Spatial Solutions

What can be done in this situation? There are some options for the mobility problem described. People may find a job in their own town, start to produce energy locally, as the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies recently suggested (Ochs, 2008), or they can move to a village closer to the city?

It is understandable, that this question becomes current for millions of people around the world. Not just in big countries, as the USA, yet also in the European Union - a region without borders and with extremely high gasoline prices. What will happen with the real estate prices in rural towns, if millions of people start to realise that they no longer want or will be able to live there any more? What will be the effect on the capitalisation of real estate and land? Certainly, the market mechanism will work better here than in the case of oil prices. A cut in demand will result in a collapse of prices, of the mortgage sector, constructional business and transport infrastructure, all of which play an important role in the life of cities and regions.

Gasoline prices in the EU are higher than in the USA, which deprives the European spatial planning advantages. In contrast to the USA, in the EU housing estates are closer to big cities but people have to pay more money for a gasoline. The data of June 2008 show, that one litre of gasoline on average costs C 1.40. Finland has the honour to bid the highest price (C 1.53), whereas Romania demands the lowest (C 1.10, still more than in the USA) (European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport). What will happen to the gasoline prices in Europe if the price of crude oil rises to $ 250 a barrel?

The question for the EU is probably of higher importance, because within the boundaries of the European Union there is a lack of common spatial planning or of a city-town relationship model. Every country features its own models and the western and eastern parts of Europe are quite different. In the Netherlands there are a lot of people driving over 20 km to and from Amsterdam or Groningen every day. There are less of such people in, say, Romania. Common and shared spatial models and visions for Europe have not been developed yet. It is probably better not to have a strict common model since this offers more freedom for specified changes in European spatial planning in the context of high oil prices.

It is important to understand that there is an strong interconnection between oil-prices and spatial planning. In documents and studies of the EU hardly any attention is paid to this issue, neither in the serious report '2030. Territorial Futures. Spatial Scenarios for Europe', published by the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON). Another ESPON document - 'The Territorial State and Perspectives of the European Union Document' - tackling the problems and challenges of the spatial planning in the EU, pays no attention to the challenge of high oil prices.

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