16 Jun 2008

At last peak oil is being discussed

The papers have at last with rising oil prices woken up to Peak Oil - well a little - I have thrown together some thoughts and links on this topic - to start read an interview with the International Energy Agency's Chief Economist Fatih Birol:
http://transitionculture.org/2008/06/12/fatih-birol-offers-the-world-an-oil-health-check/

A quick advert for Paul Mobbs talking in Stroud - his book from 2005, "Energy Beyond Oil” was the first book I read on the subject - he will be talking on Thursday 10th July at 7.30 in the British School.

Richard Pike, a former oil industry man who is now chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry counters these claims and has said there is nothing to worry about. He says estimates suggest there are 1,200 billion barrels of proven global reserves, but the industry's internal figures suggest this amounts to less than half of what actually exists. However Jeremy Leggett, author of Half Gone, a book on peak oil, says. "The flow rates from the existing projects are the key. Capacity coming on stream falls fast beyond 2011. On top of that, if the big old fields begin collapsing, the descent in supply will hit the world very hard."

It is worth remembering that reserves are pretty irrelevent really - it's how fast they can be extracted that matters. World reserves jumped in the last couple of years as Canada included tar sands and Venezuala heavy tar oil. However neither of these resources can be exploited rapidly... they don't flow like the light crude from the big fields that produce most of the worlds 85million barrels a day and are all entering decline...

Also in contrast to Pike the chief executive of the world's largest energy company, Alexey Miller, the head of the Kremlin-owned gas giant Gazprom, has issued the most dire warning yet about the soaring the price of oil, predicting that it will hit $250 per barrel "in the foreseeable future".

Photo: Petrol pump I came across on Saturday

This means £2-per-litre petrol is not far off - and this will send shockwaves through the economy. Last week the price hit $139.12 per barrel and we have seen our Government urging motorists not to panic-buy petrol during the strike by lorry drivers who deliver petrol to forecourts for Royal Dutch Shell. In Spain, Catalonia enacted an emergency action plan to bring in fresh food and fuel supplies after nearly half of its forecourts ran dry and supermarkets shelves were left bare. The situation was the result of the second day of an "indefinite" nationwide strike staged by lorry drivers in Spain seeking their government's help to contain the effects of expensive petrol. Meanwhile there have also been protests by drivers and fisherman in France and Portugal.

As Greens have been warning for a long time the price of everything from food to energy is set to rise significantly. It is just a pity the Government have not been listening! Much could have been done to ease the transition away from fossil fuel dependence but we are now set to see sharp shocks to many of us. The blame can certainly also be put on financial speculators for oil's price rise – it has more than doubled in the past year – and of course the primary reason is simple supply and demand, driven by the rapidly expanding countries of the developing world, principally China and India (driven in part by our insatiable thirst for consumer goods).

Another place to put the blame is on the Iraq War - reports last month suggest that oil costs are three times more than they should be as a result of that war. Our lives are going to change as we struggle to cope with the $200 barrel later this year as predicted by Goldman Sachs. See The Independent article in full here.

Picnic with Transition Stroud

One exciting response to Peak Oil is the Transition Town network - a hopeful, positive and indeed the most inspirational green movement in Britain today. It is exciting because it's a fast-growing, direct, bottom-up response to an oil crisis which is already affecting us all. Check out Transition Stroud and other items mentioned on this blog - here are meaningful solutions to three of the greatest challenges we face today - peak oil, food shortages and climate change. It doesn't wait for government, politicians or corporations to act; it's about people in their communities taking action now, and joining together to create an alternative vision of how society could be. To find out more go to one of the websites or join folk at a Transition Picnic on Rodborough Common (near Fort) on Saturday 21st June at 11:30. Bring some summer food to share. Followed by Rodborough fete (Butterow Lane) at 2.00pm where there will be a Transition Stroud stall.

See also Post Carbon Cities here and an excellent discussion on oil prices from Rob Hopkins here.

Professor Heinberg who spoke in Stroud last year, will be known to readers of this blog as a Peak Oil guru and author of "The Party's Over" and "Powerdown". Below a Green colleague has put together a series of links as a handout on the issue. If this is all new to you I strongly urge you to listen to the following short films.

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything - Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybRz91eimTg&feature=related

• It takes energy to get energy. There has to be a profit: Net energy.
• Language provides a huge advantage in organisation and progress.
• Tools leverage energy and have become more sophisticated.
• Industrial revolution = "Fossil Fuel Revolution"
• "We won the energy lottery..."
• Machines could carry their own energy supply...
• Energy Per Capita use has skyrocketed (since the Paleolithic).
• World population - a perilous success
• Our entire existence is based on extraction of exhaustible resources.

