from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska did raise US production slightly, it has been in decline since 1972 . Hubbert’s success in predicting the US oil peak gained him a significant following and his prediction that world oil production would peak around 2000 focused many minds, including that of President Carter who spent much of his presidency warning Americans of the dangers of energy profligacy and oil dependency (e.g. see [5,37]).
Despite being proven wrong for his prediction of a global oil peak in 2000, many of Hubbert’s supporters argue that he would have been right had the world not experienced the downturn in demand caused by the oil shocks of the 1970s . Hubbert’s method is far from perfect and has numerous constraints, such as knowing discovery dates, backdating apparent ‘new’ discoveries to the discovery date of the original field, and requiring that production is free of political manipulation .
The shortcomings of Hubbert’s method are one of a number of reasons why critics dismiss peak oil ; however, there are other techniques being employed to examine the world’s oil reserves in order to find when oil production will peak . For example, most of the world’s oil is produced from a limited number of super-giant fields, many of which are more than 50 years old and are in decline; the cumulative effects of these declines, when coupled with information on new projects give an indication of future production .
One of the most comprehensive studies on peak oil literature was completed in 2009 by the UK Energy Research Council; it suggests that a peak in conventional oil pro- duction by 2030 is likely and that there is a significant risk of the peak occurring before 2020 . A list of the individuals and organizations that project a peak before 2030 is shown in Table 2, while those that do not project a peak before 2030 are shown in Table 3.
The IEA’s projection for world oil production is shown in Figure 3 and is divided into NGLs, non-conventional oil, and crude oil. Crude oil is further divided into currently producing fields, fields yet to be developed, fields yet to be found, and additional enhanced oil recovery. NGLs and non-conventional oil show steady growth, whereas crude oil production essentially remains flat. Peak oil is averted by the fields yet to be found — if they are not found and there is insufficient production of NGLs or non-conventional oil, a plateau or a peak will have occurred sometime between 2020 and 2030 .
There is limited publically accessible information on the current state of the world’s oil resources. Much of the problem lies with the fact that many Middle Eastern oil producers keep their reserve data secret . Moreover, there are instances of misrepresentation of data . There have been attempts at making the data public; however, to date there has been little success . Having clear accurate data, publicly available, may enable jurisdictions to develop long-term energy policies.
The peak oil debate
Given the importance of oil and the stakes involved, there is, not surprisingly, a debate surrounding the issue of peak oil. Central to the debate is the total volume of crude oil that can be extracted (i.e. the URR). Although most people involved in the debate can agree upon the amount of crude oil that has been consumed to date and the amount of crude oil that is currently being produced, there is — as the columns marked ‘Ultimate’ in Tables 2 and 3 show — no consensus as to how much crude oil can ultimately be recovered.
Those who argue that a peak in crude oil production is inevitable and, if it has not occurred yet, will occur soon, cite a number of factors that support their argument; all are based on the observation that all oil fields eventually peak. One approach is to sum the existing known world crude oil reserves (such as those published in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy) and to treat this as the URR; from this, a peak in crude oil production can be estimated. More advanced approaches include considering the output from existing oil-producing regions and comparing them with historical production from other regions; by applying curve-fitting techniques, an estimate of total potential production can be obtained for any field . With the URR known, a peak can be determined using any of a variety of logistic curves.
However, the overreliance on URR on the basis of selective or limited data when determining the imminent date of the peak has caused many opponents of peak oil to dismiss the use of curve-fitting outright ; furthermore, there is a failure to understand the limitations of curve- fitting techniques such as the Hubbert curve used by many proponents of peak oil .
On the other hand, those who question the arguments surrounding the likelihood of an imminent peak in world oil production often point to the fact that despite the effects of depletion, world oil reserves continue to increase in size. Reserve growth is driven by various factors, including the reevaluation of oilfield production data and, perhaps most importantly, rising oil prices. Higher prices are encouraging the development of new technologies, such as horizontal drilling, which allows a producer to extract crude oil from smaller, harder to access, fields. Similarly, new technologies for enhanced oil recovery are extending the production-lifetime of existing fields and returning old,abandoned fields to production .
