Energy & Resources
November 10, 2007

Sites You Should See

A couple of great sites to check out.
First up, Stu Ramsey’s PowerPoint and commentary has been posted.  Stu is funny, insightful and relevant: a worthwhile way to spend half an hour and get informed on peak oil and transportation.

Oil, that is

37 min 21 sec – Nov 9, 2007
Description: A fabulous presentation by Stu Ramsey connecting the dots between peak oil, global warming, and a well-functioning public transit system. Stu Ramsey is a transportation engineer for the city of Burnaby, British Columbia. For more transportation ideas that can bring about a healthier planet, visit

The other site is Phatterism – completely unrelated to the above.  In fact, it’s a personal site by  young guy named Luis Santi Jr. who works for the ‘soft’ in Seattle.    It’s personal, charming and incredibly inventive – a wonderful use of flash, music and imagination.
Click on the film clip titled “What Really Matters” in the “Me” section.  See how he handles photos.  And for those with a personal site, be envious.

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Independent film maker Damien Gillis has just released a mini-doc that exposes one of the weakest arguments of the provincial government’s Gateway Project – namely that we need to wait six years before bus service can be restored to the Port Mann Bridge.

Hear Eric Doherty and Stephen Rees of the Livable Region Coalition tell us how by using a queue-jumper lane we could put buses over the bridge tomorrow. As Campbell continues to take heat over the conflict between his GHG reduction goals and Gateway, this issue threatens to add more fuel to the fire. The video takes a close look at comments by the key players in Gateway, exposing some of the faulty logic and misrepresentations they rely on to perpetuate the myth that better transit requires more bridges and roads…and that said motor vehicle infrastructure somehow benefits the environment.

The Youtube video is here.

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October 17, 2007

The bell curve that marks a change in history:

This is the original sketch of M. King Hubbert – a petroleum geologist based in Houston, working for Shell Oil – who in 1956 predicted that U.S. domestic production would peak sometime in the early 1970s.  Not a message Shell (or anyone else in Houston) wanted to hear.
The debate raged until 1970, when, indeed, domestic production peaked.
So now the question is: when does world-wide production peak, or has it already? And what are the unpleasant implications of that, particularly when combined with climate change and geopolitical instability?
It’s also the subject of an upcoming PlanTalk, to which you are invited:

The Elephant in the Room: Peak Oil and Climate Change
What are the challenges facing planners and policy makers at our local and regional level in addressing issues related to peak oil and climate change? How can we foster motivation, optimism, and engagement in developing feasible actions that can be made in the immediate and long term to address climate change and peak oil?
Join us at the upcoming Plan Talk to discuss the impact of peak oil and climate change within urban environments and the role that planners can play in addressing the ‘elephant in the room’. This talk will feature speakers that bring a variety of perspectives to the discussion, from engineering, planning, and local and regional governance.
Stuart Ramsey, Transportation Engineer and Planner.  Stuart will discuss peak oil and climate change, and its context within an urban environment, specific to transportation. Jason Emmert, Community Development Planner, Smart Growth BC.  In addition to moderating the discussion, Jason will also comment on how urban areas have responded to peak oil and climate change issues. Marvin Hunt, City of Surrey Councillor.  Marvin will provide comments on how issues related to peak oil and climate change may be addressed at our regional and local levels.
When: Tuesday October 23rd, 6:30pm refreshments * 7:00-9:00 pm speakers & discussion
Where: Chateau Granville (Pigalle Room), 1100 Granville Street (at Helmcken)
Cost: $20 PIBC Members* and other professionals; $10 Students. Payable by cash or cheque at the door. Receipts will be issued.
RSVP to Suzanne Smith by Wednesday October 17, 2007 ( or 604-990-4240) Plan Talk is a speaker series supporting discussion on the challenging and provocative issues of planning practice.  Our goal is to link planning professionals and student s to share emerging knowledge and professional wisdom in a relaxed and social forum. Events are open to all interested in participating.
PlanTalk is sponsored by PIBC’s Lower Mainland Chapter.  This event will count for 2.0 CPD units for PIBC members.

