Uncertain Times See Cities Planning for Peak Oil

With energy and the economy both causing headaches, 2008 has been a big year for local governments recognizing and planning for peak oil. Finding a way forward in a future of constrained energy will require much of planners.

"2008 was a big year for government responses to peak oil. Post Carbon Cities, which tracks local government responses to the issue, has added a number of new towns -- not just the "usual suspects" -- to its list. But the bill is rapidly coming due on our "energy gluttony problem," and U.S. cities are left bedecked with infrastructure that requires cheap, easy energy.

The way ahead is not obvious for either planners or government officials. Planning and engineering practice is still rooted in a 20th-century mindset that assumes energy --and especially gasoline-- will be readily available and affordable for decades to come. As decades-long trends of both suburbanization and globalization come up against the resource limits of the 21st century, we'll have to move quickly to adjust to the new rules.

One of those new rules was explained succinctly by Bloustein School of Planning (Rutgers University) Dean James Hughes this past June: 'Distance matters.' If 2008 turns out to be the year that the big post-war economic and development trends finally came to an end, perhaps it will also be the year that we finally stopped pretending that distance didn't matter."

Full Story: Post Carbon Cities 2008 Year in Review

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