Peak Oil

Hamilton Politicians: Live and Don't Learn

By Adrian Duyzer
Published March 13, 2008

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) report, "City council is facing pressure from a variety of sources to complete their long-delayed response to the 2006 peak oil study.

Oil prices reached new records last week, crossing $106 a barrel on Thursday, and generating new converts to the controversial theory that the world is near, at or past the point of maximum production and headed toward very rapid price increases. The price is nearly double the $55 a barrel it stood at when Richard Gilbert presented his peak oil report in April 2006.

At that time, council unanimously asked their staff to provide a report on a follow-up study three weeks later, but that part of the motion seems to have gotten lost. It was revived again in February of last year and has sat since then on the outstanding business list of the Committee of the Whole.

The Aerotropolis idea was first floated in 2002, back when oil was sitting around $20 US per barrel. When Gilbert gave his report, the price of oil had climbed close to $60 per barrel.

Now, it's close to $110 US per barrel, an increase since 2002 of about five times. Given that the long-term viability of goods transportation by air is closely tied to energy costs - it is the most fuel-inefficient mode of transportation - what does the skyrocketing price of oil say about the wisdom of building the Aerotropolis?

It seems like in this city (maybe it's actually a global problem), people in positions of authority or influence ignore the facts, or deny the facts, or just pursue their own interests regardless of what's best for people or the planet. When reality finally becomes undeniable, they just continue on as if nothing ever happened.

Here in Hamilton, they also tend to get re-elected.

If the Aerotropolis gets built in spite of all this advance warning, the people responsible for the debacle will probably still be in power ten years later. Or at least, they will not have apologized.

Watch what happens with Red Hill. If it's a dismal failure do you think its architects will stand up and say, "I'm sorry I led Hamilton down this path even though I was warned. I'm sorry for the pain I've caused the citizens of Hamilton and the damage done to your environment. I'm sorry for all the money wasted that could have gone to something else. I resign."

I doubt it!

The people responsible for Red Hill, and the ones who are mulling a decision about the Aerotropolis, will be quick to take credit for the successes of those projects, if indeed they are successful. If they are not successful, let's make them accountable.

After all, they can't say they weren't warned.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By Frank (registered) | Posted March 13, 2008 at 09:19:59

I think it's the population that doesn't learn after all, we're the ones that vote these winners in right?

As far as goods transported by air and whichever costs the most, what other modes of goods transport is viable for intercontinental transport of perishable items like tropical fruit etc? Train? Boat? Both would end up with rotten fruit at the other end. I guess if global "warming" turns out to happen at an accelerated rate, we can grow our own...

There will always be air transport no matter what the cost of oil just like there will always be cars. Of course, thinking sensibly it'd be ideal to maximize goods transport for non perishable items using methods like rail and water and building an Aerotropolis is most likely not a smart thing to do.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted March 13, 2008 at 09:20:42

Will someone please work this teleporting thing out?????

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By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2008 at 12:17:15

I was listening to the Bill Kelly show the other day. They had a university economic professor talking about the lost manufacturing jobs in Hamilton. He touted the airport lands as the best opportunity Hamilton has for turning its economy around. This is a Prof at the De Groote School in Hamilton who sits he says on the Airprot Lands committee. He must know what he's talking about.

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By Thom (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2008 at 13:47:59

After around 60 years of abundant cheap energy and putting off the many consequences of that cheap energy, the chickens are coming home to roost.

But don't expect Hamiltonians to accept that massive change is coming. It's impossible to imagine the real world coming back after you've been brainwashed by highways and Wal-Mart. There's no denying it: oil and the twentieth century were an aberration.

None of the elites that run this city from developers to politicians to academics will ever be able to see these truths. So they are going to continue to bet on highways and air travel because that is all they have ever known. But the party's over whether they like it or not.

If you are past the denial and know what's coming you might want to set real priorities and learn real skills: food, shelter and community are essential if you ask me.

And just in case you're counting it's now over $110 a barrel.

