Rising petrol prices over recent years are giving Australians a glimpse of the future, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) warned today. The warning came as a Senate Inquiry into future oil supplies highlighted growing doubts about the ability of global supplies to meet projected demand.
“The transport status quo is a recipe for disaster,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “We’re burning oil as if there’s no tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes we’ll find rampant climate change and major transport problems for car-dependent communities. All levels of government must refocus transport policy towards public transport, walking, cycling and rail freight to mitigate the inevitable decline in conventional oil supplies.”
After more than a year of deliberations and receiving nearly 200 submissions, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee yesterday released its final report on Australia’s future oil supply and alternative transport fuels. The report highlighted declining self-sufficiency in oil production in Australia, question marks over the reliability of reserves data in the world’s major oil producing countries, and limited potential for alternative fuels to replace oil given the current level of consumption.
“The Inquiry heard about a wide range of alternative fuels, but invariably these either face supply limitations of their own, or would create massive environmental problems like accelerated climate change,” said Mr Bowen. “Just like the Sustainable Cities Parliamentary Inquiry before it, this report demonstrates the need for federal, state and local governments to get behind alternatives to motor car use before car-dependent families are left stranded.”
In its submission to the Inquiry and in verbal evidence given to the Senate committee, the PTUA outlined a range of measures to help Australia cope with declining oil supplies and the inevitable increase in petrol prices that would follow. “By better integrating transport and landuse planning, the amount of travel could be reduced, and a larger share of this travel undertaken by public transport, walking and cycling,” said Mr Bowen. “The major deficiencies currently afflicting our public transport systems also need urgent attention. This means establishing competent public transport agencies where they are currently absent, and expanding coverage, boosting frequencies, integrating services and improving reliability.”
Mr Bowen also warned that lowering petrol taxes and expanding road networks would be expensive follies. “Freeways encourage more driving and more urban sprawl, neither of which are appropriate in an age of climate change and declining oil supplies. It’s time to end the road fetish and focus on sustainable solutions,” concluded Mr Bowen.