Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The end of oil?
Among all the media fuss we get about climate change, very occasionally we get a hint that there might be problems with energy on the horizon. The British government published an energy review earlier this year, which led to a lot of fuss about whether or not we were going to build more nuclear power stations, and whether we would be consulted about or not. Actually, although nuclear provides 21% of the UK's energy, that's only about 7% of total energy demand. As far as transport is concerned, nuclear is relevant only to electric trains or trams and the very few electric road vehicles that exist, because nuclear only provides energy in the form of electricity. (The day they build a nuclear car I'll give up driving!)
The truth is that the world is facing an energy shortage - not just electricity, but oil, gas and, to a lesser extent, coal. The UK in particular has changed in a generation from a nation totally self-sufficent in energy to one importing over 50% of its coal, 5% of its oil and 10% of its gas. Gas is the fuel we use most of, and by 2020 we will be importing about 90%.
Peak Oil is the point where the world reaches the maximum possible level of oil production. Peak Gas is the same for gas. The US reached its own peak in 1970; the North Sea has also passed its peak. Peak Oil for the whole world is expected in 2010. That's right - 3 years away! That won't be the end of oil, of course, just of cheap oil. We're used to paying more each year. We can cope with 95p/litre or £5/gallon. How would £10/gallon affect you - or £20? The truth is that the level of rises we can expect will demand radical life-style changes. Today you may drive a 4x4 (SUV) because you can afford it; in 10 years many people may not be able to run a car at all.
What started me thinking about this was the new report from LogicaCMG published today: "Mind the Gap" You can find it at http://www.logicacmg.com/United_Kingdom/5012
At least someone is at last taking our energy position seriously! Also have a look at the link for ASPO - theAssociation for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas.