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Report/Paper: [Portland, Ore.] Descending the Oil Peak: Navigating the Transition From Oil and Natural Gas
Published by City of Portland (Oregon) (original article)

The final report of the Portland (Oregon) Peak Oil Task Force. This product of six months of research and over 80 stakeholder interviews is an excellent model for developing a local response to energy uncertainty. It is the first major peak oil vulnerability assessment by a U.S. city.

Published by City of Portland (Oregon),

» View or download the full report.

This report was accepted by the Portland City Council on 7 March 2007; see Resolution/Ordinance: Portland, Oregon: Reduce fossil fuel use 50% in 25 years.


From the Executive Summary:

Recommendations: Act Big, Act Now

The Task Force findings illustrate the profound economic and social vulnerabilities that could result as fuel supplies cease to be abundant and inexpensive. The magnitude of this issue led the Task Force to explore bold and far-reaching solutions. The Task Force is unified in urging strong and immediate action.

The Task Force recommends preparedness on two different levels. Most of the recommendations seek to reduce Portland’s exposure to rising fuel prices, anticipating the economic and lifestyle adjustments that will be needed in the future. Other recommendations prepare Portland to maintain community stability as volatile energy markets trigger conditions ranging from emergency shortages to longer-term economic and social disruption.

Reduce Portland’s exposure: The Task Force proposes cutting oil and natural gas consumption in half, transforming how energy is used in transportation, food supply, buildings and manufacturing. It proposes strategies to maintain business viability and employment in an energy-constrained marketplace.

Strengthen community cohesion: However well Portland succeeds in its energy transition, it will not be able to isolate itself from global energy crises or the resulting economic implications. The Task Force sees the potential for profound economic hardship and high levels of unemployment, and it recommends having plans in place to adapt social and economic support systems accordingly. Similarly, contingency plans are needed for fuel shortages that may last for months or years, well beyond the time considered in existing emergency plans.

The Task Force recommends a comprehensive package of actions, proposing strategies to initiate institutional change and to motivate action by households and businesses. The recommendations propose major changes for Portland, but the Task Force believes their implementation can have a positive social and economic impact as local residents and businesses spend less on imported fuels and redirect dollars into the local economy. This presents a significant economic development opportunity for Portland.

While all the recommendations are important, achieving a significant reduction in oil and natural gas use is a necessity for easing the transition to an energy-constrained future.

1. Reduce total oil and natural gas consumption by 50 percent over the next 25 years.

Leadership builds the public will, community spirit and institutional capacity needed to implement the ambitious changes. Leadership is needed to build partnerships to address these issues at a regional and statewide level.

2. Inform citizens about peak oil and foster community and community-based solutions.

3. Engage business, government and community leaders to initiate planning and policy change.

Urban design addresses the challenge at a community scale.

4. Support land use patterns that reduce transportation needs, promote walkability and provide easy access to services and transportation options.

5. Design infrastructure to promote transportation options and facilitate efficient movement of freight, and prevent infrastructure investments that would not be prudent given fuel shortages and higher prices.

Expanded efficiency and conservation programs shape the many energy choices made by individual households and businesses.

6. Encourage energy-efficient and renewable transportation choices.

7. Expand building energy-efficiency programs and incentives for all new and existing structures.

Sustainable economic development fosters the growth of businesses that can supply energyefficient solutions and provide employment and wealth creation in a new economic context.

8. Preserve farmland and expand local food production and processing.

9. Identify and promote sustainable business opportunities.

Social and economic support systems will be needed to help Portlanders dislocated by the effects of fuel price increases.

10. Redesign the safety net and protect vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Emergency plans should be in place to respond to sudden price increases or supply interruptions.

11. Prepare emergency plans for sudden and severe shortages.

Each of these 11 major recommendations is accompanied by a series of action items detailing how it can be implemented.

Next steps

A number of the recommendations imply the need for a central program to coordinate goal setting, tracking and communications. Other recommendations are policies, programs or projects to be implemented by specific bureaus or groups of bureaus. The Task Force proposes that a team of city staff be appointed to translate these recommendations into a funded, operational course of action. Acting on this report, however, does not need to await further study or analysis. City bureaus can immediately look for ways to incorporate these energy concerns and impacts into ongoing planning activities and educational programs around sustainable development. City Council can challenge bureaus to align their investments and activities with the recommendations outlined in this report. Finally, the Task Force members would like to express their willingness to continue assisting the City of Portland as it engages City staff and the public about peak oil and Portland’s energy future.

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