Mayor: People of Lewisham need to wake up to Peak Oil reality

“Do you realise, that if Heavy Electricity falls from these headphones, not only would it blow my head off, but it would cut me completely in half… if you are a Member of Parliament or somebody in a powerful organisation and you’re listening to me right now let me say this to you I have a lot of television shows, a lot of radio shows and a big audience. Do something about it otherwise I’ll do something about it.”

- Caesar the Geezer,
Brass Eye

We promised you another reason why we brought up Peak Oil the other day. Far from being the preserve of “obscurantists” it is subscribed to by the Mayor of Lewisham.
At a recent Full Council meeting, Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock responded to questions from Green Cllr Romayne Phoenix about whether he felt that Peak Oil is a “serious challenge” that needs to be addressed by Lewisham Council. After a pat answer about global challenges and solutions, there was a supplementary exchange:

RP:
Peak oil is indeed a global issue but do you agree that among its implications is that a scaling back of global transport and freight will cause the relocalising of economies, and that therefore local authorities have a duty to look at how they can prepare their own communities to deal with the specific consequences of fossil fuel depletion, distinct from other climate and sustainability concerns?

Mayor:
I agree with your general thesis. There are important questions, however, about the timescale involved and how these things will come to pass, not least because of the economic situation. I would certainly continue to provide leadership in the council and across the partnership. It is an issue which is a long term issue around step change. We will see many changes in the years ahead. One challenge to members is to explain to the electorate, who I think have yet to grasp the scale of what we face.


So the Mayor inserted important caveats, but nonetheless believes that the age of globalisation is coming to an end, scarcity is going to require a step-change in the way we organise our lives and that we need to re-localise our communities and he thinks our local political leaders have a duty to help us “grasp the scale of what we face.”

If the Mayor believes this, then shouldn’t it be the Council’s highest priority? Shouldn’t every decision – from planning to investment – be aimed at encouraging local centres, replacing cars with cyclists and pedestrians, insulating homes properly, encouraging more dense development around transport hubs, no compromises at Lewisham Gateway or Convoys Wharf, encouraging car clubs, discouraging supermarkets that rely on car parks.

How would Peak Oil re-shape Lewisham? We can think of one local example. The Council’s attitude that the redevelopment of Brockley Cross must not be allowed to interfere with the flow of traffic would have to be reconsidered.

What else?

18 comments:

TM said...

I can't agree with your hypothesis Nick.

Interfering with the flow of traffic means queues, inefficient use of engines and a waste of fuel.

QED Improving the flow reduces the fuel consumption of each vehicle.

;-)

Anonymous said...

The mayor may think this - but does it represent the views of the people. I fthe mayor did all you suggest, I imagine he wouldn't atsy in power for long

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece Nick.Totally agree.

Ed said...

I am consistently impressed with your choice of quotes Nick: David, Groening, Coogan, Morris etc.

Headhunter said...

Interfering with traffic flow certainly leads to inefficient engine use but also delays people and causes congestion which may be (for some) factors discouraging them out of their cars and onto other means of transport resulting in lower traffic levels.

Many studies have shown (unfortunately can't quote one right here and now) that the easier you make it for people to use their cars, the more they will use them. Lower the price of petrol, people drive more, build motorways - people drive more (look at the M25, hailed in the 80s as the answer to traffic problems through and around London but very quickly jammed up with an increase in traffic).

The more difficult and expensive you make it for people to drive 200 metres down the road to buy a load of bread and a pint of milk, the less they are likely to bother.

Car use is often the result of laziness, if the lazy option is expensive and results in delays then facntastic. Get out of the car and walk or bike.

Headhunter said...

What's up with the commenting process at the moment? I just spent ages writing a comment, clicked "publish" and it vanished. Did the same the other day too...

Headhunter said...

Oh... It's there now. Is there a delay in publishing now?

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me the other day, HH. The problem comes and goes.

maxink said...

So, the solution to discourage people using cars would be to jam the roads with cars.
I see a flaw in this argument.

I'd rather try with better public transports really. Including footpaths and pedestrian crossings.

Headhunter said...