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By Balanced (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2008 at 21:13:41

The "aerotropolis" is not about the airport by the way. The City through GRIDS is planning for the future as required by the province. The City needs employment lands in the next 30 years as per Places to Grow. Our council said, if that is the case then lets put it up around the airport. It is about employment lands and jobs not about the success or failure of the airport and airline industry.

If airline transportation comes to an end because of rising fuel costs, we'll all have a lot more to worry about than the "aerotropolis". The effect would be catatrophic.

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By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted March 14, 2008 at 10:03:14

Thom said, "None of the elites that run this city from developers to politicians to academics will ever be able to see these truths." Isn't it great that we have Thom who sees the truth when everybody else just cannot. After all what do elites (whoever they are?) and academics (those whose job it is to study impassionately and objectively all manner of truth), and those who have been elected by the public know?
Only Thom and his same-think friends know best.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2008 at 01:10:50

"I think it's the population that doesn't learn after all, we're the ones that vote these winners in right?"

Very true, Frank. And until that changes, we are stuck with the same results.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2008 at 02:36:31

as long as there's money to be made by developing those lands, politicians/developers will find a way to pay for it with public money. afterall, everyone knows those lands will be used for residential, not industrial purposes. happens every single time.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2008 at 11:29:03

Ryan, thanks for referencing my words. I wasn't being hard to pin down at all, I was making the case for the kind of planning that 'Balanced' is talking about and that the provincial plans mandate on all municipalities. Growth will come. Intensification is part of that as is greenfield growth. Hamilton's plans call for an agressive intensification regime for residential as well as a plan to bring jobs to the community around the airport. Gilbert confided that he was under great pressure to criticize the Airport lands project and did not do so. In fact he talked about energy from waste development in our industrial areas as well as the revitilization of our brownfields, initiatives which were being pursued.

Anyway, it is nice to see you remembered.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2008 at 17:14:29

Ryan, not to belabour the point; however, Gilbert was never instructed by me or anyone acting for the city to do anything but give us his best advice. I do know of only one member of Council who contacted him repeatedly pestering him about his findings and conclusions, and it wasn't me. Gilbert, I will remind folks, was also brought in on the recommendation of those on Council who espoused a less than supportive view of our airport hoping that he would drive a pejorative stake into the heart of that discussion.
I welcomed his presence in Hamilton, having been very impressed with him as President of organizations representing municipalities while he was a Councillor in Toronto. Some say he was the best rep we've ever had.

He wrote a very intelligent report. I agree with most of what he said. You can take many points from the report and I hope that Counil enacts recommendations it deems appropriate. I know we were on the way to doing that in some measure even before Gilbert. I am not sure what the status is now.
I also know that some in the community condemned his bullishness about incineration and energy from waste initiatives. I understand the controversies surrounding these processes but Gilbert was pretty strong on them.

You state: He maintains that we need to stop investing in airports and spend our money on rail instead.

You know my supportive thoughts on light rail; but I take the issue of transportation one step further. We need to support all our transportation modes: air, rail, road and water. Hamilton is ideally situated to benefit from investment in all these areas and we should not shy away from doing so. I think Council agrees judging by the recent vote on the purchase of additional lands for strictly airport expansion. It seems that it wasn't just me driving this agenda, but common sense and the collective good of the community.

Also, the debate about the Airport lands goes beyond just air related uses, as has been stated before.

On Peak Oil, I remember that David Braden gave me a very sobering book to read on the peak oil issue. I didn't dis-believe the concerns expressed at all, and said so publicly on a number of occasions. In fact, climate change, cost of energy, energy availability is something I've written about and understand in terms of impact. I also believe in the carbon tax investment being advocated by Stephane Dion as a way of addressing some of these issues.
The point, though, as even Arnold Schwarzeneger has said (and remember he has won kudos for being America's greenest governor), the world should not stop; it should change and governments must adapt, as I believe all citizens and businesses need to adapt as well.

