[The study focuses primarily on spatial planning, transportation and food security.]
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) describes itself as “the UK’s leading planning body….” It recently released a 59-page discussion paper on Peak Oil, partly in preparation for a forum on this issue which is scheduled for January 17th in London.
RTPI describes the purpose of its study as follows: This discussion paper sets out the findings of a study undertaken into the issue of Peak oil and the implications for spatial planning. It aims to promote discussion, raise awareness among transport and spatial planners of the issues around peak oil and suggest an agenda for action by professionals. It is intended as an introduction and primer to the issue; further work will be necessary… to ensure that the concept is properly taken into account in future planning (p. 1).
This study is a compilation of three discrete activities.
1. Literature review. The RTPI team examined several first-rate sources: the pioneering work of Hubbert, as well as more recent work by Hirsch, Energy Watch Group, the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security (ITPOES) and the IEA’s landmark 2008 World Energy Outlook. The writing team relied on these sources for credible, balanced reference material.
2. Critical evaluation of present spatial and transport planning (including “discussion of the shortcomings of present approaches in this respect”). The authors examined existing UK government documents and were struck by the absence of attention to Peak Oil. With respect to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the authors found, “Reviews of the literature undertaken for this study revealed no apparent published information or consideration explicitly by DECC concerning Peak Oil, with the exception of the acknowledgement that a key challenge facing DECC is to ensure energy supplies after North Sea oil and gas production has peaked” (p. 15).
With respect to the UK government’s 2007 Energy White Paper, the authors note, “Indeed, the term Peak Oil does not even appear in the White Paper” (p. 15).
Within the planning community, the RTPI team points out, “Peak Oil is not well recognized in spatial planning although some direct effects of Peak Oil will be experienced in the UK within time horizon of national and local plans” (p. 16).
With respect to UK transport planning, the authors note that the new White Paper “remains resolutely silent on the issue of Peak Oil…” (p. 18).
The RTPI team also notes the ongoing inattention to food security: “The area that is almost completely ignored in development plans is that of food security” (p. 18).
With respect to UK policy development in general, the RTPI team concludes, “there are few examples of the Peak Oil concept being explicitly considered in policy development” (p. 20).
Given the relative absence of proactive work within the UK on Peak Oil, the authors “would welcome contributions from readers indicating other examples which could inform the development of policies in the UK in this respect” (p. 21).
3. Recommendations for planners The RTPI report offers its own recommendations in addition to directing readers to progressive initiatives which have been undertaken by other agencies (eg. Transition Towns, Zero Carbon Britain, Low Carbon Communities Network, etc).
The focus of their recommendations is primarily the transport sector and is summarized in this pointed observation: “Given that Peak Oil will happen at some point, albeit with uncertain timing, and the possible profound and severe impacts that it could engender, integrating Peak Oil mitigation into transport policy is imperative” (p. 42).