Thursday, 8 October 2009

Peaking too soon

Today, the UK Energy Research Centre published its Global Oil Depletion Report online at This report reinforces the conclusions of the IEA Energy Outlook in December last year, which I blogged about in my very first post, Peak Oil in 2020? The executive summary of the report provides interesting, if disturbing, reading. The most telling sentence of the summary is:-

On the basis of current evidence we suggest that a peak of conventional oil production before 2030 appears likely and there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020.

Basically we are looking at peak oil of conventional sources in ten or twenty years (or less).
Given that the report by Hirsch et al (2005) for the US Department of Energy argued that a twenty year lead-in time was needed to avoid massive social upheaval, we don't have a lot of time.

The peak itself is important. But given the sheer physical limitations on oil extraction, it seems that the rate of decline (how much less oil can be extracted year on year) will be critical. Increasing demand for energy from rapidly industrialising nations such as China and India, coupled with the already high demands of industrialised nations like the US, suggest that competition for energy supplies will be fierce.

With our complete dependence on cheap oil for our transport, agriculture, heating and food distribution infrastructure, we need to stop ignoring this and hoping it will go away.

The Transition movement (see the wiki here ), with its emphasis on engagement and building local resilience, offers one way forward. I am encouraged by the increasing number of Transition initiatives around the globe.


  1. This is indeed disturbing, as you say the lead-in time will not be adequate - most people are only just beginning to get used to shallow measures such as recycling, we needed to be thinking this way thirty years ago. I fear also that the fierce competition you mention will lead to us wasting what is left fighting over it.

    Please keep posting on this issue as well as highlighting the positives such as Transition Towns, this will help people to start thinking for themselves.

  2. Thank you Goo. I fear that you are right and I agree with you about the possibility of armed conflict over the remaining fossil fuel reserves, as well as water and other essential resources. Recent events and the disunity at Bangkok do not bode well in my opinion. We cannot rely on the politicians to save us.