Suburbia Project

Re-Imagining Suburbia

We have the opportunity now to take some practical steps towards re-imagining the suburbs as places where work, shopping, living and agriculture all get just a little more neighborly.

By Jason Allen
Published November 02, 2010

I have been absorbing Jeff Vail's article about Rescuing Suburbia over at Energy Bulletin, and I thought I would weigh in with a few comments of my own.

Suburbia, as Jeff rightly points out, is here to stay. The thought of just walking away from acres of subdivisions a la St. Petersburg FL, or Flint MI may be ideologically appealing to many urbanists, but the economic impact of abandoning cities, neighborhood by neighborhood, would be nothing short of devastating.

That and the resources required to build more dense, walkable cities in the short term are going to be too scarce, and too badly needed for other things (i.e. food production).

So what to do? Sharon Astyk has been writing and blogging about the power of Victory Gardens for years now, and it just so happens that if you have way too much yard to mow conveniently with a people-powered reel mower, the next logical step is to plant gardens.

"But!" I hear you cry, "Nobody knows how to grow veggies any more. The knowledge just isn't there!"

Really? Is that why, just as the 'great recession' turned its ugliest, seed companies across North America were posting record orders, and often running out of stock?

For all of the mainstream media's almost total failure to address the coming challenges, I would venture that there exists among many people a deep and profound unease: a sense that things are bad, and are going to become increasingly so before they get better, if indeed they ever do. So people are gardening and turning to Farmers' Markets in record numbers.

Telecommuting Misses the Point

One thing Jeff does address, however, when it comes to suburbia is the concept of telecommuting, and how we'll all be able to go to work virtually.

It is here that I disagree with him the most. If, as many peak oil writers believe, there is an economic crash (and if it isn't due to energy costs, it will be sovereign state default, or something like it), it's not going to be a case of how you get to your six-figure financial planner job in downtown Toronto.

It will be how you replace the income of a job that has been suddenly rendered superfluous.

As Jeff Rubin likes to say, suddenly entire generations who have never done work more strenuous than typing on a keyboard or serving a cappuccino are going to be figuring out what to pack in their metal lunchboxes, as production moves back onshore due to the skyrocketing costs of shipping goods from China.

And where, I hear you ask, will we put those jobs? More in a moment.

Viable Suburban Transit

The other issue that comes to mind is that of transit. In the original Peak Oil Special Report on Raise the Hammer, one commenter mentioned that the reason the buses ran so infrequently in the suburbs was because nobody wanted to take them. $4.00 a litre oil will change that.

On a lark last weekend, I went to the HSR trip planner to check out how to get from my house to the most remote suburban area that I could ever see myself wanting to go to by transit - the hilariously-named Meadowlands shopping district in Ancaster.

I plugged in the addresses, expecting to see a three-transfer, 1.5 hour trip through purgatory. No dice. One bus passes about three blocks from my house and drops me in front of the Sobeys in Ancaster, 41 minutes later.

41 minutes may seem like a long time to a seasoned car driver, but as someone who takes a GO bus/train combination to work of an hour and 20 minutes each way, 41 minutes doesn't seem so bad.

Some of the basic infrastructure is there, it just needs the demand to support it. Demand, I'm fairly confident, will be coming soon.

The Sanctity of Zoning

In the meantime, what needs to be done? Well for one, our antiquated zoning system that rigidly defines industrial vs. commercial vs. residential is probably destined for the dustbin of urban planning history.

Now while nobody wants a Matt Jelly Special across the street from a nursing home, the time is going to come when some enterprising business person is going to see a half-empty strip mall and realize that a nice little garment factory, or cheese production facility would do just fine in there.

While some of the suburbanites may howl at first, those who have just been downsized from their job in the mutual fund industry may see it as a well-needed source of jobs that doesn't require a 45 minute commute by increasingly crowded bus.

While nobody is advocating a total abandoning of zoning requirements, the time has come to think seriously about the 'sanctity' of suburban zoning.

We have the opportunity now to take some practical steps towards re-imagining these neighborhoods as places where work, shopping, living and agriculture all get just a little more neighborly.

This article was first published on Jason's personal website.

