Peak oil in Tasmania

by Christine Materia

Tasmania, like the rest of the world, is facing “The Long Emergency” – the greatest challenge that it is likely to ever face. Oil depletion is at the core of this challenge.

The hard cold truth is that Tasmania is part of the world and although we may produce plenty of hydro-electric power, hydro provides just one third of our direct energy consumption – oil and gas provide the rest. (We actually consume even more in embodied energy – particularly in the foods, fertilizers and all of the manufactured goods that we import.)

Each and every Tasmanian – young and old – consumes on average two tonnes of liquid fuel each year. We import over one billion litres each year and the cost of these imports comes to over 1 billion dollars annually.

In Tasmania, over 90% of all travel is made by car. Our freight & food supply systems are heavily dependent on oil. Transport and food represent most of Tasmanians’ weekly expenditures.

Our economy is also heavily reliant on imported oil. As oil depletes and becomes more difficult to extract petrol prices will rise and transport costs for business will increase. So too will export costs. These costs will then hit consumers. Without support, sectors of our economy and society will face hard times.

Together, climate change plus oil depletion will have profound implications across the board – in all sectors of the economy… for farmers, for fishermen, for tourist entrepreneurs, for transport planners, for local governments and for ordinary folk who just make a living and go to work.

How will our economy fare when oil prices go through the roof? How will we cope if the constant drip of oil falls short and disrupts our normal everyday lives? What lies in store for the next generation?

Tasmanians may feel safe and disconnected from the rest of the world, but we are locked into an oil-consuming culture that is reaching a climax point and is going to have to plan to adapt.

On the bright side, Tasmania is well resourced to develop liveable cities and towns and an economy that is much less dependent on dwindling oil supplies. But such a future is only possible if the Tasmanian government acts quickly.

The pages in this website will give you a feel for the challenges we all face and the urgency with which we, the Tasmanian people, should be addressing them. Most importantly, we hope they reach the ears of our political decision makers who have a duty of care to respond appropriately. Strong policies are needed that will build economic resilience and enable vulnerable Tasmanians to cope with sky rocketing fuel prices.

There are some great people in all parts of this island who have become awakened to these challenges and who are creatively changing their lives to meet them. Please do feel free to join with this great “living adventure”.

(Christine Materia has worked extensively with local government in Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria in the area of climate change, sustainability and natural resource management. She was responsible for establishing the Tasmanian Local Government Carbon Pollution Reduction Program, Tasmania being the first state or territory in Australia to have it’s councils undertake independent monitoring, benchmarking and reporting of their greenhouse gas emissions.)

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