The term ďpeak oilĒ refers to the concept that oil and natural gas are limited resources and that we will inevitably pass the peak of oil and natural gas production in the world. Without careful preparation, the resulting steep price increases could be extremely disruptive, and individuals and businesses alike will be compelled to retool our economies and societies around new realities.

The City of Portland was one of the first cities to recognize the need to prepare for such a transition, establishing a Peak Oil Task Force which presented its report, ďDescending the Oil Peak: Navigating the Transition from Oil and Natural Gas,Ē to Portland City Council in March 2007.

The report anticipates that, regardless of exactly when the peak oil phenomenon occurs, there will be dramatic consequences to our status quo:

  • Transportation impacts will be large, both on individuals and freight. Individuals will feel economic pressure to shift to carpooling, more energy-efficient cars, walking or biking. Freight may shift from air and trucks to more shipping and rail. More densely populated city and town centers may facilitate transportation solutions.

  • Higher prices for oil and natural gas will lead to higher food prices and less diversity in affordable food.

  • Volatility in international markets will impact Portlandís industries that are reliant on global capital. Some sectors, like Portlandís growing clean energy industry, may gain demand.

  • Social services in the region, already stretched thin, will likely be in higher demand, as people find it harder to make ends meet while paying more for transportation, health care, food, housing, heating and other basic needs.

As peak oil gains prominence and begins to intersect with other trends facing our region, many of the choices that the community expressed to visionPDX to be preferable will also support addressing and preparing for this transition.




Click here to read Portland's Peak Oil Task Force report (off site).

Click Here to view a graph of gasoline sales and expenditures for Multnomah County from 1990 to 2006.

Vision into Action / 1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100 / Portland, Oregon 97204 / Phone: (503) 823-9585