Jason Allen is a chronic hive whacker in the Kirkendall Neighbourhood.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 08:46:14

Makes a lot of sense although I don't believe peak oil and the devastating consequences described by its followers are imminent. The burbs are here to stay either way and urbanists need to learn to interact with suburbanists and see whats good for one at the expense of the other is good for nobody

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-02 07:46:48

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 09:11:42

Interesting read, good ideas. (And I like the term "pathologically hopeful.") I've often championed the need for service expansion on the mountain and into the suburbs. Transit advocates tend to be relatively urban creatures, but it seems to me that the chicken-egg dilemma of support for transit is not likely going to be solved because of suburban petitions. While it's true that there's room for improvement in transit everywhere, it is also true that in Hamilton, the HSR's current reality possibly contributes to its limited success.

You describe a 41-minute bus ride to Ancaster as being relatively convenient. I suppose that is true if you compare it to an 80-minute Toronto commute, but not if you live off the 5C line (or have access to a car (15 min), at which point your total travel time might be equal to the route's half-hour scheduling). It's a forgiving yardstick, too: The Meadowlands is about 10km from Strathcona, while Union Station is around 60km distant – one would hope that you could get to Ancaster in half that time. Seasoned commuters, of course, don't need as much converting (though some look down their noses at bumpy, over-stuffed and decidedly un-plush city buses), but to someone who has spent most of their adult life going wherever they wish they wish whenever they wish, the circumscribed freedoms of public transit may only ever hold so much appeal.

The ideological plasticity of users might also be something of a geographically relative proposition. Have you ever wondered why last week's poll map of Toronto was the shape that it was?

http://torontoist.com/2010/10/which_wards_voted_for_who_for_mayor.php#colourblind

In Hamilton's case, the connections are just as important, especially when it comes to fostering attitudinal change. Brenda Johnson's Ward 11 upset of Dave Mitchell was cause for elation, but the fact remains that she can either drive for half an hour to City Hall or drive five minutes to the start of an hour-long, two-bus commute.

The other upshot of "re-imagining suburbia" is that it has the effect of making peripheral places more well-rounded, more self-sufficient and arguably less connected to the old city. Go scout a model home in Glanbrook, for example, and think about the circumference of daily life for area homeowners, and the political priorities that accompany.

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By Centrist (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 10:58:11

turbo - not believing in peak oil is like not believing in evolution. they're both facts whether you choose to believe in them or not.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 11:08:22

In fairness: while the technical case for peak oil is straightforward and very well-supported by a century of empirical data, it's really an open question what the consequences will be. I'd go so far as to argue that it's not only unresolved but also tractable to intervention, i.e. we can change the consequences by how we prepare for them.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-02 10:08:35

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 11:40:35

This article makes me wonder about what is going to happen to the old Stoney Creek Dairy. It is a relatively small manufacturing facility surrounded by 1950's housing stock. I've heard rumour that it is for sale and may be re-zoned and converted to condos. If we apply the logic presented in this article should the city resist residential zoning and keep it as a manufacturing facility or should it embrace the re-zoning and increase the population density of the neighborhood? I'd like to hear any opinions on this.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 12:35:47

I was recently given the opportunity to work for my employer at a new location on the South-West mountain. As a current South-East mountain resident I was dumbfounded to find that my transit time would go UP moving laterally across the mountain. My current commute is a mountain bus to Gore Park to transfer to the 10/5x transit on Main Street. Lateral movement "up top" on the mountain is limited to the Mohawk and Stone Church buses that have terrible frequency. I propose a LINC/RHCE express bus with connections to 2x buses. You could get from McMaster to Eastgate in under 45mins I'd imagine.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 12:36:59

However I'm just going to move back downtown again instead.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 12:47:15

I find that trans-mountain service is vexing. And in cases where you're trying to make a tightly timed transfer, it can be even worse. Especially on weekends, when missing a connection can mean waiting for 59 minutes to continue your journey.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 12:53:06

Today's HSR network is very much a hub-and-spokes model, but the "T" line on the city's proposed BLAST (candidate for worst acronym ever?) rapid transit network would seem to address your point:

The City's BLAST Rapid Transit network

view a larger map

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-02 11:54:35

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 13:17:44

Hamilton is 2 cities duct-taped together. The lower city is an old-fashioned post-industrial city. The mountain city is another Burlington/Oakville/Mississauga bedroom community, with Concession Street functioning as its dead Downtown, long-since replaced by the Medowlands and Lime Ridge Mall.

none of these bedroom communities have any use or interest in expanding their bus ridership, until the situation becomes unbearable. If you expand the service, you'll just get more empty busses - people move there because they are committed to car culture. And any bus service there is going to be inextricably worse than the already-mediocre Downtown experience, trying to sell to people who don't see any magical higher worth in bussing - they see it as an alternative to their car that they already need to commute to Oakville, one that really doesn't look very good. The only people who bus in a bedroom community are students, die-hard advocates, and people who can't drive. Those numbers won't change until the car is no longer an option.

Oh, and Jason, the Meadowlands is a bad example because it's beyond the west end of the east-west corridor so the normal frustrations of north/south movement are gone - the 5C was just extended into Ancaster.

Something simpler, like going to Westmount Secondary School (where my wife works) - a city-wide system school and not a community school and thus students are expected to get there by bus.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-11-02 12:20:28

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 13:21:18

Ryan I agree that the consequences of Peak Oil whenever it may happen is open for debate. I believe we are well on the road to preparing for its consequences technologically and that many of the fears are extremely overstated. Its not that I don't believe it won't happen its that I believe we are extending the date with new technologies and that in the time we have there will be solutions found that don't involve the dismantling of the present economic model

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 14:05:29

I'd like to believe that as well, but managing a transition without major dislocations would require our economic system to be able to absorb 2-4% annual drops in daily oil production for a pretty large number of simultaneous years without triggering shortages and the kind of runaway oil price spike that drove the economy into sharp recession in 2008.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 14:39:36

Pxtl - your point about the 5c is well taken (as is Mogadon's) - I entered My home, and Westmount Secondary into Google's trip planner (because HSR's wouldn't load), and it took me there in 50 minutes by bus. In terms of my usual commute, again it's a shorter time, but on a much less pleasant vehicle (say what you will, but I will take a trip on a GO coach with armrests/reclining seats/air vent over an HSR bus any day). The challenge, which relates directly to Mogadon's point, is that it's 3.5 km or so, using my rough estimate off the google map. Granted that 50 minutes includes a 5-10 minute walk on either end, but I know back when I was in top 'hiking' form, I could have handled 3.5 km and the elevation involved in just under an hour. I wouldn't want to try it now, and I certainly wouldn't want to do it every day - but the idea is that Transit should probably be faster than walking.

I don't believe this is a 'if they build it, they will come' scenario, but rather an "I will take local transit when economic realities pry my steering wheel out of my cold dead hands" scenario. Those economic realities may be well on their way.

I appreciate Turbo's hopefullness about technological solutions, and we will once again have to agree to disagree (respectfully) on that point. I'm concerned about oil supplies not just in terms of what will happen with the absolute volume of oil in the ground, but with things like geopolitical instability and sovereign debt collapse which (fingers crossed that they don't) may just precede any opportunity to develop technological adaptions.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 15:29:44

We've used petrochemical fuels for over a hundred years because the alternatives aren't as good. The magical technological solution will be inferior, or we'd already be using it. Now, inferior is different from non-existent - but a $50,000 electric car running on expensive green energy is not going to be in everybody's garage.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 16:17:46

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 16:36:32

Good post Jason. I have no problems with your concerns as I share them. I am much more optimistic than you but it would be a boring world with no progress if everyone thought the same way. Ryan , I'm not sure that we need to decrease production for a while yet. There are plenty of untapped reserves that we are presently loathe to exploit that will come on stream when cheap easy oil really does become scarce.

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-02 15:42:05

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 16:48:05

@turbo

Which is why Peak Oil is not going to be a sudden, abrupt downfall into anarchy. Just a steady, inexorable climb of oil prices. The places we're not harvesting from yet are more expensive.