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Some fine comments by Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail on Al Gore’s presentation last Saturday, and the Gateway protest out front:

VANCOUVER — As people arrived at the Bayshore Hotel Saturday night to hear Al Gore speak, they had to pass a small group of placard-toting protesters trying to be heard above the din of a driving rain.
Those strolling through the hotel’s front doors didn’t pay much attention to the group. It was such a hellish night, nobody was wandering over to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, the group was protesting against B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell’s Gateway project, which includes plans to widen highways and twin bridges – initiatives the protesters said accommodated carbon dioxide emissions, not diminished them ….
I believe the world’s scientists when they say we are running out of time to fix this problem. I also believe that as global issues go, this is No. 1. … Despite that, our politicians, well many of them anyway, still don’t get it.
To my mind, this is the only issue in the next federal election; which party has a plan to actually do something about climate change. …
Which brings me back to the shivering protesters outside the hotel Saturday.
I’m starting to think this is what everyone in this country may soon have to do: Grab a placard and hit the streets…. If it takes marching to be heard then marching it shall be.
Even in the rain.

So: “Gordon Campbell’s Gateway project.” 
I suspect that’s not the brand the Premier likes to see in print.  “Kevin Falcon’s Gateway project” perhaps – but not Campbell’s.
I’m with Bill Good on this: if Gateway were announced today, it would be a different kind of project.  Certainly one with transit as a major component, not as an afterthought. 
[When will the media start to ask why a queue-jumper bus lane cannot be done now?  Why do we need a new bridge likely a decade away to provide transit service equivalent to the Lions Gate Bridge today?]
I’d love to know the inside story on how the twinning of the Port Mann was pulled off.  My hunch is that Falcon announced it with little warning, and the Liberals found themselves locked in, using goods movement as an excuse, not as a reason.  (Only 6 percent of the traffic across Port Mann is trucks; goods movement is meant to be accommodated on the South Fraser Perimeter Road.)
The Premier, I’d also guess, never thought the protest over Gateway would sustain itself, much less continue to build.  There’s even the danger that by 2010 the road-building projects – Sea-to-Sky, Gateway, the perimeter roads, the plans for Highway 99 and Deas Island tunnel – will overwhelm any attempt to brand the Olympics as green, as well as a sincerity test for his climate change goals.
I’ll stick with the prediction that Gateway will have to be repositioned as part of an extensive transit and land-use strategy for South of the Fraser.

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This is really delicious – and it comes from a pretty reliable source:

Regarding the Evergreen Line, a mayor of an eastern municipality is convinced an announcement is coming soon. Perhaps at the UBCM.  The mayor also thinks that the Evergreen Line will take the southwest route along Lougheed AND a branch will  head off over the Port Mann to Guildford (maybe further).
I wouldn’t  be surprised if rail goes to Walnut Grove and then down 200th to Willowbrook and Langley Centre. Jordan Bateman, a Langley councillor and Liberal insider has been pushing light rail on 200th.
There is massive development being planned along the Lougheed United Boulevard corridor included Fraser Mills and Riverview. Both United and Lougheed are lined with low density retail and industrial development which Wilson seems keen on redeveloping.
The southwest route is significantly less expensive than the northwest route due to the lack of tunnelling. If the construction of the Guildford branch is concurrent with the highway expansion, the cost to  Coquitlam Centre and Guildford would be similar of the northwest route to just Coquitlam Centre.
The southwest route also means there is a old Canada Line tunnel boring machine sitting around that could be used for the Millennium Line extension. It also means that the Evergreen Line won’t be going through Port Moody which might be why Trassolini is not very happy.
It seems odd in the RFP that they are building the space for light rail now. This is an extra expense that will not increase the revenue in the first few years of operation. Rail over the bridge both in the short and long term will likely generate more revenue than using the two lanes reserved for light rail for general purpose traffic.
Rail also protects project revenue against increases in gas prices and TDM measures designed to reduce automobile use because as car use and revenue goes down, rail use and revenue would go up.
Since most of the opposition to the expansion is coming from Vancouver and Burnaby, the province might also chose to delay the expansion west of Coquitlam.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Gateway Program is moved over to the new TransLink. It always seemed rather cumbersome to have both MoT and TransLink responsible for roads in the region. This could be the real reason why Falcon is rejigging TransLink.
Again all of this is rumor and guesswork.  Given Campbell’s ability to outmanoeuvre the opposition, none of this would surprise me at all.

