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Peak oil task force recommends steps to reduce oil dependency

The first Canadian task force to tackle "peak oil" is recommending that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District work to reduce oil imports and exports by 2.6 per cent annually.

The "boldest recommendation" from the Energy Resilience Task Force is for the SLRD to adopt a peak oil resolution and the Oil Depletion Protocol, an international agreement that asks signatories to reduce oil imports and exports. The peak oil resolution would call for peak oil to be considered a serious issue; call for funding for assessments of oil use; and have the SLRD board endorse the Oil Depletion Protocol. The task force's draft report was delivered to the SLRD board this week. It expects to hold public meetings the last week of November.

The task force was struck in March 2010 as part of the SLRD's Climate and Energy Planning Process. Among other things, the aim of the task force is to review "current and credible" data with respect to peak oil, energy production and "related societal implications."

An executive summary states that Peak Oil is defined as the point at which global oil production reaches a maximum output, peaks, and then begins to decline. The Task Force did not give itself a mandate to debate whether Peak Oil will happen. Instead it relied on "generally held" expert opinions that Peak Oil is inevitable and "may have already occurred."

The report provides various recommendations on how to respond to Peak Oil and build resilience with respect to energy, particularly oil and gas.

Other recommendations are divided into categories such as Land Use, Community Energy Systems, Infrastructure, and Social, Health and Emergency Services.

Under Land Use, the Task Force recommends that the SLRD support and implement the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), a policy framework that encourages dense, walkable, sustainable communities as a means of accommodating population growth. The SLRD adopted the RGS in June, after a nearly year-long dispute over how it could impact autonomy in land use decisions.

Under Social, Health and Emergency Services, the Task Force encourages the SLRD to lobby for government vehicles to use recycled biodiesel or convert to electric or low-energy fleets. It also recommended that the regional district build and utilize regional teleconference facilities that can be used for "video link" first consultations with medical specialist in order to reduce "unnecessary trips."

Beyond those recommendations, the task force suggested that the regional district "strengthen the social safety net" to address social challenges relating to the transition to a lower carbon future. That includes providing support for counseling and public education on the emotional impacts of such a future; to "protect vulnerable populations"; and support social services funding.

Members of the Task Force included Kim Needham, a planner on contract with the SLRD, who chaired the group; Arthur DeJong, Whistler Blackcomb's mountain planning and environmental resource manager; and Naomi Devine, a community sustainability planner with the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

The SLRD is paying the Centre for Sustainability $10,000 to assist with the Task Force's work.

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