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23 Jan 2009

‘Volatile Times’: Peak Oil and the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association recently published a paper called ‘Volatile Times: transport, climate change and the price of oil”, which you can download here.  It looks at the challenges faced by local authorities through the lens of peak oil and climate change, and is a very useful document for any Transition groups working with their local authorities.  It starts with a clear setting out of the peak oil concept, and then looks at what Councils can do to respond.  Transition initiatives, and Nottingham in particular are cited as case studies, the ‘Oil Independence in Oakland’ report is cited, including the great quote “quite simply, if Oakland is to reduce its dependence on oil, its residents must drive less”.  A very useful document. 

Here’s what the LGA themselves said when they released the report in December.

Predicting the price of oil is a slippery business. In summer 2008 the price of a barrel peaked to almost $147 per barrel. More recently the price has fallen back around $50 per barrel. So was the high peak in prices a temporary blip? Or do we need to prepare for an era of higher oil and energy prices? Within the current financial climate, how do we frame this trend against one of the most significant challenges we face – climate change?

In the future all sectors of the economy are likely to be affected to some extent by the end of the era of cheap oil. But the effect on the transport sector will be greatest because it is so heavily reliant on liquid fuels.

What does this mean for local authorities?

There is growing consensus that councils should be leading the national effort to tackle climate change. Councils can therefore take strategic action to reduce transport related carbon emissions (a major source of climate change) which can in turn address some of the impacts of oil price oil price volatility. This timely report therefore: Analyses the evidence and theory surrounding the debate on oil price volatility.

  • Makes key recommendations to councils about the practical steps they can take to adapt both their own operations and help business and householders.
  • Signposts some of the tools, organisation(s) and resources that can offer further support.
  • Offers a number of case studies from local authorities (nationally and internationally) who are adopting innovative ways to help reduce the pressure on their budgets from spiralling fuel costs.

The report concludes with specific recommendations to central government about how it can help local government respond to the challenges and opportunities. This includes:

  • Dismantling the bureaucracy behind transport funding and transport project appraisal,
  • Empowering councils to rapidly improve bus services.
  • Reforming the current system of public bus subsidies for buses to help fight climate change, provide better bus services and give better value for money to the tax payer.

This information will be applicable to all member and office communities, not just those focused on environment or transport issue.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


24 Jan 11:00pm

Well, that looks like a very useful document to me, especially the comment about dismantling the bureaucracy behind funding transport and project appraisal. I shall download the whole thing, read it, take it to the steering group and see what we can do with it next.

John Marshall
24 Jan 11:40pm

I agree with Deborah and will be acting in the same way. Transport is a worrying area of our work. Local resilience is one thing but many aspects of transport cross boundaries over very wide areas.
Perhaps we all need to discuss this subject more.

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