There exist a number of counterarguments to the seemingly unstoppable growth in both production and reserves. First, many of the new discoveries typically have high depletion rates, limiting their long-term production . Second, these discoveries are much smaller than the giant fields discovered in the early and mid part of the 20th century . Third, a growing number of new fields are in harsh environments, such as offshore, ultra-deep fields in Brazil or in the Arctic Ocean, making production riskier and more expensive .
Of course, a plateau or peak in world oil production need not be limited by the URR, other factors could be at play, both above ground (lack of investment in oil exploration , environmental legislation banning or limiting drilling, conflicts in oil-producing regions ) and below ground (depletion of giant and super-giant oilfields, the availability of energy and water for non-conventional oil production, the failure of natural gas to meet the production targets many are predicting ).
Regardless of when or why the plateau or peak in world oil production occurs, the challenge will be ensuring energy security, the ‘uninterrupted physical availability [of energy] at a price which is affordable, while respecting environment concerns’ 
Accommodating future demand
Over the past century, much of the world has become dependent on oil. Infrastructure has been designed that supports long-term oil availability and short-term accessibility of widely acceptable and affordable oil products [52,53]. As more of the world’s population becomes (or wants to become) dependent on oil, growth in oil production is necessary. However, should production reach a plateau or a peak, availability, accessibility, and affordability may quickly become a thing of the past as demand cannot be satisfied [54,55].
Preparing for a plateau or a peak in world oil production will be a long-term activity potentially requiring considerable changes in the way a jurisdiction uses energy . Ideally, this would be a worldwide activity, much like the IEA’s Coordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM) for major international oil disruptions which, amongst other things, allows sharing of available supplies between member countries . Alternatively, Campbell’s oil depletion protocol that ensures fair and equitable access to oil products during a time of oil depletion could be employed . However, without international agreements the impact would not be felt uniformly across the world. For example, wealthy individuals and jurisdictions would be less affected by access and affordability issues, potentially protected by bilateral agreements between suppliers and consumers, while those without such protection will be vulnerable to the effects of energy poverty . The impact of the plateau or peak on a jurisdiction will depend in part on how reliant it was on oil .
Actions to address a plateau or peak fall into one of reduction (reducing energy use through conservation or gains in energy efficiency), replacement (replace existing sources of oil with other secure sources of liquid fuel), and restriction (restrict new energy demand to energy sources other than oil) .
Of the three actions, restriction may be the most important as there will be a need for energy sources that enable the movement of goods and people. Restricting future energy consumption to non-liquid fuels will require a change in the energy sources and infrastructure now used to meet the demand currently satisfied by liquid fuels. Ignoring aviation, there are essentially two contenders at present: natural gas and electricity, while hydrogen is seen as something in the more distant future. Large-scale adoption of natural gas in gas-poor regions of the world will require more infrastructure in the form of pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) liquefaction and regasification facilities to meet both existing and new demand. However, the lack of investment, domestic demand in the exporting country, and geopolitical tensions can all contribute to natural gas shortages in importing countries [61,62]. While future natural gas supplies may be sufficient to meet existing natural gas demand, the degree to which production can be increased to meet the needs of energy services currently using oil products is unclear. Given sufficient supply and the proper storage facilities, future demand for energy in transportation and heating and cooling could be restricted to electricity. Whether enough environmentally sustainable supply can be found is an issue that must be addressed with countries such as China and the United States planning to maintain or expand their reliance on coal for electrical generation [63,64]. One method of increasing electrical supply without new capacity is to reduce grid losses while using spare capacity to meet the demand from interruptible loads. Although renewables such as wind are often maligned because of their intermittency, by making the load follow’ the supply (as opposed to today’s approach of having the supply follow the load), renewable electricity can be used more effectively .
Although many of the methods proposed to address declining world oil supply are driven by the need to ensure energy security, some of them could have serious consequences for the environment in general and the climate in particular.
