Monday, February 28, 2011

A Venetian Future?

Is Venice the role model for life after Peak Oil? I visited the 'incomparable city' for a few days last week. I took the photo at the quayside near Piazza San Marco. Everything is transported by hand and cart around the city. As it always has been. And considering that Venice was more or less constructed as it is today long before the invention of the internal combustion engine there are, perhaps, some lessons for how to build a (very) civilised city when the supply of cheap oil has peaked. Perhaps.

The Libyan crisis has engendered lots of fevered debate about Middle East oil supplies. As well it should. But I was intrigued by a recent report by BP called Energy Outlook 2030 which points out that OECD oil consumption peaked back in 2005, and by 2030 is expected to be back to the level last seen in 1990. And, coincidently, another study suggests that we may have reached Peak Travel in developed countries.

So we're in something of a race: efficiency gains and lifestyle changes are weakening the demand for oil, just as production peaks and fewer discoveries are weakening the supply of oil. Though BP assumes nevertheless a net increase in both supply and demand to 2030. I hope they are right: otherwise Venetian modes of transport may become a lot more common - and trips to Venice a lot less so.

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