Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A mayor worries...

...about what peak oil is going to cost - finally. One down, several thousand more to go.

How Will Local Governments Respond to Large Increases in Energy Bills?
Posted by Prof. Goose on May 27, 2008 - 2:00pm in The Oil Drum: Local
Topic: Policy/Politics
Tags: city politics, debbie cook, energy, local government, peak oil [list all tags]

This is a guest post by Debbie Cook, Mayor of Huntington Beach, CA, and candidate for California's 46th Congressional District. Debbie has been a peak oil activist for many years; in this post Mayor Cook provides some interesting energy and peak oil-related things to think about from a local government perspective.

...I am the Mayor of Huntington Beach, California, a full service city of 200,000 residents, 27 square miles, 1200 employees and 8.5 miles of beach. We have nearly 200 police vehicles, 3 helicopters, 15 fire engines/trucks, 7 ambulances, 1 HazMat vehicle, and 1 medical decontamination unit. In addition there are hundreds of miscellaneous vehicles and trucks for public works, marine safety, building department, water department, and administration. All said, we consume 495,000 gallons of gasoline/diesel/jet fuel per year. For every $1 fuel goes up, it is a half million dollars out of our general fund budget...

...There are countless services that local government provides to residents: streets, curbs, gutters, tree trimming, sewers, street sweeping, water, parks, community centers, emergency services, senior services including meals on wheels. All of these are energy intensive and mean local government is extremely vulnerable to supply disruptions and high costs. As budgets get squeezed, you can speculate as to which services will be the first on the chopping block.

I have spent the last three years educating elected officials and policy makers about the peaking of world oil production with only limited success. I have been as frustrated as my fellow peaksters as to the lack of response or attention this critical issue has received from all levels of government. As Mark Twain once said, “There is a great deal of human nature in people.” Jim Kunstler’s article The Psychology of Previous Investment is the best explanation I have seen as to why it is so difficult to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Our mistake is in thinking that elected officials will act differently than the public that they are elected to represent.

Peak oil is a truth that does not benefit the status quo and as such will require each and every one of us to keep banging the drum. In the meantime, I’m afraid that no matter how high the price of fuel goes, we are likely to see more of the same—blame and finger pointing and limited leadership and initiative.

Debbie Cook, Mayor
City of Huntington Beach

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