Crude Awakening: Preparing Ottawa-Gatineau for Peak Oil

Ottawa Peak Oil Forum

Saturday, January 28th, 2006
Ottawa City Hall, Main Floor
8:30 AM to 4:00 PM



What is Peak Oil?

Why is it important?

What is the impact of Peak Oil for Ottawa?

Information on the Ottawa Peak Oil Forum



Useful Links



What Is Peak Oil?

In most of the last hundred and fifty years humans have taken more oil—petroleum—from the Earth each year than in any preceding year. Oil is becoming more difficult to take from the Earth. At some time in the near future humans will be forced to start taking less oil from the Earth each year than in the year before. This turning point is called peak oil. The most credible estimates of the year of peak oil are from 2005 to 2015. After peak oil there may be short plateaus of oil production, and occasional brief upturns, but the downward trend will be unmistakable. Peak oil will not be the end of oil. It will be the end of growth of oil production, and the beginning of permanent decline. At peak oil there will be as much oil remaining to be taken from the Earth as we have already taken, but we will no longer be able to take it as quickly as we like, and will have to take less and less as the years go by.

Why is it important?

Oil—petroleum—is the most important non-renewable resource in the world economy. Burning oil powers virtually all transportation machinery—cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes. Burning oil powers virtually all construction machinery and all agricultural machinery. Although oil is the raw material for many important industrial and agricultural chemicals, it is the use of oil as a fuel in mobile machines that makes oil indispensable to the world economy. At least 70% of all the oil we use fuels mobile machines. There does not seem to be any substitute for oil-as-a-fuel that will be available in the quantities in which oil has been available. Growth of the world economy requires growth of the work done by mobile machines. The indefinite shrinking of oil production after peak oil means the work done by mobile machines will likely shrink indefinitely. As a consequence, sustained economic contraction seems likely to start about the time of peak oil, sometime in the next few years. Sustained economic contraction will cause severe unemployment, together with social and political unrest. Awareness, planning, and collective anticipation may be able to mitigate these problems.


What Is the Impact of Peak Oil For Ottawa?

The chief effect in Ottawa of the decline of world oil production will be unemployment caused by the relentless slowing of the world economy. Many families will have no employed member. Unemployment is likely to be at least as severe as it was during the depression of the 1930s. Families on low and average salaries will be stressed by the rising real costs of transportation, food, and most goods. Decreasing world oil production is almost certain to coincide with decreasing production of natural gas in North America. The resulting high prices of natural gas will add to the stress on middle and low income families during the heating season, as both heating oil and natural gas prices rise together. Political pressure is likely to keep electricity prices from reflecting the full cost of electricity. Since individual households can simply acquire electrical resistance heaters and plug them in, home heating will shift away from oil and natural gas toward electricity. This shift will place a rapidly increasing burden on the electrical system, which will react by introducing rotating blackouts during high load hours. Many families will move in together to reduce and share heating costs. Many houses, especially in distant suburbs, will be abandoned. The big box retailers’ business model will be invalidated by lack of consumer income, by consumers’ unwillingness to drive long distances, and by increased long distance transportation costs for goods. The progressive failure of the big boxes will create shortages of many goods. There will be great turbulence in the retail business and a resulting great inconvenience for consumers, as industry, agriculture, and commerce struggle to remake the retail business model.



Working Together to Find Solutions

On February 28th, 2006, at Ottawa City Hall, participants in the Ottawa Peak Oil Forum identified ten areas in which peak oil would have significant impact on Ottawa-Gatineau.

Agriculture and Food Security
Residential Energy
City Finances and Services
Small/Local Businesses
Environmental, Health, Social Impacts
Getting Ottawa "off the grid"
Product Replacements

In the afternoon sessions, they discussed and identified many possible solutions, and a report summarizing these solutions will be released in the next few months. Over the next year, ten working groups will continue this process face-to-face, and develop more comprehensive solutions and strategies.

How can I help?

The questions of peak oil are large. The answers are not obvious, and in some cases may not yet exist. Since we cannot assume that new technology will be able make up the shortfall in energy, we must fall upon our own resources to invent new ways of doing things more efficiently, and of doing more things ourselves: as individuals, as communities, as governments. The kinds of solutions required will include new twists on existing ideas as well as approaches that have not yet been invented.

What can we do?

The internet, which gave us the open source model for developing software, is now starting to generate exciting new approaches to open source idea generation. These offer the possibility for many minds to work together on a single problem. This is especially valuable in tackling large problems with many pieces, where many ideas are needed. This approach offers unprecedented potential for rapidly generating, critiquing, and refining solutions, which can then be used as a resource by policy-makers, community groups, and individuals alike.

What can I do?

Using the WhyNot open source idea generation software developed at Yale by Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff, we offer you the opportunity to collaborate in inventing, suggesting and refining solutions for Ottawa-Gatineau. We also hope that this will be a place you will come when looking for solutions. The essence of the WhyNot approach is to start by asking yourself "Why don't they...", or "Why Not...", and use that as the springboard to think of an idea. Once one person has suggested an idea, other people can offer extensions or refinements. This is quite different from a weblog or a discussion group. You'll have to try it for yourself to see the possibilities.

We invite you to sign up on our WhyNot site and suggest solutions, or comment on existing ones. Be constructive. Try to add value. If you see a difficulty, suggest a remedy. If you're not sure whether something will work, suggest a way it might work. If there's a piece missing, fill in the gap. See if you can think of something that no-one has ever thought of before. Clicking on one of the ten topic areas below will take you directly to that category of interest on the WhyNot server.

Suggest a solution

  1. Agriculture and Food Security
  2. Transportation
  3. Residential Energy
  4. City Finances and Services
  5. Small/Local Businesses
  6. Environmental, Health, Social Impacts
  7. Getting Ottawa "off the grid"
  8. Economy
  9. Product Replacements
  10. Security


Information on the Peak Oil Forum

Crude Awakening: Preparing Ottawa-Gatineau for Peak Oil

Saturday, January 28, 2006
Ottawa City Hall, Main Floor
8:30 AM to 4:00 PM

Everyone is invited. Please register in advance.

  • This One-Day Forum will gather a diversity of key and interested people to work in small groups.
  • The morning discussions will define issues and concerns that we need to address in Ottawa-Gatineau as a result of the peak in the production of oil and other fossil fuels.
  • The afternoon discussions will focus on identifying solutions, connecting key players, and developing action plans.
  • Displays, video showings, and the exchange of information will happen throughout the day.
  • Key opportunity for residents, businesses, City officials, and specialists to meet, network, and plan together.
  • Closing Plenary will confirm collaboration and follow-up actions including a process for keeping connected and being innovative.


Peak Oil Planning Committee and the Environmental Advisory Committee of the City of Ottawa

Partners and Sponsors

City of Ottawa, and a growing number of businesses, agencies, retailers, and funding organizations.





If you wish to register for the Crude Awakening Forum on Saturday, January 28th, please send an email to Ann Coffey at to let her know of your attendance. You can pay the registration fee of $20.00 at the door.

Please note that we need to know how many people will be attending because we have to order the food and beverages in advance of the event. We don't want to have participants go hungry - and we don't want to waste food either.

(You can download a PDF of the registration form and summary agenda here.)


If you wish to provide monetary support to the project, you can download a PDF donation form. Make cheques payable to 'City of Ottawa'.





What | Why | Impact | Information | Topics
Registration | Donation | Links

Last updated: February 22nd, 2006