@Capitalist

Mock all you want, but you can tell that the business world quietly believes peak oil is coming. Oil commodities keep bubbling and bursting as the market keeps expecting the next rise to be the one that never comes down. Nobody is building refineries, despite claims of a terrible shortage in refining capacity - either the richest companies in the world suddenly forgot about supply in demand, or they're not expecting this shortage in refining capacity to last that long.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 17:03:36

No problem PX. More expensive oil will only bring down the costs of alternative power as it becomes more commonly used and that $50,000 electric car will become that $30,000 electric car. The world isn't falling apart nor is it likely to for a while. The more troubling problem is the US debt load that they don't seem to be able to get under control. Its unregulated business and massive military spending that I fear will cause the collapse of the US economy much like the collapse of the Soviet economy in the Regan years more than anything else that I think will cause a global economic collapse

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-02 16:05:34

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2010 at 21:49:16

Ryan, you have been ranting about "peak oil" for a while now yet the sky hasn't fallen.

At less than double the current rate of $80/bbl, a spike in the price of oil was able to throw the global economy into the worst recession in 70 years in mid-2008. We're not even out of the recession yet and oil is already trading at a higher price than it did for most of the past decade.

Just when is peak oil supposed to hit?

For conventional sources, we're already post-peak and into decline. Overall, including non-conventional sources, global oil production has been stalled at between 84 and 86 million barrels per day since mid-2004. That means non-conventional sources can barely match declines in conventional sources - and can do that only with historically high oil prices.

Continuing to increase the oil production rate as it increased steadily through the 20th century is pretty much out of the question, when you're getting your oil by scooping up great shovelfuls of goopy sand and pumping steam into it to try and coax the oil out.

When I started writing - or "ranting" if you prefer - about peak oil in 2003-2004, it was still an unproven hypothesis, albeit strongly supported by the available evidence. It seemed credible enough to me to warrant careful consideration, though I can understand why someone might want to wait for clearer proof of peak production before accepting the theory.

Now that we have actually been in peak oil for well over six years, and we can see empirically what happens to the price when demand tries to grow against a flat supply, it is becoming increasingly ridiculous to keep denying the model that most clearly fits both the geological and economic data.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-02 20:54:10

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 02, 2010 at 22:06:31

The problem Ryan is that oil production has remained steady because demand has remained steady. IMO we haven't seen Peak Oil at all let alone for 6 years. I know you disagree but the rules of supply and demand are whats driving production. Simply put there is more money to be made by restricting supply and OPEC has been successful at doing that for years

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 03, 2010 at 06:20:19

The problem Ryan is that oil production has remained steady because demand has remained steady.

That's just empirically false. Look at the oil price changes during that period.

  • That big spike in mid-2008 is what happens then demand pushes against a flat supply and the marginal cost to produce an additional barrel explodes.

  • The big trough after mid-2008 is what happens when an oil price super-spike drives the economy into sharp recession and demand collapses.

  • The steady rise in price since then - to around $80/bbl today - is what happens when demand slowly recovers.

The rules of supply and demand are what's driving production - as demonstrated by the movements in price, which track the intersection of supply and demand. Given increasing demand and an inelastic supply, the price will go up - that's introductory economics.

You can't blame OPEC for the high prices. Their longstanding policy has been to maintain oil prices high enough to be profitable, but low enough to price non-conventional oil out of the market. The simple fact is that OPEC no longer has the swing capacity to do this. They're running flat-out and still can't keep up with demand.

Saudi Arabia, which produces over ten percent of the world's oil, quietly admitted in 2006 that their aggregate oil production was expected to peak that year. Sure enough, a year later their production was down eight percent despite aggressive remedial investments by Saudi Aramco.

Look at it differently: investments in exploration and new production have been way up for the past decade, which is exactly what you'd expect given a high oil price; but discoveries are way down, which is exactly what you'd expect if all the easy oil has already been found.

