Monday, 19 May 2008

The FT does Peak Oil

Their 'balanced' reporting of different views (ie the spread between 'its already happening' vs 2030) & their characterisation of the Transition Town movement (as a hippy fringe) apart... this is a very serious look at the real possibilitity outlined in our last green shoots event with Jeremy Leggett that the affordable oil will soon be past its peak. It's not the news that interests me here, it's who is publishing it & what that says - as their headline puts it "Running on empty? Fears over oil supply move into the mainstream" - link


Nathan Schock said...

Interesting article. What's also interesting is where the additional oil is coming from these days. With crude at $125 per barrel, bitumen from tar sands and shale are economical but environmentally very destructive. For a whole host of reasons, our world needs to get over its oil addiction

lee bazalgette said...

I was at the Leggert talk and since then have been thinking almost non-stop about Peak Oil! I met Peter Durant there who has a good blog on the whole thing:
I work in product design and from our point of view Peak Oil will have some enormous consequences (try to get an iPod from China without oil...) so I'm wracking my brains as to ways to reduce our reliance on the Black Gold.

Peter Shield said...

Lee, I was there too and an interesting evening it was. Jeremy is always worth an ear or two.
Have a look at Rob Hoskin's Transition Handbook. It is an interesting take on community originated responses to Climate Change and Peak Oil- the double whammy of our times.

John Grant said...

Agreed re TT handbook & the whole thing is in my view the most encouraging development around. I met Rob Hopkins lqst year and lots of my contacts are getting involved in transition towns - I certainly will if one starts up my way.

It's not just peak oil - its energy descent

The view which original comes from Howard Odum, and then via Holmgren (permaculture co founder) is that we have just experienced a 'pulse' due to fossil fuels - which is actually the norm in populations in ecosystems (vs the steady state view of sustainability which doesnt seem to be common when you look at natural ecosystems). eg when the algae bloom the fish stocks boom too.

After a climax (around now) there is a very long descent. Odum reckoned the only sustainable energy source on earth was agriculture - everything else costs more embedded energy than it produces or (nuclear) is based upon limited supplies of non renewable resources. It's such a tough idea to embrace, that humankind is heading back to a - at best - ancient greek style sparsely populated and hopefully refined and enlightened agrarian civilisation with a little electronic technology thrown in. Interestingly Odum has a contrasting view to most of the (eco village founding) peak oilers, eg he doesnt believe we will all live in villages (any more than previous agrarian populations did). It's just that biomass/photosynthesis are the most efficient renewable energy sources, they have a one billion year head start on current solar tech.

There are some great ideas from this quarter on climate change too. eg Holmgren thinks we should crush all the world's coal and add it to soil to improve fertility; a move which would absorb more CO2 than all the vehicles in thew world emit and would also be an investment in future foods and fuels.

That's all controversial stuff, but not to the transition towners whose programme is entirely based on this 'energy descent' school of thought. The only thing I dont know is apparent to most TT-ers is that Holgren, Odum etc. mean a descent to something like 90% less energy use, probably with a corresponding decrease long term in population. Almost unimaginable in other words.