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Talk on Peak Oil at Riverside Peace Festival, New Zealand

[ The following speech was given at Riverside Peace Festival, Lower Moutere, Tasman, New Zealand on 6 March. It mentions Anne's local Peak Oil Study and Action Group for the city of Nelson, and some of the success the group has had in articulating the issue to local government and the community - AF ]

Kia ora

My name is Anne FitzSimon. I am a mother of a young child, I am a Peace Activist, a Business Consultant with a degree in Management and involve myself in many aspects of our community. Last year I stood for Nelson City Council because I felt that it is critical, no essential that our community is developed in a sustainable manner. By looking at the future through my sons eyes, isn’t quite the seventh generation principle, but it is a start.

Even though I was unsuccessful this time, the journey made me realise that there is incredible knowledge and skills in our community and that knowledge must be shared and that it is a two way street.

Human activity in Nelson and Tasman is overwhelmingly reliant on abundant and cheap energy. Most of which we get from oil. We are dependent on energy, particularly oil energy. We are isolated from “through transport links”, so we are particularly dependant on transport.

The problem: Peak Oil and Gas. Global, national and local shortages of oil and gas this decade.

In 2003, oil was 48% of our national energy consumption. Nelson and Tasman will be higher than the national as we have no geothermal, electricity for public transport or natural gas.

Roughly described into a box, Peak Oil is the Bell Shape Curve where the Peak is the top of that curve. Peak is reached when demand for oil exceeds production and supply.

Peak Oil is not about Oil running out.

Oil will never run out.

Peak Oil is about the end of cheap oil.

All the experts; geologists, financiers, oil companies, politicians agree that Peak Oil is real.

Only the economists don’t get it – it doesn’t fit into their principles of demand and supply!

The major variance is just when Peak Oil will occur.

The realists, including international energy financiers such as Matt Simmons believe that Peak Oil will occur by the end of this decade.

The unrealists, especially politicians, talk about Peak Oil being 20 to 50 years away.

So to recap – Peak Oil is going to occur; that is agreed. When it will occur, can’t be proved until we are on the downhill slope.

The whole point of talking to you today is about providing you with the opportunity to educate yourself, become informed.

We can’t leave this to central government. They are not interested. The structure of Central government is such that they will not respond to Peak Oil until it is too late.

The good thing is that Peak Oil discussion is becoming more mainstream. In the last 18 months we’ve seen articles on Peak Oil in National Geographic, NZ Listener, New Scientist, Scientific American, BBC, Guardian and Washington Post.

Books including The Party’s Over and documentaries; The End of Suburbia and The Oil Factor which I have copies with me today.

Last month the Nelson Peak Oil Study and Action Group presented a 2 hour workshop to Nelson City Councillors of which 7 attended. The Nelson Science Society ran a discussion forum on Peak Oil with around 90 attendees.

I don’t want to spend time talking about how oil is found, extracted and distributed. If you want to find out more, please come and see me afterwards. I have plenty of scientific facts and figures available.

We anticipate public resistance. We expect disbelief and denial after 100 years of plenty:
• Can’t be
• Wait and see
• Something will turn up
• They’re hiding better technologies
• Science and technology will always prevail
• Don’t be so negative
• Secret inventions

There are vested interests in the status quo. We have a culture; we are in love with our cars!

The substitutes:

We could spend hours talking about…

Hydrogen, Coal, Nuclear, Fusion, Ethanol, Biofuels, Electricity, Wind, Solar, Hydro, Geothermal, Tidal.

No single substitute in isolation will replace the cheap energy we currently get from oil and gas.

Ironically, electrically which in 2003 produced 26% of our total energy consumption, is already a forecasted shortfall of supply and that forecast included Project Aqua.

Where to now?

What can I do about it?

Get informed
Get prepared
Share your knowledge with others
Support carpooling and public transport
Push for cycleways

Lobby your local council

Look at your own energy use

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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