We can respectfully disagree over what the effects of a global peak in oil production will entail, but there's no plausible case to be made that such a peak hasn't happened.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-03 05:21:30

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 03, 2010 at 12:22:48

We'l never agree that there isn't a supply larger than today's production. I really believe you are misinterpreting data. BTW the big recession had little to do with oil, it was a banking system collapse that was caused by poor practice. The oil price declined because of the demand decreasing due to the bank failures, not because the price was inherently too high to sustain under the conditions before the banking system collapse

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-03 11:26:46

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted November 03, 2010 at 12:58:23

Ryan, please don't waste any more time on this tedious troll. You're only encouraging him.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 03, 2010 at 14:10:56

I am not a troll. I'm engaging in a debate. You know, where 2 people take different points of view and discuss the merits of their positions. Ryan understands the concept, apparently you don't or you aren't interested in hearing a point of view that you don't share

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-03 13:12:15

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted November 04, 2010 at 12:17:32

Ryan, you have been ranting about "peak oil" for a while now yet the sky hasn't fallen.

Just when is peak oil supposed to hit? I would like to buy some oil company shares and make a killing on the deal when prices skyrocket.

You work in the financial sector right?

Do you understand this?

Comment edited by jonathan dalton on 2010-11-04 11:17:50

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2010 at 13:00:14

Thanks, Jonathan. Here's the same graph using real data:

Global Oil Production, Consumption and Price by Month

The green line is global oil production by month.

The red line is global oil consumption by month.

Production and consumption are both in millions of barrels per day and are pegged to the left Y axis.

The blue line is the average WTI spot price by month. It's in USD and pegged to the right Y axis.

Notice that the red and green lines track each other closely from 2000 until 2006-2007, at which point consumption starts to outstrip production. (Guess what's happening to inventories during this time.)

During the period from mid-2007 through mid-2008, demand (consumption) significantly outstrips supply (production) and the price skyrockets from $60 per barrel to $147 per barrel as the marginal cost to produce an additional barrel becomes prohibitive.

After mid-2008, aggregate demand collapses due to the excruciatingly high price - timing that correlates very closely with the onset of the recession - and the price collapses with it, back to $40 per barrel.

Seriously, this is a classic supply and demand curve - I mean, it's even more elegant a graphic representation of what I'm talking about than I expected to find.

The argument that supply plateaued because demand plateaued is obviously incorrect. Demand clearly continues to grow through mid-2008 and only collapses after the oil price increases by 2.5 times over a year.

Blaming the housing bubble for the collapse confuses symptom with cause. The housing bubble was able to continue expanding as long as the economy continued growing - but something had to put the brakes on further economic growth. That "something" was the spike in oil prices, which in turn forced an increase in the cost of every good and service that consumes oil as part of its manufacture or delivery.

I'd be extremely interested to hear a plausible alternate explanation for the relative movements of the supply, demand and price curves of oil over this period that accounts for the data.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-04 12:07:57

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted November 04, 2010 at 13:34:32

This is the place where an honest, sincere skeptic would admit, "Wow, you're probably right about peak oil."

I'm not holding my breath.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 04, 2010 at 14:45:31

Demand went down so production went down. The numbers bear that out. This skeptic has seen all of this rehashed a hundred different ways and it all boils down to the same thing. Laws of supply and demand are driven by the demand side not the supply side since 2008. In 2007 you might have an argument but in the 25 year proceding 2007 and the 2 year period after its strictly demand driven. What we have is a one year blip

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-04 13:51:38

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2010 at 18:39:05

With all respect, you either don't understand the relationship of supply, demand and price or you're deliberately refusing to engage the evidence honestly. I'm starting to suspect the latter.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2010 at 21:37:04

The real problem with "suburbia" is that it's an environment of enforced sterility. Single use (housing) with huge tracts of nearly identical single family homes, and a huge number of rules and regulations preventing anything "abnormal" from going on. The worse the fuel situation gets, the more we're going to see suburbs in crisis, and the natural response (especially with all those empty garages) will be to diversify. Apartments, small businesses, workshops, farms, restaurants - if suburbs are going to be a place worth living, we must be allowed to do so there.

Suburbs are actually quite a common historical phenomena. What's not so common is the North American trend where the wealthiest live there. In most other conditions (Europe, Asia, South America, Africa etc) suburbs often blend with slums. But the reason so many historical suburbs become thriving and famous neighbourhoods (ie: Monmartre in Paris) is because the people who lived there were allowed the freedom to do things not allowed in the wealthier urban centres (like the Moulin Rouge).