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Maybe because they have already gone through the trauma of serious water constraints, Queenslanders seem to be more serious about the consequences of peak oil.  Or at least some in their government are.
Peter Berkeley, the bike guy from Brisbane who was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, reports in on news at the state level:

Our Premier Peter Beattie retired last week (it all happened very quickly)  The upshot being that there has been a complete reschuffle of the cabinet … 
A major development is that Andrew McNamara, an MP from Harvey Bay has taken up a new ministry called Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation.  In the hands of anyone else you might say that this is just a rebadging of the old environment department but Andrew has been trying to get the issue of Peak Oil on the radar of the Government and the community for years now. 
He was sworn in on Thursday and by Saturday there was a front page article in the Courier Mail on Peak Oil.  I have attached a link for your reading pleasure. 
Report warns of petrol chaos

From: The Courier-Mail
September 15, 2007
QUEENSLAND is heading for an oil shock. And it is not a matter of if, but when.
As crude oil prices hit a record high yesterday, an as-yet unreleased Queensland Government report warns of massive social dislocation, rising food prices and infrastructure headaches because of rising oil costs.
Video: Oil reaches record prices

Syvret: End of the Oil Age near

Concidentally, there’s a good piece in the New York Times by Gregory Mankiw today on the merits of carbon taxing over cap-and-trade:

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Here’s today’s Province editorial:

One of the main problems about the current debate over Lower Mainland transportation is that it always divides itself along ideological lines and is invariably presented as an either/or proposition: Either you build more public transit or you build more roads.

But the fact is that we need both, and then some. …
As readers of Brian Lewis’s column will know, a new group has been formed to press for passenger rail service in the Fraser Valley. Founded by SFU graduate student John Buker, Rail for the Valley states on its website that our governing politicians “want to spend billions of dollars on highways, but they continue to neglect basic rail transportation needs south of the Fraser River.”
As we said, though, this is not an either/or proposition. The Fraser Valley needs an expanded Port Mann Bridge, better roads and more truck and bus routes.
And it needs passenger rail.
Above all, it requires a decently-funded, comprehensive travel system that offers people as many transportation alternatives as possible.

I hear that argument a lot – that we need a balanced transportation system – curiously used to justify the Gateway. And to imply that the critics of it are being unreasonable.
But the Port Mann/ Highway 1 widening is completely about roads. There’s nothing balanced about it. There’s nothing in the budget for rail; there are no plans for rail; there is only the suggestion that twinning the bridge will maybe, at some undetermined time in the future, make room for rail, disconnected from any transportation planning for rail.
And here’s the problem: it will catalyse auto- and truck-dependent development throughout the eastern valley before rail ever shows up, making it considerably more expensive if not futile to introduce rail afterwards.
If The Province wants to be something more than an apologist for Gateway, it should demand that Gateway be stopped until there’s a plan – and more importantly, a budget – for “a decently-funded, comprehensive travel system.”

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The Project Manager for PM2, Gary Dawson, noted at a recent meeting that the widening of the highway was always planned when the road was first designed.
“Yes,” he said, “we are completing the transportation vision of 1960.”
So we shouldn’t be surprised when we get a Valley that looks like the 1960s.

