Global Issues:Basis of Energy "Recent concerns about the quality of urban environments, long range and global environmental effects, the cost and security of energy supplies, and the environmental impacts of energy production have fostered a renewed interest in the investigation of energy demand behaviour and associated environmental emissions. Much of the investigation has focused on the technical characteristics of energy using machinery such as vehicles, space conditioning systems and industrial processes.
Still other research efforts have addressed related behavioural issues such as transportation mode choice and adoption of energy conserving equipment. There has been relatively little research, however, on the broader question of how urban form affects energy demand and environmental emissions. In free market economies, urban form evolves as the outcome of locational decisions of many thousands of households, firms, and public sector agencies. There are therefore a variety of policy instruments that may be used to guide the evolution of urban form in the direction of reduced energy demand and environmental emissions.
Urban form is primarily affected by transportation policy and land use policy. Transportation policy is concerned with the provision of transportation services on infrastructure that is almost exclusively owned and operated by the public sector. Transportation authorities therefore have considerable power to design the configuration of infrastructure and set rules for its utilization by private and public vehicles. By contrast, land use services such as residential accommodation and commercial space are generally provided by the private sector, and the facilities and land associated with them are generally privately owned. Land use authorities are therefore faced with a complex task of market intervention to achieve desirable outcomes.
The very different nature of these two areas of policy and the general lack of coordination between them has limited the success of efforts to regulate urban form in most countries. The current state of knowledge allows for some generalizations to be made about energy efficient urban forms. Many questions, however, about the marginal effects of policy induced changes in the existing pattern of land use and transportation on energy demand and the environment remain unanswered. It is not clear, for example, whether adding to the road infrastructure reduces congestion and vehicle emissions, or it leads to a more dispersed and inefficient pattern of land development.
Along with empirical research that will help answer such questions, the development of technological tools, such as decision support systems, is necessary to facilitate policy formulation.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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