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything - Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3_mYowxlEg&feature=related

• Limits to Growth, 1972, debunked? No.
• Periodic updates to this show it truer than ever.
• US WAS world's foremost oil exporter but US oil production peaked in 1970.
• In 33 of the largest 48 oil producing countries, production is declining.
• Global production PEAK FOR OIL WAS May 2005.
• High oil prices are a huge incentive to bring any readily available oil to market.
• But the May 2005 record has not been beaten.
• US gas supply forecasts have been hugely overestimated.
• British coal: "used virtually all of that fossil fuel energy"
• Reserve to production ratios always lie!
• Most recent reserve estimates are the most pessimistic.

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything - Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNbVVT2B5iw&feature=related

• Global coal could PEAK in 15-20 years.
• First in China because of huge coal consumption
• Peak in ALL fossil fuels around 2010.
• Climate change also an enormous problem...
• But scarcity is likely impact sociaty before major climate impacts.
• Global Uranium supplies will peak well before 2050
• Major nuclear development will speed this up.
• Rare elements also heading for exhaystion from 5-20 years
• Eg, indium and gallium for solar panels...
• World water use record consumprion
• Arable land declining...
• Topsoil in tons per person, trend plummeting.
• World grain production has peaked!
• Biodiversity loss, downward slide.
• Technical breakthroughs per capita... !!
• Total CO2 emissions has NOT peaked.
• Arctic ice record low (2005), huge experiment with Earth atmosphere.
• We baby boomers alone have consumed about half the non-renewable resources.

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything - Part 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyO0WS79Xec&feature=related

• Perhaps the Limits to Growth collapse already begun?
• Roman Empire collapse, cures failed (like today's)
• Can we contract and become sustainable for coming generations
• We cannot replace fossil fuels adequately.
• Replace machine labour with human labour
• System for massive relocation of people necessary.
• Water, energy shortages, grocery stores stocks
• Closer to local resource base
• Massive replacement of infrastructure
• Scenario 1: Feudal Fascism
• Possible futures, fuedalism, total surveillance
• Scenario 2: The eco-deal
• FDR, "ecological Keynesianism", reorganise
• Scenario 3: Bottoms-up
• local governments, civic society
• US, China, Russia: authoritarian solutions are already the default

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything - Part 5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5EcK-CdLNA&feature=related

• What do we do NOW!?
• "We are borrowing from future generations in a way that can never be repaid."
• Work needs to be done at all levels.
• Personal, family: We should be gardening! Rooftop gardens for cities.
• Local and regional:"We need electric trolley lines!"
• "The personal automobile just happens to be the least efficient means of transport ever devised."
• Food crops into fuel for cars: millions might starve so a few can drive!
• Government: Public electrified transport
• Policies: Oil Depletion Protocol, mandate reductions in consumption.
• Fossil fuels are at the centre of this, exacted an enormous cost.
• We are facing in essence a great Energy Transition.
• Climate change necessary for survival.
• This transition is NOT OPTIONAL.
• Relocalization not Globalization. Especially food.
• We average 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food.

Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything - Part 6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJpUswRKwIw&feature=related

• HOPE? "There is no hope for business as usual..."
• Reality consists of living within the limits of the natural world.
• Living within limits is going to take some WORK! Sacrifice.
• Call upon the highest and best of human nature and character
• Living up to our potential and promise as human beings...
• All we have to do is change our consciousness, our expectations and our behaviour!
• And we CAN DO THAT extraordinarily rapidly!
• We need to reshape society over the coming decades.
• What has NOT peaked: Community, Personal Autonomy, Work Satisfaction, Family, IngenuityCooperation, contribution, , artistry
• See the Transition Town movement in Britain
• See the Relocalization Network in the US: Oil Independent Oakland Task Force, by 2020, See Portland, Oregon.
• The range of efforts necessary is itself enormous. It's up to you!

1 comment:

Philip Booth said...

From Grist:
Skyrocketing fuel prices show no sign of flagging, and no one's happy about it (except the occasional holier-than-thou environmentalist). Truck drivers and transportation operators have threatened to strike, gone on strike, or are still striking in Britain, France, Hong Kong, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand. In some places truckers have quit the roads altogether, while others are driving at a crawl and snarling traffic. In those countries as well as Malaysia and Nepal, protesters have taken to the streets; two protesters in Spain and Portugal have died trying to block traffic. The pushback is arguably taking the most toll in Spain, where gas stations in some areas have run dry, supermarket shelves are emptying, and the car industry will likely shut down entirely this week for a lack of parts and fuel. As of May 30, average gas prices were $3.96 in the United States, $8.31 in Britain, $9.66 in France, and $11.49 in Germany.