Royal Town Planning Institute’s Peak Oil report

The UK’s Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), a key planning group, has produced a report on Peak Oil (download from here) and how it should affect town planning. It will be discussed at a meeting on the 17th.

It’s very welcome that a body like this is considering the issue. As they note, if transport costs dramatically increase, we cannot assume that everyone can afford to drive, or even catch the bus, so development must be planned to allow people to get around on foot or bike. Obviously planners design for a period of decades (or longer) ahead, so having low-oil-friendly developments in place now will help.

Their literature survey also picks up some interesting points. Unlike many, they are willing to go into print with the suggestion that many countries have overstated their oil reserves: a view held by many in the Peak Oil community, but not one that is particularly politically expedient to make.

They also note the lack of Peak Oil research in the UK, particularly by DECC, and welcome input. So far so good…

But there are a couple of problems. One is that their data is often a couple of years out of date, which makes their long-term forecasts feel a bit optimistic, particularly as some seem to be dependent on bodies they’ve already noted haven’t taken Peak Oil seriously. For instance, their petrol price tables end in late 2009, and forecast figures from thereon are slightly over the pound per litre mark, whereas costs are now over 130p, and a major fall doesn’t feel likely.

The other is this meeting on the 17th: just two hours to discuss a topic of this magnitude. I hope that the outcome is to commission further research and ensure that the word gets out to town planners around the UK. We’ll see.

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