Peak Oil is You

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Page added on January 28, 2015

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Planning for peak oil and Detroit’s future




According to Time Magazine, in an interview with Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas, “Global Food prices have risen 25% this last year and many nations are starting to hoard commodities” (corn, wheat, rice etc.).

Whatever the reasons for this, and I don’t understand many of them, this trend is not going to get better. One of these reason alone will sky rocket food prices in the next 10-20 years and that is described in “ Peak Oil” graphs.
In very over-simplified terms, “peak Oil” means that world-wide we have reached our highest production level of oil and that from here on the availability of oil will decrease rapidly and consequently the price of oil will increase sharply. By 2030 we will have as much oil available as we had in 1970 with double the demand. Increased oil prices have already caused us to look for alternative energy sources. Some are good such as solar- and wind energy and the use of geothermal heat. Some are outright bad, such as increasing coal strip mining which destroys entire ecosystems and where we, by the way, are getting most of our electricity from. Some are ridiculous, like ethanol. Producing enough ethanol to feed our ever increasing appetite for gas would leave us all starving, because it would take up all our crop land. This by the way would solve our obesity problem (morbid joke, sorry). As oil prices go up, all other energy prices will go up too. As an example, we are thinking about electric cars. This will increase the demand for electricity which will drive the coal – and natural gas prices up.
Now we need to have the courage to use our imagination as we ponder the possible effects on our daily life and the life of our children over the next 30 years.

Our home heating- and cooling bills will go from an average of $300 to $600 a month (if you keep your thermostat on 70’, not 80’)and we would wish we had a small 1000 sq.ft., well insulated home, instead of our beautiful, old, badly insulated, 2000sq. foot dinosaur. We should have left that big old maple which shed all the helicopters in our gutters. It would have shaded our house and saved us air conditioning bills. We should have bought solar panels instead of outdoor Jacuzzi.

Our commute to and from work goes from $80 a week to $200 a week and we wished we lived within walking, biking or busing distance from our work.

Our food will double or triple in price which will change your weekly food bill from $200 to potentially $600. There are several reasons for this:

  • Increase in transportation cost: Our food comes from places such as California, Chile and China (no I am not kidding)
  • Increase in processing cost: Processing plants require lots of energy.
  • Increase in cost of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides (many are made from oil and gas)
  • Increase in producing and operating cost of the heavy farm equipment
  • Increase in irrigation cost (pumping requires energy)

We would wish that we had learned to garden from grandma and had some land to grow food on. We would also wish that we didn’t have to spend $4 in gas money to get to the store. We would also wish that we would have learned to cook from scratch instead of heating up can- and frozen food and that we would have taught our children to eat vegetables instead of oven fries, and other highly processed foods.

All small and large household and clothing items, coming India and China, will be very expensive. Dollar stores will be a thing of the past and this will leave thousands of ugly empty shells all over our neighborhoods. Plane trips for the family to Disneyland in Florida will not fit our budgets anymore; we should have kept Boblo Island.

Happily all of this has not come to pass yet. We have time to adjust our attitudes and plans for our city and our personal lives. We have time to make decisions that might be painful and unconventional for the present, but will prepare us for a post “Peak Oil” future.

Here are some goals we can aim for:

  • Creating smaller mixed zoning communities where people live within walking-, biking- or busing distance from work, school, play, worship and recreation.
  • Encourage small (1-5 acre) farms which produce high quality, organic produce year around. Encourage small organic animal husbandry for eggs, honey, fish, goat cheese, meat such as rabbit, poultry, deer, and yes emu. Encourage nurseries, orchards, transplant production.
  • Encourage small value added processing facilities such as canning, freezing, packaging, drying, meat processing, cheese-making etc.
  • Encourage small production facilities for household and clothing items.
  • Encourage training facilities which will cater to these industries.

There are many ways of achieving these goals and I will mention just a few for each of them.

I grew up in the Netherlands where mixed zoning has always been a fact. It works very well with small, non-polluting businesses. Small stores are on corners of streets, cafés and restaurants are in small squares in the neighborhood. Larger businesses are along more major arteries. Senior housing and nursing homes are located next to or above shopping centers. Doctors, dentists, and lawyers have their offices in residential neighborhoods and live next to or above their practices. Schools, parks and recreational facilities are within walking distances. Small vegetable farms can be reached with a short walk or bike ride. Give significant tax incentives for people to live within 3 miles of their work place. This will encourage teachers, police, business owners, nurses, doctors etc to move into the neighborhood, build housing, increase commerce, encourage improvement in education and much more. Encourage residents in zoning, land use issues and planning and development within their community.

Small farms can be encouraged by allowing urban farmers to buy from 10 to 50 lots surrounding their houses. Turn the zoning on the land into farming, so that you exclude speculators and adjust taxes. Give people living in thinly populated farm areas the choice and help them to move close by to residential areas or give them incentives, training and help to get their houses of the sewer- and water grid. Allow only mixed farming, which is a combination of crop production and animal husbandry, so that animal wastes get properly recycled and used for crop production and you don’t get massive stinky chicken factories. Limit the amount of animals per acre of land.
Mixed zoning is helpful in regards to small, value added processing facilities because having them close to farms and residences reduces transportation costs and need for storage facilities.

Small production facilities, using fabricators and the like, making relatively simple products are good low skilled job opportunities. Again having mixed zoning is helpful, because if people live close to their place of employment they will not need a car, which will free a larger part of their (relatively low) income for other essentials. Supporting these industries with local training centers for high school drop outs, returning citizens and other harder to employ people would be helpful. These centers would combine social services, education, job training and research and development.

Brightmoor and neighborhoods like us are poised to try out plans for this future and we challenge the powers that be in Detroit to try us out!

4 Comments on "Planning for peak oil and Detroit’s future"

  1. viewcrafters on Thu, 29th Jan 2015 8:05 am 

    By the time any zoning commission gets around to change zones there will be a mass influx of people coming to Detroit due to sea level rise. Florida will be under water the the east coast states will have may refugees.

  2. ghung on Thu, 29th Jan 2015 8:29 am 

    viewcrafters: …”a mass influx of people coming to Detroit due to sea level rise…”

    To do what, pray tell?

  3. Kenz300 on Thu, 29th Jan 2015 10:18 am 

    Bicycles need to become a much bigger part of the transportation system of all cities.

    Some cities and states encourage bikes………. they provide safe walking and biking lanes and trails. Cities also should encourage businesses and apartments to provide safe places to lock or store a bicycle.

    Bike Friendly Cities, The Journey to School – YouTube

  4. GregT on Thu, 29th Jan 2015 11:11 am 

    Bicycles require human muscle energy. Human muscle energy requires food. Better to use human muscle energy to grow food, than to aimlessly transport billions of people around cities for no good reasons other than to waste even more energy, and to cause even further environmental degradation.

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