Sunday, 13 June 2010

Margin of Error

The former UK government chief scientist Sir David King recently announced that he believes that, as global demand for oil outstrips supply (peak oil!), oil companies will be forced to drill in unconventional places (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_environment/10278831.stm.)
We are already seeing the beginnings of this with the exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands, which would not previously have been considered financially viable.

An important factor to consider is the Net energy: the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI), i.e. the energy delivered by an energy-obtaining activity compared to the energy required to get it. According to the Ecologist magazine, cited in The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins (2008 edition), the EROEI ratio for tar sands is less than 2:1 (compared with 35:1 for offshore wind generation and 87:1 for tidal range). This is not really viable, especially when one considers the environmental impact of extraction from such places.

Alarmingly, Sir David King also said in his statement that
detailed, objective analyses showed that conventional oil reserves were actually 30% lower than generally accepted. and
"As early as 2015, oil production capacity is going to begin to be challenged in terms of meeting rising demand, particularly from continuing growth of the economies of China and India."
This is HUGE! Peak Oil in 2015?

Previously on this blog I have commented on reports that the 2009 World Energy Outlook, published by the International Energy Authority, had been distorted due to fears for the US market (see here http://environmentchaos.blogspot.com/2009/11/hard-choices.html ). If Sir David is right, we have no time.

The Hirsch report for the US government in 2005 stated the requirement for a 20 year lead-in to prepare for peak oil and avoid chaos. 2015 is only five years away. We must start our energy descent now, we must start building local resilience, planning for the twin impacts of peak oil and climate change, now. The alternatives are not at all pleasant!

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