Best Cities To Live In When The Peak Oil Crisis Hits

Common Current recently released a report ranking U.S. cities on their ability to deal with a peak oil crisis. San Francisco comes out on top and Oklahoma City ranks last.

"Ranking highest are cities with strong public transit system ridership, well-organized and relatively dense city centers, a high degree of mixed real estate uses (retail, office, residential), and medium-to-high city population density. Honolulu was significantly reduced in the overall ranking by its use of oil for electricity, Boston was somewhat reduced and New York was slightly reduced in the ranking on a proportional basis because of their use of oil for heating.

The highest-scoring cities had strong public transit commute-to-work rates by residents and high overall transit ridership within their metro area. US cities have experienced high growth in rates of telecommuting to work from 2006 to 2007, most likely a direct impact from rising fuel prices. Oakland had the highest telecommuting rate, at 7.6% in 2007, while six US cities-San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, OR; Atlanta; Virginia Beach and Denver--had more than 5% of their total workforce being primarily home based. In 2006 only two cities were above 5% in telecommuting."

Full Story: Major US City Post-Oil Preparedness Ranking



dense about density

This article is very naive. In the post-peak oil world, where will the power come from to run the elevators in these high density cities and where will the food come from to feed their large populations? James Howard Kunstler wrote in The Long Emergency that the communities that will be best equipped in the post-peak oil age will be towns and small cities surrounded by good agricultural land. People in big cities will be doomed, especially those in the dense urban cores.

No access to food?

I'm no fan of Kuntsler, but I was surprised that the top five cities listed have NO direct access to nearby food sources, even in their regions. They're all surrounded by massive suburban/urban matrices, not rural/agricultural (like cities such as Portland have).

These cities will do well in an era of higher energy prices because of their density, yes. However, should technology not catch up before shortages come about, these cities will see food riots long before cities surrounded by agricultural areas.

No Nearby food sources in SF?

You must have never been to Bay Area. It probably has richest local foodshed of any US city, with plentiful locally produced or grown seafood, poultry, eggs, vegetables, greens, fruit and nuts within 50 or even 25 miles of the city. The city of San Francisco just published a local food production and development policy, and Oakalnd has a goal of getting 30 percent of its food on city land or from adjacent towns.

I live in Marin County 15 miles from city ( bicycle commute) where we have a barter economy for eggs, locally raised meat, seafood and fruit and three-season vegetables and greens. The fruit trees and berry bushes are so plentiful (citrus, apples, pears, plums, figs, peaches, cherries, etc.) that we try and redistribute it to local schools, neighbors. Right now in December I can and do within 1 mile pick enough guava, apples, pomegranates, persimmons and citrus to feed my family and many more. Yesterday, I picked at a local farm pounds of ripe tomatoes, squash and sorrel which I took home on my bicycle. My suburban yard has chard, lettuce and potatoes growing in profusion, much of it reseeded by itself.

The cities here and in Seattle and DC in the summer also have many things growing and have active economies based on local food. It's just hard to measure how much activity there is, as much of it (here for instance) is off the books.

But commenters are right that we are unprepared in cities and suburbs for what's to come.

Irvin Dawid's picture

Elevators run on electricy, not oil

Oil only produces about 2% of electricity in U.S.
Sadly, coal produces over 50% - though coal is domestic and still quite plentiful, it is the most polluting and deadly of all the fossil fuels.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Food Data not Available

SO where would you get local food data? Kunstler also two years ago said that public transit would have to run on human waste when oil hit $100 a barrel. The fact is when oil hit $147 a barrel the foreclosure crisis started in car-dependent exurbs (many on or adjacent to prime food growing land) where people could not afford gas costs and mortagages. That's what started dominoes falling. Local food is critical and I've ranked US cities according to farmers markets and community gardens per capita, which SF and Oakland do quite well in.

Cities such as Havana are growing much of their own food, as were cities in the former Soviet Union before the collapse, so there are models out there for significant urban food production.

But until we have substantial production and distribution for local food in US cities (and knowledge of how to grow it, and why it's important), it can't be modeled with current data sets.

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