Declining world oil supply, energy security, and climate change
At first glance, a decline in world oil supply would appear to be an energy security problem that most oil importing jurisdictions will be facing sooner or later. Such a decline could be seen as beneficial to the environment in that a decline in combustion of oil products should mean a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, this need not be the case, as the loss of availability or accessibility can provide investors with the confidence to finance activities such as the exploitation of coal and non-conventional resources (e.g. CTL and tar sands and oil shale extraction) as a replacement for existing oil products, potentially offsetting any environmental benefits .
In order to mitigate climate change, policies must be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining energy security — one cannot be addressed without the other. Volatile energy markets affecting the availability and affordability of liquid fuels can directly affect a jurisdiction’s energy security and hence its climate policy . This double-edged sword suggests that energy security and climate change are potential co-beneficiaries of proactive energy policies. Preparing for peak oil and ensuring the energy services currently supported by oil products will need to accommodate both energy security and climate change challenges; solutions that are environmentally sustainable and able to maintain a reliable and affordable supply of energy services.
Oil has transformed the world. Plastics and aviation are but two of a myriad of goods and services that oil has permitted. This is not to say that humanity’s use of oil has been faultless: spills, blowouts, and emissions are all the results of the widespread and virtually unrestricted use of oil. As the world’s population has become more dependent on oil products, the possibility of shortages or price increases, or both are viewed with grave concern by politicians and the public alike.
In the past, crude oil was simply something that was relatively easily extracted from the ground and refined. Over time this has changed, not only is crude oil becom- ing harder and more expensive to produce but also with the rise of resource nationalism, it is no longer the exclusive domain of western international oil companies. This, and the demand for greater environmental regulations in many developed countries, have spawned the development of technologies to increase the production from abandoned oil fields, as well as making fields that were once ignored because of their size, suddenly much more attractive. Furthermore, exploration is moving into the oceans and Arctic to search for other sources of crude oil — at a greater expense.
There has also been a rise in the use of non-conventional oil sources, such as Canada’s tar sands and Venezuela’s heavy oil, to help offset the seemingly limitless growth in the demand for oil. Unlike conventional oil sources, non-conventional sources are both more expensive and more energy intensive — adding to the cost of the oil produced and to the environmental impact. The earth is finite; thus the sources of conventional and non-conventional oil are finite as well. Liquid fuels derived from fossil sources have transformed the world — whether this growth can continue will influence energy security and climate change policies in every jurisdiction.
Data from a variety of sources suggest that the world’s production of conventional oil has reached a plateau, but the combined production of conventional, NGLs, and non-conventional oil is still rising. As production from conventional oil fields begins to decline, there is literally a race taking place to find new sources of conventional crude to offset these declines. If sufficient crude oil is not found, total world oil production will plateau and eventually peak, leading to accessibility and affordability issues for many people.
Addressing the plateau and peak will require a reduction in the amount of oil (and energy in general) the world consumes. There will be a need for liquid fuels that can replace existing sources of oil and the development of new energy sources and technologies that restrict new demand to sources other than oil.
Technological advances, such as deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling, hydraulic fracturing (or frac’ing) to obtain shale gas, horizontal drilling, enhanced oil recovery, tar-sands extraction techniques, the ability to drill in the Arctic, and advanced biofuel production techniques will all contribute to the URR. However, most of these technologies are energy intensive, costly, and potentially polluting and are expected to do little more than delay a plateau or peak by more than a few years.
Accommodating the increasing future demand for secure supplies of liquid fuels while minimizing its impact on the climate will require energy policies to be developed that address both energy security and climate change,thereby achieving mutually reinforcing benefits. It is no longer a case of ‘if’ or ‘when’ there will be a plateau and eventual peak in world oil production, it is now a question of how jurisdictions can prepare for a world with less oil, one in which energy security and climate policy play a dominant role.