I recall Ontario's Environmental Commissioner telling me in conversation that the issue of oil is as much about cost as it is about quantity. Right now cost has overtaken quantity as a worrisome factor. I hope we all adapt and react appropriately.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2008 at 09:25:19

Ryan, at least you are consistent in your views. Supporting a multi modal approach to transportation is pernicious all of a sudden. So be it.
As for the committee you reference, sources are telling me that a few are hell bent on destroying the process. I think that is a bit of an exaggeration. However, I have no confirmation of this one way or the other, since I have never attended a meeting. Perhaps I will go just to see for myself.

As for consensus, I recently wrote a blog essay on the difficulty with achieving consensus. You may want to check it out if you have the time.


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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2008 at 10:59:07

'the debate about the Airport lands goes beyond just air related uses, as has been stated before' - what other reasons are there for creating industrial land by the airport? I'd love to know. It sounds as if you are already distancing yourself from the primary reason for creating this land.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2008 at 11:22:27

JoeJoe, it would take more than a few lines here to make the case for you. Why take my word for it, just read some of the recent reports prepared by the City for Council on the need to look at these lands. You will find coherence with what I have said and what those reports say.

As for distancing myself? I don't think so. However, as even the snippets reproduced by Ryan show, I have always argued for a holistic approach to the development of those lands.

Some time ago I also wrote a rather provocative essay on this issue. It offended some, and the language is admittedly strong. But the essential points are accurate. you may wish to read it. It is posted online.

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2008 at 20:17:40

Larry is correct, read the reports, especially the ones that went today to Planning Committee. In order to meet the provincial targets we need a minimum of 2800 acres outside the existing urban area. That took into account all vacant industrial lands within the existing urban boundary. Council has decided the best spot is around the airport to create some synergies. If you don't like the airport location fine, but the point is that we are deficient and require an urban boundary expansion as per Places to Grow forecasts.............where would you like it? Where to do a minimum 2800 acre expansion that isn't greenbelt? Seems to me that the Province supports in principle the airport location because a)it's not in the greenbelt b)there are provincial policies in place to protect airport operations from encroachment of incapatible uses c) they built a highway through a rural area right to it. Peak oil or no peak oil, the province requires us to plan for employment lands and we're presently deficient.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 18, 2008 at 23:30:17

bingo...someone finally got to the root of the problem. The provincial 'requirements' are a joke. They aren't any more dense than what we've been doing for the past 30 years. We need a city council with some vision for our city that will draw a circle around the city like Portland, Ore did and not allow development outside of the boundary until the central city is rebuilt to a minimum average density (a good density, not these sprawl-like numbers put forth by the province). Hamilton council has no desire to rebuild the city. They are looking to find the absolute least amount of infill they can do and still be within provincial mandates. Toronto on the other hand - a city much more full, busy, vibrant, successful and with a good future - is trying to add 1 million new people into the former city of Toronto. They are trying to far exceed the provincial mandates. Why? Because they are the new Ambitious City.
We have a council bent on turning us into another drab, dull place like Mississuaga. They recently decided that it was 'too expensive' to pursue the land banking idea for brownfields. No cost was given (money never seems to be an issue when it comes to subsidizing sprawl, why is it with brownfields??). No good logic was given. Some consultant said "don't do it", so the city said "ok", and that was the end of that. Why does city hall cherry-pick?? We've had consultant after consultant tell us for 15 years to get rid of one-way streets and make downtown about people. We've converted 3 or 4 streets in the past decade. The next batch to be converted are little side streets like McNab, Park and Caroline. We refuse to listen to consultants or the business community when it comes to fixing downtown, yet will immediately listen to a consultant who says to abandon brownfield banking. Toronto's land all along the Gardiner Expressway used to be a horrendous eyesore. Now it's filled with condos and new neighbourhoods like Liberty Village. They have a vision for their city and are willing to clean up the brownfields to a satisfactory level to accommodate residential use. We won't even spend the required money to clean up brownfields to a satisfactory level to accommodate more INDUSTRIAL development! Ambitious City?? Head 50km east.

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