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 04, 2010 at 22:18:51

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-04 21:21:19

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2010 at 06:46:04

Demand persistently outstripped supply by an average two million barrels a day for a solid year, during which the price of oil increased steadily from $60/barrel to $150/barrel.

This is high school economics. It's precisely what we would expect to see in a situation where rising demand pushes up against an inelastic supply. Here, take a look at a plot of the price elasticity of oil production over the past decade:

Elasticity of Global Oil Supply

As you can see, supply is elastic up to around 83 million barrels per day. It's a classic elastic supply curve:

Elastic supply

(Image credit: Investopedia)

From 84 mbpd on upward, supply becomes decidedly inelastic, following a classic inelastic supply curve:

Inelastic supply

(Image credit: Investopedia)

This is precisely what peak oil theory predicts: beyond 84-85 mbpd, the marginal cost to produce an additional barrel of oil starts racing toward prohibitive. The data overwhelmingly bears this out.

Again, either you don't understand basic economics or you're being deliberately obtuse for the sake of argument and/or sheer denial. Either way, I'm not going to waste any more time on this. The evidence speaks clearly enough for itself, to anyone willing to listen.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-05 05:48:58

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted November 05, 2010 at 09:17:29

Ahem, as I was saying.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted November 06, 2010 at 12:44:24

I've often wonder why I end up living in the suburbs so often. The only answers that come to mind are:
1) I like really big trees! :)
2) I do not enjoy living cheek by jowl with neighbours.

I do not enjoy feeling that I have to tippy toe around, shut all noise making devices down @ 11 p.m.& that 'divorced from reality' feeling that comes from living on the 15th. floor. Yes you can leave your heating off until December because of the bee hive factor of a high rise, but if the elevators, power, or the water shuts down..then what?

I have lived in all 3 environs, & the Burbs seem to be the compromise that I take every time, even though I'm completely unsuited to suburban life & the blandness, sterility, & conformity that dwells there along side those trees. I miss having a Public Transit system that Works more than you can imagine!(Even more so, I miss the notion that 'We really ought to have one'.)
I miss seeing people wearing saris, colourful African clothing, & openly declaring who they are & where they came from. The Gap should not be our national uniform.

I am not ambitious, young, or energetic enough to try rural life again. (I don't think-?) It also has the component of 'required sameness' in some places, & requires a bigger carbon footprint to even get out of your driveway in the Winter. No public transit to speak of, & you drive everywhere to get everything except the food you have grown & stored yourself.
But I Do absolutely love the idea of waking up again to see a garden, of flowers & food, & nothing going on to disturb the quiet, unless I chose to crank up the stereo a bit. I like walking down to the mail box with my dog or cat off leash, without anybody having a raging hairy fit about a harmless animal.

The idea of moving into the City is tempting, esp. as you get older. Public transit, stores close at hand, a public library near. But there is always to possibility of moving next door to an alki wife beater, a crack house, or something worse that is totally legal & out of your control. (Been there.. had that happen. The wife beater moved in after we did.)

It probably makes a lot of Green Sense to put everyone in an high rise apartment, low rise, the Too Many Rules Condo Project, or row housing, but will they enjoy it & isn't that the whole point? More to the point, if they are not in a rent controlled building, will they be able to stay there? Who is building geared to income housing these days? Nobody.

I'm also worried about the growing crisis over the availability of rare earth minerals. There goes a sizable part of civilization as we know it & it will inevitably lead to much greater use of fossil based fuels, if it happens.

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By newsteve (registered) | Posted November 06, 2010 at 19:56:10

Maybe this will help solve the argument...

Jeff Rubin is the former Chief Economist for CIBC and has written a book on how the price of oil will be going up drastically very soon...

