Local Governments Acknowledge Inconvenient Truths

Two interesting new reports out that deal with our energy and climate future.

First, Metro has released a draft background paper as part of the Regional Transportation Plan update: Key Environmental Issues and Metro’s Mitigation-Related Activities in the Portland Metropolitan Region.

It’s not online yet, but here are a couple of key paragraphs from the trends section:

Climate Change and Global Warming

Climate change poses a serious and growing threat to Oregon’s economy, natural resources, forests, rivers, agricultural lands, and coastline. Emissions are created as a by-product of fuel combustion and from evaporation of the fuel itself. The combustion of fossil fuels produces a cocktail of greenhouse gases (GHG’s) that trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming. The United States is the largest energy user in the world and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

It is estimated that transportation accounts for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in Oregon and this is predicted to increase by 33 percent by 2025 because of increased driving.

Oil Dependence and Increasing Uncertainty of Supply and Price

The U.S economy’s reliance on foreign oil is mainly due to transportation. Figure 2 displays how transportation’s share of US petroleum use has been increasing; the transportation sector consumes 66% of oil supplied to US economy, up from 55% in 1975.

This dependence on oil is an issue for long range transportation planning, considering the uncertainty surrounding oil’s supply and price. Uncertainty is defined as a measure of the decreasing confidence that supply and price of oil will not be much different next year compared to today’s figures.

Although the exact timing of the peaking of oil supply is unpredictable, certain changes can be anticipated and strategies developed to ease the effects. The uncertainty of oil prices should be considered as transportation investments are being developed as part of the RTP update. The RTP should continue to emphasize land use and transportation planning to reduce mean travel distances and enable greater use of public transit, walking and bicycling as viable transportation options and modes that are less susceptible to oil price fluctuations than private automobiles.

And on Friday, the City of Portland’s Peak Oil Task Force released the public comment draft of its report (PDF, 364K). I’ve only had the chance to go through it once quickly, but it doesn’t duck the hard questions.

Among the recommendations:

Prevent over-expansion of transportation infrastructure that may not be a good investment with higher fuel prices. Air, long-distance truck and car travel are likely to be reduced in response to peak oil, and land use patterns are likely to become more compact. Thus, investments in expanding road and air capacity could be stranded, depending on when the peak occurs. The Port of Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation and other agencies need to consider the impacts of peak oil when developing capital construction plans for major facilities.

  • Encourage the Port of Portland to examine the timing and impacts of a peak oil scenario on air traffic when developing plans to expand the airport.
  • Require Portland Office of Transportation to consider the impacts of rising oil prices when deciding where to invest scarce transportation infrastructure funds.
  • Invest in infrastructure that meets access and mobility needs with less fuel.

Anyone care to speculate on how to evaluate the Columbia Crossing in light of that recommendation?

Here’s a quote from Task Force Chair Bill Scott:

“The Task Force findings illustrate the enormous economic and social vulnerabilities and opportunities that could result as fuel supplies cease to be abundant and inexpensive,” said Task Force Chair Bill Scott. “The magnitude of this issue led the Task Force to explore far-reaching solutions. Our lead recommendation is that Portland cut its oil and natural gas use in half over the next 25 years.”

Now if only the Federal Government would find its way back to reality-based policy-making.


5 responses to “Local Governments Acknowledge Inconvenient Truths”

  1. Reality based policy making?! hahahaahahaaa hohoohooohooo. That hasn’t happened ever I don’t think. It’s part of the policy of the Government I would say to “create policy based on created reality”.

    But on another point.

    Anyone care to speculate on how to evaluate the Columbia Crossing in light of that recommendation?

    If peak oil hits, and global warming is caused by such things, then we should be looking at decreasing the lanes from 3 throughput on each side to two, and thinking about how to put 4 tracks on each side instead. Because if prices him 5-8 bucks by end of decade, or the respective amount +-30% in the next, we’ll NEED 4 track lanes of MAX just to handle the off load.

    But it sure will be a cleaner nicer flow of traffic! :)

  2. Our State Supreme Court recently told Seattle City Light that they cannot offset their carbon emissions from utility rates. There is this Gang of Four self-appointed watchdog of the Public Utility that go after the utility on what they see as percieved waste. Funding for streetlight maintenance from the fees was struck down(even though that was SCL’s original purpose), funding for art(the Gang, which includes a few former SCL employees has a point there), but Global Warming, they go too far. Seattle CIty Light gets a small percentage of it’s power portfolio from that Coal-Burning plant near Centralia. They offset that, plus the emissions of their own trucks, for they know the impact on SCL’s future if Global Warming causes snowpacks to melt earlier. Most of the portfolio comes from Hydropower. Paying for cruise ships to make the necessary modifications for hooking up to shore power, that would probably get the utility money in the long run. I saw one of those ships that did not do so, they have to keep the engines running to power on-board electricals, and they did not have any filters on the exhaust. At least our ferryboats are begining to put emission controls on their newest boats. Problem is, they have not too many new boats as these ferryboats last a long time.(The tug of war on their replacements can be brutal, and why upgrade older boats?) On the Jumbo Class Mk.Is(Spokane Class), and the Jumbo Class Mk.II(Tacoma Class) the differences in 30 years between the boats can be seen on the stacks. The Tacoma has some kind of filter and louver system on the stack, while the Spokane has a more traditional stack for a ship. Anyway, I hope the recent State Supreme Court decision is a temporary setback, unless the Democrats are afraid of using their new majority(almost back to what it was before 1994) in the legislature for a spin.

  3. Whatever the fine print of this document, we are seeing at all levels a recognition of global warming and energy dependence, and the need to take action. As our governor calls for caps on green house emissions, etc., it is time to tell the CRC “bag it.” We can accept neither the expense nor the consequences of a massive road project the CRC is recommending.
    Our focus should be to reduce vehicle miles, not encourage them with the limited resources we have.

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