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Cries of peak oil just got louder

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 10-Nov-09 08:49:24 PM

Officially the UK Govt. is welded to a belief that, “the world’s oil resources are sufficient to prevent global total oil production peaking in the foreseeable future.

On what evidence does it rest its belief? The International Energy Agency (IEA).

This is consistent with the assessment made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its recent 2007 World Energy Outlook (WEO), which concludes that proven reserves are already larger than the cumulative production needed to meet rising demand until at least 2030.”

[Govt. E-petition response on oil depletion, 15th Sept 2008]

That response came just a couple of months before the IEA published its 2008 World Energy Outlook (WEO) last year, though, which, all of a sudden, broke with its previous bullish reports and became a gloomy read.

Dr Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, then summarised its report, warning:

“Even if demand remained steady, the world would have to find the equivalent of four Saudi Arabias to maintain production, and six Saudi Arabias if it is to keep up with the expected increase in demand between now and 2030.”

Up until last year, the IEA consistently published bullish forecasts of future world oil production, ignoring leading peak oil analysts in the shadows, like, Colin Campbell (ASPO), Kenneth Deffeyes (Princeton) and Matthew Simmons (Simmons & Company), amongst others, who had been criticising its previews since at least 1998; and with conspiratorial tones, some even accused the agency of selectively shaping data, under pressure from the U.S.

According to an article today in The Guardian, it seems their cries may have been vindicated:

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower - The Guardian

The whistleblower chose his moment to exhale well. For today, the IEA published its 2009 WEO.

Skim-reading the summary (via Seeking Alpha), it warns that falling energy investments (because of recession), “will have far-reaching and, depending on how governments respond, potentially serious consequences for energy security, climate change and energy poverty.”

$26 terrr-ill-e-on needed to 2030

It predicts: “The capital required to meet projected energy demand through to 2030 in the Reference Scenario is huge, amounting in cumulative terms to $26 trillion (in year-2008 dollars) — equal to $1.1 trillion (or 1.4% of global gross domestic product [GDP]) per year on average.

The only way is up, baby

Whilst energy use globally is likely to fall this year, the report says it will “quickly resume its long-term upward trend once economic recovery is underway.

WEO chart showing rising energy demand
2009 WEO chart: “Non-OECD countries account for 93% of the increase in global demand between 2007 & 2030, driven largely by China & India” - IEA

Fossil fuels still king to 2030

Further, it sees that: “Fossil fuels remain the dominant sources of primary energy worldwide in the Reference Scenario, accounting for more than three-quarters of the overall increase in energy use between 2007 and 2030.”

There isn’t much talk this year of likely future oil production, but there is this chart:

WEO chart showing projected oil production up to 2030
"Sustained investment is needed mainly to combat the decline in output at existing fields, which will drop by almost two-thirds by 2030" - IEA

[Charts from PDF summary of IEA press conference today]

The chart still shows the world delivering over 100m barrels/day – all-told – by 2030.

But this is hotly contested by the peak oil camp. And now, today, even our inside IEA whistleblower does, too. He told The Guardian:

"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,"

Significant risk of peak oil before 2020

Last month the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)– formed in 2004 on the recommendations of the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King - published a report which forecast a “significant risk” of global peak oil before 2020, and certainly “likely” before 2030.

(You can hear a presentation Steve Sorrell of the UKERC gave to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas about the report’s findings: Will global oil production peak before 2020?).

It might be interesting to note that several high profile peak oiler’s have now come out this year proclaiming that world conventional oil production has already peaked, including Colin Campbell.

Who do we trust?

But anyway, given that this Govt. relies entirely upon the IEA reports to plan ahead, and given that an IEC whistleblower has now claimed its reports are distorted, and given that even our own UKERC is leaning at odds to the accepted timescale, isn’t it about time we at least conducted our own national review, as a matter of urgency?

As much as I regard the Prime Minister’s E-Petition website as useful as a handbrake on a canoe, there is a petition currently running asking the Prime Minister to respond to the UKERC report:

Given the significant risk identified by UKERC [of global peak oil] before 2020, at what time does the UK Government think it will be appropriate to develop a contingency plan for Global Peak Oil?

Petition to respond to the UKERC oil depletion report.

The petition closes on Jan 20th 2010.

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