Comment edited by newsteve on 2010-11-06 18:57:36

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2010 at 17:21:33

Electric cars may be affordable for everyone in the near future, but if everyone had one we'd have rolling brownouts all the time. I suppose we could build another nuclear plant, but those take over 10 years to get constructed and up and running. An easier solution would be for people to live closer to where they work. I predict that in about 10 years after the economy recovers and we have a surplus of jobs, we'll have companies building "satellite" locations in suburbia.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 07, 2010 at 20:16:33

re Burbs: Fear not, the wrecking ball cometh and will do the same job it has always done - demolishing perfectly good stuff to make way for denser living according to higher land values dictated by higher fuel prices. I mourn for the severe downgrading of the resultant waste that was so recently some fools's pride and joy. The signs have been around for a long time for anyone to see but fools are still disbelieving and buying. Sigh. Really though, the process is never ending - going from single family to basement apartment to duplex/triplex torn down to put up new condos and eventually high rises/ office towers. In the meantime, the economy is forcing people to double up, reversing a decades long downtrend in people per household metric. This more than anything else may be the doom of surburbia. Immigration is the only solution to this one.

re peak oil: Ryan: To my eye, looking at your graph, we have not yet reached peak oil - best fit straight line would still be trending slightly up, not flat at least post 2006 or so. Your elastic and inelastic curves are valid at every point on the curve ie. was true in 1920 (or any other year) at lower levels. It just shows the price of trying to expanding the supply at any given time and says nothing about future times.

But Turbo did not win the argument although he came close to the truth in bringing the economy into the picture. Both parties are confused. To my eye, looking at Ryan's chart, the price of oil has fallen sine 2006 , drastically, in real terms, after accounting for real inflation, not the bogus numbers fed us by media shills. I believe this will soon reverse - but not because of peak oil. We are in the beginning phase of the next shift. As you see the price number change, one should not think oil is going up, but rather fiat dollars are becoming worth less - worthless?? Our ability to afford oil is diminishing and China's is increasing. And we still want their stuff!!! I watched this play out with the Japanese for decades with lots of jawboning but no real solution. So Turbo will experience the effect as if it were peak oil, even if it is not peak oil. Yet.

While some comments posit that energy saving will compensate for price rises, I don't believe they will compensate for price rises PLUS billions of new consumers who want to live just like we do. Oil may not peak just yet because more people are looking more desperately but unless we discover a way to mine the stuff more efficiently that poking straws in the ground, peak oil will come. (something like 2/3 of the oil is left behind.) To prove this, Ryan, you may want to show a chart or two of the energy cost of energy. I think it was the Chris Martenson site had some good stuff on this but i ran out of time for this post.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 07, 2010 at 22:15:39

Jason: I checked out your blog and noticed that if one does not have a blogger or similar account then one is not allowed to comment?? I thought i'd mention this in case it was not your intention.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2010 at 07:36:37

A familiar complaint around vehicle capacity and transit options: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/letters/article/274135--if-the-buses-aren-t-still-running-or-full-what-can-we-do

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted November 08, 2010 at 14:06:20

Bob - that is not my intention. I'll fix that this week. Thanks for your comments.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted November 08, 2010 at 17:13:34

And production has been increasing ever since the dip that resulted after the spike. The fact is that we have not hit peak production. That blip was exactly that an abnormal blip caused by Big Oil taking advantage. The fact is I believe your theories are pure bunk. I've been around too long to fall for it. I'm with you Bobinnes

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-11-08 16:19:07

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 09, 2010 at 07:58:30

A peak in 2005/2006 is fairly debatable, but dramatically rising demand for oil over the last decade? That's a little harder. It goes along with all the data we've got in terms of economics or engineering. Not that you "can't" question it, but it's gonna take some pretty impressive data to convince most of us.

Even after the economic crash, oil prices have come nowhere near settling back into their historic lows, and are now now once again rising. How exactly do price and production rise so much without rising demand? Populations are growing, economies are growing, and things really aren't getting much more fuel efficient (at least, not enough to compensate for China). The recession may have set all forms of demand back temporarily, but not in any kind of sustainable way.

I don't actually believe that production CAN'T rise after a "peak", and I don't think that was Hubbert's intention. If everyone went out and started digging six days a week, it would certainly be doable. The point is that the price will go up exponentially. Ten or twenty years ago, a price increase of even a few dollars per barrel brought a massive influx of new oil - today an extra $50/barrel hasn't. Given that we're still around four times the price that oil was a decade ago, despite the worst recession since the 1930s, I'd say that the numbers fit pretty well.

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