List of References for Review of the Literature (transfer from Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:225–234)
Papers of particular interest, published within the period of review, have been highlighted as: of special interest of outstanding interest
1. IEA: Key World Energy Statistics 2010. Paris: International Energy Agency; 2010.
2. Hirsch RL, Bezdek R, Wendling R: Peaking of world oil production and its mitigation. In Driving Climate Change: Cutting Carbon from Transportation. Edited by Sperling D, Cannon JS. s.l.: Academic Press; 2007:9-27
. 3. BP: BP Statistical Review of World Energy. London: BP plc; 2009. BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy is widely cited and is a useful source of data. Its major shortcoming is that it relies on unverified government data. Data from the Energy Information Administration (e.g. 9, 16, 19, 58, 65, and 71) are always helpful, as is that from the International Energy Agency (e.g. 1 and 8). Regrettably, budget cuts in the United States’ government mean that the EIA has ceased publishing the International Energy Outlook.
4. Economagic: Price of West Texas Intermediate Crude; Monthly NSA, Dollars Per Barrel. Economagic.com: Economic Time Series Page [online] n.d. [cited: June 30, 2010] (http://www.economagic.com/ em-cgi/data.exe/var/west-texas-crude-long).
5. Horowitz D: Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s — The ‘‘Crisis of Confidence’’ speech of July 15, 1979. s.l.: Bedford/ St. Martin’s; 2005:. ISBN: 0-312r-r40122-1. (Daniel Horowitz) and 38. (Kevin Mattson) give sobering accounts of President Jimmy Carter’s attempts at informing the American public of the energy challenges they were facing in the late 1970s. Had they listened, things may have been very different now.
7. IEA: World Energy Outlook 2010. Paris: International Energy Agency; 2010:. ISBN: 978 92 64 08624 1.
8. EIA: International Energy Outlook 2009. Washington: Energy Information Administration; 2009.
9. Johnsson F, Reiner D, Itaoka K, Herzog H: Stakeholder attitudes on carbon capture and storage: an international comparison. Int J Greenhouse Gas Control 2010, 4:410-418.
10. Bentley R, Miller R, Wheeler S, Boyle G: UKERC Review of Evidence for Global Oil Depletion — Technical Report 7 Comparison of Global Oil Supply Forecasts. s.l.: UK Energy Research Council; 2009:. REF UKERC/WP/TPA/2009/022. 11. Simmons M: Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. s.l.: Wiley; 2005:. 0-471-73876-X. The late Matt Simmon’s Twilight in the Desert is an interesting analysis of why Saudi Arabia may well have reached the peak of its production capacity. The description of the oil industry and the history of giant and super-giant oil fields are extremely well done.
12. Babadagli T: Development of mature oil fields: a review. J Petrol Sci Eng 2007, 3–4:221-246.
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16. Williams N: New focus on tar sands. Curr Biol 2010, 20:R461-R462.
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Efforts to restore clean drinking water to Portage County rural well owners began in 1992, when a UW-Stevens Point research study first identified specific agricultural practices responsible for rising nitrate levels seen in groundwater samples. Thirty years later, after many subsequent sampling studies involving private and municipal wells, that fact has been repeatedly confirmed. The latest, a UWSP 2022 study based on thousands of well samples, found 94% of nitrates in County groundwater come from mostly large areas planted frequently in corn and potatoes. Those crops require high applications of nitrogen, but do not efficiently metabolize those inputs, allowing nitrates to pass through sandy soils into groundwater readily.
In that same timeframe, negative health effects of high nitrates have become well documented. They range from pregnancy complications including miscarriages, thyroid disease, early childhood development problems, and higher rates of specific cancers.
Fast forward to 2019, when County testing in the Village of Nelsonville revealed dangerous nitrate levels in over half of the Village wells, and an independent study confirmed agricultural sources for the pollutants. For the next three years, residents, groundwater scientists, and supporters from throughout the County, used those irrefutable results to ask County authorities to establish monitoring wells in Nelsonville as a test case. Data collected would provide information on where safe water might be found in that aquifer and help assess changes to land use that would improve groundwater quality. It would also offer valuable information on how to address many similar problems in the County. After much debate and citizen and scientist pressure, the Land and Water Conservation Committee (LAWCON) approved a monitoring plan, designed by an independent consultant, in August 2022.
