5 Feb 2011

Motoring costs down 14% since 1997 but we must move away from oil

The Independent's article: "An opportunity to kick our fossil-fuel addiction" makes the case yet again for moving away from oil - and the 'green wise' online business site is now talking about rationing within the decade - see here. I know I keep covering this topic but couldn't resist another quick ramble - or should that be rant??

Before going on to more of that, here are two events sponsored by the Green party:
  • Fri Feb 25th - Is a zero carbon Britain feasible? (Introduced by Peter Haper from the Centre of Alternative Technology)
  • Fri March 25th - Will there be a World food crisis? (Introduced by the Campaigns director, World Development Movement)
Both meetings are at Star Anise Arts Cafe 7.30-9.30pm. It is an opportunity to discuss these important issues both in plenary and small groups. The Coffee House discussions are sponsored by the Green Party but open to people of all political persuasions (and none).

So back to oil - well oil is again over $100. Hamish McRae writing this week in The Independent warns: "Let's get real, cheap oil is never coming back...Virtually all the increased demand for energy, some 93 per cent of it, will come from outside the developed world. We in the present rich world will increase energy needs a little over the next 10 years but by 2030 our consumption will be falling. By contrast, energy demand from the emerging countries will rise by more than two-thirds and still be rising fast."

In the papers I have read various comments that fuel prices seem to cost twice as much as they did a decade ago. However government figures show that the real cost of motoring has decreased by 14% since 1997!! A fuel stabiliser is an inadequate short-term dressing on a gaping wound: we can’t go on expecting fuel prices to remain low forever. Prices are bound to increase.

Nevertheless we are hitting £1.30 a litre so it is no wonder we are seeing concerns. Hauliers have said they were already planning for a possible blockade in protest at prices - and like many I got an email suggesting I join a campaign for people, for the rest of this year, not to purchase any petrol from the two biggest oil companies i.e. ESSO and BP. The reasoning goes that if they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

It is certainly true that the oil companies are still, largely making obscene profits (see here). They also don't seem to have any plans to take climate change seriously as all they ever do is plan for evermore drilling - Oil company Northern Petroleum has recently confirmed that it has been successful in drilling for oil in a corner of ancient woodland on the South Downs in West Sussex and says the site has the potential to yield between 35m and 61m barrels of oil - see here. But let's not forget that the evidence is pointing to the fact that we have reached 'peak oil' - from now on it is more scarce and harder and more expensive to get out of the ground.

So is the world on the brink of another oil shock?

Well the International Energy Agency (IEA), which speaks for the big industrialised consumers in the West, has issued a warning. After sliding during the financial crisis, oil prices have shot up. This does not bode well. All the indications are that prices will rise one way or the other.

So surely this is an opportunity? Let's scrap all the absurd fossil-fuel subsidies and look for cleaner sources of power. Britain could be at the forefront of this new energy sector and tackle the threat of climate change.

Jonathan Porritt used the platform provided by the Burntwood Lecture 2010 to launch a scathing criticism of the growth fetish of society and slammed government, NGOs and professional bodies for their response to the looming environmental crisis. I think I have already pointed to that talk on this blog. He attacked NGO’s historic piecemeal approach to small scale environmental problems whilst ignoring the rampant destruction the biosphere by the capitalist economic system, saying “for every short term win there is a pattern of wider attrition of the environment.” He accused NGOs of existing in a “holding reality”, revelling in small victories but failing to issue a long overdue planetary warning. Well said!
Local Authority Peak Oil reports

Stroud District Council was one of the first Council's to entertain Peak Oil - Richard Heinberg spoke to the Cabinet - see here. However progress has been dismally slow. In contrast I read about Warwickshire County Council who have formed the Warwickshire Climate Change Partnership, which is made up of a range of partners from the public and private sectors. They have teamed up with a group of MSc students from Warwickshire Business School who have written a report on the influence of UK energy security and peak oil issues and associated higher price scenarios on the delivery of services for the many and various customers of the council. See here.

In terms of looking at what is possible it is worth seeing Green councillor Andrew Cooper on Youtube at:


Anonymous said...

Interested to note report in Guardian yesterday on wikileaks cables from US Consul in Riyadh covering insider information that Saudi Oil reserves are overstated by 40% and insufficient to meet rising oil demand. This has long been the assertion of Colin Campbell and other Peak Oil commentators but has not previously had such clear confirmation as this.

Anonymous said...

Eleven years after the last fuel protests demonstrated our dependence on crude oil, fuel prices have again become a hot political issue (Saudi oil running out, US cables reveal, 9 February). Our transport system is dependent on a fuel which is ever more dangerous and expensive to extract, which is driving climate change and leaves the government vulnerable to political and revenue instability. It also cruelly exposes those dependent on cars, such as in rural communities, to the vagaries and volatility of international commodity movements. These can only get worse as the long-term availability of supplies is uncertain, particularly now our own sources are running out, and as demand from developing countries increases.

But since the fuel protests of 2000, no credible plan or transport strategy has appeared. Rather than short-term measures to reduce temporarily the cost of fuel, we need a long-term strategy to make our transport system more efficient and wean the UK off oil. Making sustainable forms of travel, such as walking, cycling, trains and buses, the most attractive and affordable options should be core to this. But recognising that cars, vans and lorries will still be needed for some journeys, tough efficiency standards for vehicles should be set, along with measures to support the development of hybrid and electric technologies. We also need action to protect and enhance local services to reduce the need to travel.

Rising fuel costs are part of this strategy and we urge the government to stand firm on the planned fuel-tax increases. Any supplementary policy handling oil-price spikes should not prevent the long-term upward trend in fuel prices.

Shaun Spiers Campaign to Protect Rural England, Andy Atkins Friends of the Earth, John Sauven Greenpeace, Malcolm Shepherd Sustrans, David Nussbaum WWF-UK