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San Francisco Peak Oil Report

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 10th, 2009

Source: PostCarbon Institute
Dustin Jensen Biking SF
Image: Dustin Jensen via SFGate

“…And most importantly, with all of these policies, start now. Conditions will be far better in the long run if the City begins addressing this unfolding challenge immediately. The transition cannot be done quickly; the City faces a limited window of opportunity to begin, after which adaptation will become enormously difficult, painful, and expensive. There is no time to lose.”

Extract from the report on Energy Bulletin, here.

In March 2009 the the San Francisco Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force published its report on the city’s vulnerability to peak oil and gas. The report acknowledges the threat to San Francisco from peak oil and gas and includes a raft of recommendations. On 23 July the report was slated to be presented to the Board of Supervisors at the Government Audit Committee meeting.

San Francisco was born at the beginning of the oil age, and the city has flourished during an era in which fossil fuels became the foundation of our economy and society. Petroleum and natural gas heat our homes and light our offices; they fuel the trucks that bring us our food and the cars and buses that move us around; they drive our industries and power the information technologies that marvel the world. Today, the City and its inhabitants are utterly reliant on fossil fuel energy: 84% of the energy consumed in San Francisco comes from oil and natural gas.

Because petroleum and natural gas are finite resources, this situation cannot last. If San Francisco is to thrive in the 21st century and remain a world-class city, it must begin planning today for how to maintain itself in a postfossil fuel age….

…As production of oil and natural gas eventually begin to decline, San Francisco will face a painful adjustment – unless it prepares in advance. Experts are divided on exactly when the decline will begin, with some arguing that the peak of production may not occur until as late as the 2030s, and others positing that the peak has, in fact, already happened. Regardless of the exact date of the peak, what is clear is that the sooner the City of San Francisco addresses this looming threat and prepares for the difficult transition ahead, the better off the City and its residents will be.

It is the job of the Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force to assess the degree and nature of San Francisco’s vulnerability to an eventual, inexorable rise in fuel prices, and ultimately a scarcity in oil and natural gas.


Addressing these impacts will not be easy. The challenges of reducing our overall reliance on energy from fossil fuels and finding new sources of energy are so enormous that they will require an array of adaptive strategies at every level of government.

Some of the most important strategies for the City to pursue include:


* Instruct City agencies and departments that planning must include a scenario of energy decline.

* Implement our city energy buying cooperative, Community Choice Aggregation, and move ahead with the planned efficiency programs and development of electricity based on renewables.

* Encourage the installation of local, renewable, distributed electric generating facilities.

* Pursue the conversion of the electric system to a smart grid.


* Convert vacant and underutilized public and private properties to food gardens.

* Vastly expand urban agriculture programs and services.


* Expand passenger capacity of all mass transit.

* Avoid infrastructure investments which are predicated on increased auto use.

* Convert City equipment, buses, and trucks to 100% biodiesel from reclaimed lipids, as feasible.

* Discourage private auto use by disincentivizing car travel and ensuring that alternatives (walking, bicycling, public transportation) are competitive with driving.

* Expand the potential for rail and water transport, for both passengers and freight.


* Encourage local manufacturing that utilizes recycled material as feedstock.


* Retrofit the building stock for energy conservation, efficiency and on-site generation.

Societal Functioning:

* Begin an education plan, to inform San Francisco residents about Peak Oil & Gas and its implications.

And most importantly, with all of these policies, start now. Conditions will be far better in the long run if the City begins addressing this unfolding challenge immediately. The transition cannot be done quickly; the City faces a limited window of opportunity to begin, after which adaptation will become enormously difficult, painful, and expensive. There is no time to lose.

Published Mar 9 2009 by City & County of San Francisco, Archived Jul 21 2009

San Francisco peak oil task force report by San Francisco Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force

Source: PostCarbon Institute

3 Responses to “San Francisco Peak Oil Report”

  1. Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D. Says:

    August 10th, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    The Peak Oil situation is sooner and more catastrophic than the SF Peak Oil report indicates.

    Tony Eriksen’s study of declining oil production is summarized in this Figure.

    These data show a slow decline in global crude oil production currently and then accelerating after December 2010.

    Because oil is used to produce oil, we should focus on net oil production, which is what we have left after oil is consumed to extract, refine, and deliver oil products to market. The rate of decline in net oil production is much steeper than for all oil produced, as shown in Murphy’s Figure 3.

    The drop in net oil production will probably be steeper than Murphy forecasts. Matthew Simmons estimates that 100 trillion dollars of investment is need to replace the globe’s rusting infrastructure of pipelines, drilling rigs, platforms, and refineries. Much of this investment will consume oil to manufacture, transport, and assemble this infrastructure. And everyone who works on these 100 trillion dollars of projects will use their pay to buy products made out of oil or transported by oil. Currency is a ticket to buy oil. Thus less net oil will be produced than shown in Murhpy’s Figure 3.

    Also, as oil exporting nations consume more oil domestically they export less to the developed nations; hence, the oil supply available to developed countries will be considerably less than shown in Murphy’s Figure 3.

    This analysis indicates that oil supplies for the developed world will decline precipitously beginning in the next two years and the decline will accelerate over time.

    This suggests that a rapid economic global collapse will occur in less than 10 years.

    This is what we must plan for. With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, water distribution systems, waster water treatment, and automated building systems.

  2. Kate Archdeacon Says:

    August 11th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for your comment and the additional information.

    From the V.E.I.L. ( perspective, the interesting aspects of this report are the type of recommendations made for mitigation strategies. We are focused at the moment on designs for sustainable transport, urban agriculture and distributed systems among other things.

  3. Matt Mushalik Says:

    October 27th, 2009 at 1:40 am

    I have started a new website which monitors the crude oil peak 2005 – 2008. This triggered the financial crisis. More details here:

    Many recommendations on what to do

    sustainable cites

    Rail development and public transport