Federal ARPA funds were supposed to provide money for the monitoring but when those funds were frozen and still not released by November, Supervisor Lionel Weaver proposed an amendment to the County budget on November 1 to use County contingency funds to fund the project if ARPA funding fell through.
That was approved by the full Board on a 13-11 vote. Two days later, County Executive John Pavelski vetoed that measure stating that “Capital improvement projects are designed to fund projects that benefit the County as a whole, for all citizens that are affected and/or have access to what those funds are used for.” That the monitoring would only benefit a small group is certainly debatable, given acknowledgement from County staff, Board members, and private groundwater experts that it will provide valuable information to a County-wide problem.
On November 15, the Board failed to override the County Executive’s veto, 13-12, with several dissenters citing the likelihood that ARPA funds would soon be approved and move the project forward. ARPA funding decisions began at the Finance Committee meeting November 28.
What is most disturbing about current Board level discussions on the monitoring project is that they continue the process of misinformation and lack of accountability that has plagued groundwater discussions since 1992. How that dissemination process could still be ongoing is puzzling, given the vast scientific evidence of nitrate and other pollution from production agriculture and the willingness of several local farm groups embracing more sustainable alternatives.
For an explanation, look no further than a statement submitted to the Board before the vote on contingency funds, written by a consortium of powerful, Madison-based lobbyists, including Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, and Venture Dairy Cooperative. It reveals that the gridlock of misinformation and community divisiveness has roots far beyond our County borders and residents.
The full document can be accessed through the November 1 County Board meeting packet, but here are some highlights:
“Testing data makes it clear that the primary cause of nitrate contamination in the Village is well condition.”
False: Pollutants were found in deep and shallow wells and across a broad range of installation dates.
“Residents in the Village have yet to utilize any of the programs available to them. They have been offered no-cost R.O. Systems from the County, and free water offered through the church.”
False: Eight families have already applied for well mitigation funds and several wait for estimates from well drillers to be completed before they can apply for funds. The mitigation funding process has been slow Countywide, with only one resident awarded any funds to date. In addition, R.O. systems have been purchased and installed by residents, but in several cases, have failed to supply safe water because nitrates levels are higher than these systems can filter.
“The issue in Nelsonville is a very specific anti-agricultural agenda.”
False: To label the right of a person to have access to clean drinking water as “against” anyone is twisted logic and counter to citizen guarantees in the Wisconsin State Constitution. Wisconsin law has clearly held industries accountable for activities that negatively affected public health in the past, including recent decisions approving monitoring agricultural activity. The “anti-us” rhetoric has been a long-running divisive strategy on many issues before and, as it does here, serves no purpose except to block effective collaboration.
“Gordondale Farms, the farm which has drawn the ire of a vocal few in the village has 95% of the Nelsonville Recharge Zone already planted in alfalfa and forest.”
False: The actual recharge zone, as documented by numerous scientific studies, extends north of the Village to Onland Lake. A drive by will show the curious hundreds of acres of corn planted in the true recharge area.
“The Board should also bear in mind that neither counties nor municipalities have the authority to require the installation of these monitoring wells.”
False: The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the right of the DNR and municipalities to require monitoring wells to protect water quality resources and the public health based on a clause of the Wisconsin State Constitution.
Ironically, as the three-year struggle to approve monitoring wells in Nelsonville and ensure $240,000 in ARPA funding continues, a $1 million request for ARPA funds from Farming for the Future Foundation in Plover has raised eyebrows on the County Board. In making the request to create a vacation destination and “educational center celebrating the production agriculture community,” several Board members questioned what message that approval might send, given research connecting that specific activity with current groundwater pollution.
In the end, every citizen in the County and State has a right to clean groundwater and government has a responsibility to make it happen. Obfuscation of this simple truth needs to stop, wherever and however it appears. The Village of Nelsonville has every right to bring their plight to light and ask for help in remediating the situation. It is clear that monitoring wells would help greatly in identifying zones of clean water in their area.