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Peak oil report delayed for fourth time

Oct 14, 2007

A city staff report on strategies to reduce energy use is being delayed again. The report was ordered by councillors in April 2006 after hearing Richard Gilbert’s presentation on the threats and opportunities facing the city as a result of the expected peaking of world oil production.

The report from staff was originally due in June 2006, but was delayed a full year to June of this year. When it came up then on the outstanding business list of the public works committee, staff asked for a further delay to September 17.

On that date it was pushed off to October 15. Now the agenda for Monday’s committee meeting shows another delay – with a new promise of delivery on November 5.

In the meantime, the price of oil climbed over $84 US a barrel for the first time this week, more than four times the level of five years ago, and the once controversial notion of a production peak seems to have entered the mainstream.

At the end of last month, an article in the Wall Street Journal asked “How economy could survive oil at $100 a barrel”, and a few days later former US Energy Secretary James Schlesinger told delegates at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil that said that “oil industry executives now privately concede that the world faces an imminent oil production peak.”

The much delayed report on reducing energy use is only one of several requested by council in 2006 that have still not appeared. They include a promised evaluation of Gilbert’s main recommendation – to do a more detailed follow-up study to his “Hamilton: The Electric City” report.

That part of the approved motion in April 2006 got ‘lost’ almost immediately. It was re-requested in early February of this year in a motion moved by Brian McHattie and approved unanimously by council’s committee of the whole. That new request, however, continues to languish on the committee’s outstanding business list without a promised delivery date.

Peak oil refers to the point at which global extraction of petroleum will reach its maximum and begin an inevitable decline. Richard Heinberg, one of the best known commentators on this issue, detailed evidence this summer that peak may have been reached two years ago.

He noted that the 74.2 million barrels a day production level reached in May 2005 has not been achieved since, and by April of this year had declined to 73.4 million barrels a day despite sustained high prices that “should provide an incentive to increase production wherever possible”.

Discussion of oil prices has been somewhat muted in Canada by relative stable prices caused by the currency shift that has seen the American dollar fall to (and below) parity with the loonie.

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