The peak oil and oil vulnerability discourse in urban transport policy: A comparative discourse analysis of Hong Kong and Brisbane
Embargoed until: 2020-04-01
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The nexus of transport, energy and household expenditure garnered increasing academic attention during the period of increased oil prices during the decade from 2000 to 2010. Peak oil emerged as a widely discussed ‘storyline’ advocated by a globally connected discourse coalition. This study explores the effects of the peak oil discourse in influencing urban transport policy. Two distinct cases are examined in this paper: high density and public transport dominant Hong Kong; and, low density and car dependent Brisbane. Data was obtained from interviews with stakeholders, public documents and media concerning the period between 2003 and 2015 when oil prices were high. This study combines analytical tools from Kingdon's multiple streams framework and Hajer's discourse analysis to assess the effects of the peak oil discourse in Brisbane and Hong Kong. While different urban settings are likely to be major differentiators in the responses of participants from the two cities, higher oil prices have bolstered the voice of ‘affordability’ storylines that have emerged in both cities. Yet only Brisbane exhibited official usage of ‘peak oil’ storylines. Counter storylines are found to have been adopted by opposing discourse coalitions, either focusing on the need to develop and deploy technical solutions which can resolve ‘peak oil’ or to simply ‘wait-and-see’. The framing of the issue of heightened oil prices can be seen as acting as a political catalyst, as evidenced by the rise of fall of the response to ‘peak oil’ and ‘oil vulnerability’ in Brisbane. As oil prices crashed after 2015, the affordability pressure on urban transport also reduced. When oil prices are low, policy makers or interested stakeholders should expect to adapt other storylines that feature climate and economic resilience which promote sustainable transport and measures to reduce oil vulnerability, no matter how car, or oil, dependent a local environment is.
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Urban and Regional Planning not elsewhere classified