Peak Oil and The Northern Link Environmental Impact Statement

This is a summary of Stuart McCarthy's submission to the Coordinator-General on a review of the Terms of Reference for the Environmetal Impact Assessment of the Brisbane Northern Link project (what a mouthful!).

The Northern Link project is a proposed 5.5km-long road tunnel that would link the Western Freeway and the Inner City Bypass in Brisbane. As the proponent, Brisbane City Council (BCC) has referred the proposal1 to the Queensland Government and it has been declared to be a project of State significance.

South East Queensland’s transport system is extremely vulnerable to the impact of peak oil due to its high dependence on private motor vehicles and road freight. The car fleet that confronts the 2010-2015 setting of high oil import dependence, declining availability of exported oil, steeply rising prices and periodic oil shocks, will not be significantly more fuel efficient than the current one. A longer term transition to alternative fuels and propulsion systems on a scale sufficient to realise present forecasts of growing traffic is extremely unlikely due to enormous constraints imposed by thermodynamics, cost and scale of both the vehicle fleet and supporting alternative energy infrastructure.

Stuart's full submission is available on the ASPO Australia website.

Australia’s economy, particularly its transport system, is highly dependent on growing supplies of affordable petroleum fuel, however domestic oil production peaked in 2000 and is now in decline. Based on official production and demand forecasts Australia would need to import approximately 66% of its oil by 2015, in a setting of rapidly declining availability and increasing prices in international markets.

The TransApex feasibility studies on which the Northern Link proposal is based are seriously flawed. Traffic forecasting and modelling excludes any consideration of fuel prices or availability and assumes no changes in mode share or travel behaviour. Cost benefit analyses exclude the economic costs of existing car dependence and increasing vulnerability to oil supply disruptions. Economic assumptions exclude consideration of the impact of declining world oil production.

Peak oil and its impacts have been well known to Brisbane City Council planners and senior officials for several years. Numerous in-house reports, commissioned studies and public submissions regarding the impact of peak oil on Brisbane’s transport system and the feasibility of TransApex projects have been disregarded. As the proponent for the Northern Link, Brisbane City Council has a history of compromising the public interest in the pursuit of political interests.

In order to adequately protect the public interest, the Terms of Reference for the Northern Link Environmental Impact Statement needs to eliminate any scope for the proponent to continue to ignore or dismiss the impact of peak oil on the project. The amendments to the Terms of Reference recommended in this submission are intended to achieve this objective.

Every time I go to Queensland, which is fairly often, it seems to be larger than ever. Even in small time scales they are erecting huge roads and other developments. It seems that not one of the Peak Oil reports have even been given a second glance.
The Gateway Bridge is often a carpark and the highway between Brisbane and the Gold coast is consistently full, despite it being eight lanes in many spots.
It would be a shame for South East Queensland to lose that small town feel for the short term gain of a quicker drive to work. Please don't make Sydney's and other city's mistake of making the car the 'Transport Supremo". We have our own white elephant tunnels too.
I suppose the up side is that the price of oil could make many such projects prohibitively expensive.
Just a quick tag along, could someone please clarify this for me.
Are the leaders in our world really as dismissive of Peak Oil as I am assuming they are? I lie awake at night thinking about it sometimes, surely these people with the kind of access to information they have must have some sort of knowledge. If they know and aren't telling us or if they know and aren't doing anything or if they know and are planning for the opposite or if they are totally ignorant of any energy crisis whatsoever, then our leadership needs severe attention.
I see various reports of Peak oil meetings around the world at which goverment representatives attend yet Australia seems to be lacking any disussion above a purely academic and social level. Can someone please give me a glimmer of hope.

It is the same story in Sydney. "They" are pressing on with building a tunnel from the F3 to the M2 underneath
Pennant Hills Road for 8 Kms. It is not even started yet.
It will be finished just after they will no longer need it.

It seems to be impossible to get the pollies to even consider that it might be a "Tunnel too Far".
The local paper is filled with letters advocating a separate road to the west and a new bridge over the Hawkesbury river.
Just that bridge would be a mammoth undertaking similar in size and span to the harbour bridge.

Have they all gone mad ?