Electric buses and car-share programs were only two of the many topics fueling discussion Saturday afternoon, as local environmental activists and county planners talked about ways to make Santa Barbara less reliant on nonrenewable resources.

Approximately 20 county representatives and community members met to discuss national and local reliance on fossil fuels at “Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst: How Can Communities Be Designed To Meet Our Energy Needs?” between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. A nine-person panel presented attendees with various ways that Santa Barbara could make its local industries, such as transportation and agriculture, less dependent on fossil fuels.

The Community Environmental Council (CEC) and the Santa Barbara Ecological Education Coalition (SBEEC) sponsored the event.

Matt Dobberteen, Alternative Transportation Manager for Santa Barbara County, said he thinks Santa Barbara could lessen its fossil fuel consumption by installing more energy-efficient modes of public transportation, such as an electric bus system, in crowded areas like Isla Vista. He said Santa Barbara County’s Public Works dept. is currently working on expanding local bike paths and public bus services, because alternative transportation will be essential in helping cut back on fossil fuel reliance.

“We have to get serious about radical shifts in public policy – to put systems in place so that Americans have a choice when prices rise, or a lot of people will be in a lot of hurt at that time,” Dobberteen said.

CEC Energy Programs Director Tam Hunt said Saturday’s workshop was designed to get local residents thinking about the types of energy alternatives Santa Barbara could use as resources become scarcer.

“Energy issues are the dominant set of issues of our time,” Hunt said. “They have an impact on a range of global issues directly related to energy use, especially fossil fuel energy use. The question is how can we change the equation and build a more sustainable future.”

Dobberteen said he thinks preparing for a national energy shortage is crucial and he compared the potential for fossil fuel depletion to what can happen at the end of a party.

“Everyone’s having a great time,” Dobberteen said. “But at every party the alcohol runs out, the band leaves, then the hangover starts and the sun comes up. At that point, there’s an awkward time because you don’t have a ride home, you’re hungry. and you’ve done nothing to prepare for it.”

Students are among the people who are most likely to discover and develop fossil fuel alternatives, Dobberteen said.

“It will be the new brain trust, the students coming out of the universities today which will provide the cutting-edge information about guiding this transition,” Dobberteen said. “It won’t be the 50- to 60-year-old age group who is running the companies and government now. I think the younger generations are going to steer this transition.”