This Peak Oil thing is very interesting, I've always thought that the reversal of globalisation was nigh, shame we can't hasten its demise. It's also encouraging to see that the Mayor subscribes to the theory but as with Heidi Alexander on the renewal of Brockley X, inserts many "yes but.." comments.

Part of his and government's hesitancy in dealing properly with issues like this appears to stem from the fact that the electorate "have yet to grasp the scale of what we face", yet they continue to delay in making grasping the nettle and making the electorate aware.

Headhunter said...

Well I wouldn't say the ONLY solution is to jam the roads with cars but making it less convenient to hop in the car to go round the corner is surely going to discourage use. Of course if you're going to discourage car use you need to provide better options like decent public transport. I always though that Ken's proposal of funding improvements in public transport with the "gas guzzler" £25 congestion charge revenue and the extension of the LEZ were good ideas. Bozo put an end to that though...

Brockley Nick said...

@TM - peak oil theory suggests that fuel will rapidly become so expensive that car usage will dwindle rapidly and / or we all rapidly switch to electric vehicles, which don't expend energy while dawdling...

Anonymous said...

A more thoughtful theory about the effect of peak oil on oil prices also does the rounds, apart from that which simply says prices will go up. In fact, it describes what has been happening in the last few years: that prices will see-saw, rocketing thanks to either actual scarcity or speculation fuelled by fears of future scarcity - this causing economic turmoil, recession and depression of demand for oil, followed by falls in oil price and then a gradual recovery of demand and price so the cycle begins again, each time wreaking more recessionary damage.

So far this appears to be borne out - prices have risen to record levels, fallen way back and are now recovering. The fate of the economic 'recovery' is uncertain so far.

The worrying thing about this scenario is that it undermines the basis of your confidence, Nick, that the market will take care of oil substitution etc by creating the necessary incentives for alternative energy. The risk is that you get a flurry of interest in renewables etc while the oil price is sky high, but that incentives and investment are not sustained sufficiently to achieve the needed 'step-change' because subsequent falls in oil price produce false dawns where it seems earlier concern about oil scarcity were unfounded. This theory says this scene of turmoil produces one of the largest hurdles to making a successful transition away from oil dependency.

This is not meant to be a doom-mongering comment. I only mean that if this theory holds water, it's something that has to be taken into account when planning a response to peak oil - we can't necessarily afford to assume that the autopilot of 'the market' will steer us safely home. (Sorry Nick, I'm caricaturing your position slightly, I know you take a rather more rounded view than that!)

Brockley Nick said...

The more 'sophisticated' theory you outline sounds like a glass-half-empty take on what I was saying. Of course there will be fluctuations - but long-term trends will be rising and this will act (as they are) as an incentive. I'm no free-market-fundamentalist btw - I certainly support carbon taxes and CO2 markets (opposed by the more economically illiterate climate campaigners, who've thrown their lot in with the "drill baby drill" wing of the US right) to stablise markets and provide a guaranteed price of carbon, which is the long-term incentive to find substitutes that industry says it needs.

Investment in renewables, energy efficiency and alternative vehicles is already skyrocketing so the substitution effect isn't merely a theory, it's reality. To give just one example, in Israel and Denmark, they're beginning to roll out entire networks of electric car grid. Even TfL is planning for electric charge points - see London Reconnections http://ow.ly/1jYeX

Brockley Nick said...

PS - and of course Government has a role to play, setting energy efficiency standards, choosing a diversified energy strategy, investing in public transport, focusing R&D support on green technologies, etc

The UK government is 'doing' all of this - the questions is whether it's doing it effectively.

Anonymous said...

hydrogen fuel cells are the way forward. They emit zero pollution whereas electric cars require a renewable energy source otherwise they are still polluting by proxy.

Brockley Nick said...

Fuel cells are just another type of storage system. Whether electric battery or fuel cell, the pollution depends on how you generate the electricity.

Anonymous said...

The fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity with water as a by product. The hydrogen will be made by passing an electric current through water with oxygen as a by product. it's not magic anon, it still needs power to make the fuel, conservation of mass and energy will show you that it all balances ( when you take the losses into account - friction, heat etc.) should have paid attention in that chemistry/physics class

The question is where do we get that central primary power from?

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