Energy And The City

Much of the atmospheric pollution is caused by the burning of fossil fuels in the creation of energy to support city life. This energy is used: in the building of city structures (energy capital); during the lifetime of the structure; and in the transportation of people and goods between and within cities (energy revenue). Therefore, the design of cities and the ways in which they are used have a great impact on the natural environment. Few serious environmental scientists believe that we are running out of energy to sustain our civilization. 'The energy problem' - and there is an energy problem - 'is not primarily a matter of depletion of resources in any global sense but rather of environmental impacts and socio-political risks - and, potentially, of rising monetary costs for energy when its environmental and socio-political hazards are adequately internalised and insured against' (Holdren, 2002). Oil is the most versatile and most valuable of the conventional fuels that has long provided for all our city-building energy needs: it remains today the largest contributor to world energy supply, accounting for nearly all the energy used in transport. However, the bulk of recoverable conventional oil resources appear to lie in the Middle East, a politically unstable part of the world, as the recent war in Iraq demonstrates. Much of the rest of the recoverable resources lies offshore and in other difficult or environmentally fragile locations. Nuclear energy, which currently contributes about 6 percent of global energy production, has long-term problems of pollution and the storage of waste material. There are also other problems with nuclear energy. Breeder reactors produce large amounts of plutonium that can be used for weapons production - a security problem so significant that it may preclude the use of this technology. Problems with both oil and nuclear power presents urban designers with the challenge of developing urban structures less dependent upon these conventional sources of energy for their continuing existence.

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