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Peak oil: threat or fantasy?

Is the SLRD preparing itself for something it isn't sure will ever happen?



The city is empty.

Vast skyscrapers and office buildings sit idle and unoccupied, workers finding no reason to be there since they lost their jobs. Cars are abandoned on the street, withering and rusting away with the passing of the seasons.

The sole remaining residents are gaunt, zombie-like figures, bodies ravaged by hunger, unable to transport themselves elsewhere because they can't afford to fuel the cars that would drive them away. Like in a George Romero film, they wander aimlessly, desperate for the last scraps of food that will allow them to carry on a fruitless, myopic existence.

This is, we're told, similar to the future that awaits us after Peak Oil, the point at which oil extraction reaches its maximum level and then begins to decline. High oil prices are to follow and rise exponentially, bringing economic devastation because the resource has a hand in almost everything we buy.

It's a frightening prospect - but is it true?

It is to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District - or rather, they might not know whether it's true. They just want to be prepared in case it is.

The SLRD, a body that provides regional governance to areas adjacent to Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Lillooet, is preparing for the prospect of Peak Oil through the Energy Resilience Task Force, a citizen advisory body comprised of people representing a variety of sectors and communities within the region.

There are 20 members, excluding a chair and two facilitators. They represent sectors such as urban planning; agriculture; education; transportation and social services. Nine members, including the chair and a facilitator, reside in Whistler; four, including the other facilitator, are from Pemberton; three are from Squamish; one from Lillooet; and two others reside in the Electoral Areas.

Their mission is to investigate issues related to Peak Oil and how it could potentially impact the SLRD. The precise cost of the endeavour hasn't been determined yet but the regional district has paid the Whistler Centre for Sustainability $10,000 to facilitate Task Force meetings, assist the SLRD in summarizing its findings and coordinate public meetings around those findings.

One of those meetings was held in Whistler last Thursday at Myrtle Philip Community School. In attendance were Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed; Task Force Members Arthur DeJong and Jeanette Nadon; and various other community members interested in the threat that Peak Oil might pose to the economy.

Task Force Chair Kim Needham, a strategy planner on contract with the SLRD, explained Peak Oil this way:

"When you look at the energy of the world, production, it's a bell curve," she told an audience a dozen strong. "They're sort of like mountains on top. Some drop off like a shark's tooth, but essentially there's a production curve that rises up, and then there's decline."