Peak Oil News: Creating The Post-Carbon City

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Creating The Post-Carbon City

Urban Age Institute

The imminent peaking of global oil and gas production could be the catalyst for the positive transformation of industrial society, and perhaps avert catastrophic climate change. It could also be disastrous. Essential systems such as food, electricity, health care and transportation that form the foundation of industrial civilization depend on unfettered access to cheap oil and natural gas. Industrial agriculture relies upon natural gas-derived fertilizers, oil-based pesticides, oil-intensive transport and plastic packaging. In fact, fuel accounts for virtually 100% of the work that is done in industrial society.

Once supply begins to drop and is no longer able to meet demand, less work will be done—which means less economic activity. Alternative energies, conservation and new energy carriers such as hydrogen will undoubtedly play a role in future energy systems, yet collectively they will not be enough to preserve industrial society as we know it. A largely positive outcome could result from extraordinary planning, action and enduring behavior change. Cities must prepare for a serious decrease in net energy availability in their twenty year time horizon or else accept "the cyanide solution of much more coal and nuclear" says Julian Darley, author of High Noon for Natural Gas.


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