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In the Saturday Sun, editied by Canada’s most renowned environmentalist, David Suzuki, a feature story provides some counter-opinion (including mine) to the usual rah-rah for the Gateway proposal:

The Gateway project is a “gigantic leap in the absolute wrong direction,” says University of B.C. Professor Larry Frank, who is internationally famous for his studies of the connection between obesity and the suburbs. “It will entrench us in an auto-dependent future right in the middle of a climate-change debacle.”
A study Frank recently did for the Washington Department of Transport showed that for each 10-per-cent reduction in driving times that motorists experience, typically because more roads have been built, the amount they walk or use transit goes down. That automatically means greenhouse-gas emissions go up.
Preston Schiller, a professor at the University of Western Washington who has studied the transportation systems of the three cities, called the Gateway plan “a big mistake.”
“To me, that sort of expansion you just don’t do in this day and age.”
And former Vancouver councillor Gordon Price, also a close watcher of the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland scene, calls it “a tragic turn in the direction of this region.”
“If [the provincial government] does what it says it’s going to do, we are going the way of Seattle.”

Full story here.

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In today’s Province, Valley columnist Brian Lewis reports on the panel discussion in Surrey yesterday, sponsored by the GVRD.

(By the way, I’m not actually a planning professor. I do teach a course as an adjunct at the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC – but that doesn’t qualify for the ‘prof’ moniker.)

Problem isn’t fixed by doing more of what created it

  Brian Lewis The Province

Gordon Price is a Simon Fraser University professor of regional planning who also served six terms on Vancouver City Council — but I think he’s missed his calling.

The 57-year-old should have been a chef because, as a panellist yesterday in a Greater Vancouver Regional District-sponsored meeting on transportation south of the Fraser River, he displayed a talent for stirring pots.
“The Gateway proposal, as it currently stands, will fail,” he said.
“We know it will fail but we’re going to do it anyway,” he told mayors, councillors, bureaucrats and ordinary citizens who gathered for the discussion at a Surrey golf course.
When Price dropped that gem, his co-panellists — Fraser Port Authority president Allen Domaas and B.C. Trucking Association boss Paul Landry — grimaced like any golfer would when the tee shot finds water.
That’s because their organizations have a huge stake in seeing the multibillion-dollar Gateway Project completed.
Greater Vancouver’s ports and its trucking industry play a vital role in this region’s economy — and the national economy, for that matter — and completing mega-transportation projects such as the Golden Ears Bridge, the South Fraser Perimeter Road and twinning the Port Mann Bridge under the Gateway label are all seen as vital to our growing trade with Asia.
Gateway is also being billed as a solution to regional traffic congestion and as a way to make the commuting lives of those who live south of the Fraser much easier.
But Price says allowing the ports, truckers and the B.C. government’s backers on Howe Street the most input on these projects is like letting the fox design the henhouse’s security system. Nor has there been enough input from other public stakeholders.
“Never let the guys who drive the big trucks design your region, because they’ll only do what works well for them,” he warned.
And this, Price maintains, is what has happened to Gateway.
He says it’s being pushed through by the B.C. government as individual projects with little focus on the overall consequences. And many of the negative impacts will occur south of the Fraser, especially in Delta, where a major port expansion is already under way.
“I recognize that in a growing region like ours you have to make a commitment to [building] infrastructure, but simply expanding the road system, even with modest tolls, will only result in people becoming more car-dependent,” Price said.
“The new capacity will only be quickly filled up, so instead of four lanes of trucks stuck in traffic you’ll have eight lanes of trucks stuck in traffic.” He also said before we spend billions expanding the regional road system, we should improve efficiencies in the current system.
Nor have Gateway planners taken into account the consequences of climate change, the increased concerns about fossil-fuel emissions or the loss of local farmland to make way for new roads, he added.
“In the end, you don’t solve a problem by doing more of what created that problem in the first place,” Price said.
Yes, I think the professor would have been a dandy chef because he cooks up some tasty food for thought.

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