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Energy gap: Crisis for humanity?

Richard Black, BBC
It is perhaps too early to talk of an energy “crisis”.

But take your pick from terms like “serious concern” and “major issue” and you will not be far from the positions which analysts are increasingly adopting.

The reason for their concern can be found in a set of factors which are pulling in glaringly different directions:

* Demand for energy, in all its forms, is rising
* Supplies of key fuels – notably oil and gas – show signs of decline
* Mainstream climate science suggests that reducing greenhouse gas emissions within two decades would be a prudent thing to do
* Meanwhile the Earth’s population continues to rise, with the majority of its six billion people hankering after a richer lifestyle – which means a greater consumption of energy.

Underlying the growing concern is the relentless pursuit of economic growth, which historically has been tied to energy consumption as closely as a horse is tethered to its cart.

It is a vehicle which cannot continue to speed up indefinitely; it must at some point hit a barrier, of finite supply, unfeasibly high prices or abrupt climate change.

The immediate question is whether the crash comes soon, or whether humanity has time to plan a comfortable way out.
(27 January 2006)
Another mainstream news story that could have come from a peak oil website. -BA

EU energy chief says Europe must cut consumption

Simon Webb, Reuters via AlertNet
DAVOS – Europe’s biggest challenge if it wants to reduce future dependency on external energy supplies is to cut oil consumption for transport, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told Reuters on Friday.

Piebalgs is working on proposals for a common EU energy policy and said he hopes that measures to encourage manufacturers to boost vehicle efficiency will be included.

“I think this is the biggest challenge we have,” Piebalgs said. “Transport consumes a lot of oil. Even if we can’t establish a legal framework for it, energy efficiency should really be a Europe-wide policy.”

The international tension over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, unrest in Nigeria and a row between Russia and the Ukraine over gas supplies this year have increased concern among Europe’s leaders about future dependency on potentially unreliable energy suppliers. EU leaders will discuss the energy policy in March.
(27 January 2006)

The 4 biggest oil fields in the world are in decline

Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
Jerome gives a round-up of news on giant oilfields, then concludes:
…No super giant fields have been found in the past 25 years, and all the rock structures on the planet where such fields could be found are known.

We will not find more oil. We will squeeze more out of the existing fields, thus generating new “reserves” (in their economic definition), but we are already running out of the cheap and easy to produce stuff.

Peak oil is very real.
(26 January 2006)

The Peak Oil Crisis: Iran

Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
… At the minute, the most serious of the several threats facing the world’s oil supply is clearly the Iranian situation. Iran ‘s leadership is determined to start a uranium enrichment program. Tehran claims it is for electric power, but the US and Europe say “nuclear weapons.” To make matters worse, nearly every major world power (and numerous minor ones) has a finger in the Iran pie either as an actual or potential customer for Iranian oil, or as a friend or foe of Tehran . As with so many previous mid-east confrontations, this situation is rife with possibilities for miscalculation.

The important new factor in this crisis, however, is the lack of much spare oil production capacity anywhere in the world. There certainly is not enough to offset the 2.4 million barrels a day Iran is currently exporting. Thus, for the first time we are seeing the threat of a completely new kind of economic embargo called “who gets hurt the worst”— the world economy, or the one embargoed.

Both sides are aware of this situation with Tehran threatening to send world oil prices to over $100 per barrel if anyone interferes with their enrichment program. The US spokesmen seem to be saying that we must pay any economic price to keep the Iranians from nuclear weapons. At this point it is impossible to say how this multi-facetted situation will play out. Both sides seem determined.
(26 January – February 1 2006 issue)

For those of you that still think energy will not be THE issue in 2006, 2007, 2008, etc…

Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
This diary is not meant for my usual readers – those of you that already understand that energy issues are going to overwhelm everything else in the coming years. This is for the indifferent, the skeptical, the careless.

You are not going to escape energy issues in the coming months and years, so you might as well get ready to talk about them.

  • Peak Oil. All major oil companies have now acknowledged it.

  • Nuclear. It’s making a major come back.
  • Carbon emissions & global climate change.
  • Geopolitical conflict everywhere. Iraq. Iran. Russia. Venezuela. China.
  • Domestic politics

The 2006 elections WILL BE about energy.
(25 January 2006)
Summary of recent developments. A good piece to give to friends who are still skeptical about Peak Oil. Also, see Jerome’s latest article:
The 4 biggest oil fields in the world are in decline

Burnaby City: Peak Oil
Gordon Price, Cascadia Scorecard
In my 15 years on City Council in Vancouver, I read a lot of reports. Ninety percent of them were not exactly stimulating: lane pavings, grant approvals, appointment of the external auditor … all the things that keep a city going. Occasionally, a report would appear that grabbed your attention – and on a very rare occasion, would actually change your understanding of the world, or at least your city.

I’d like to say that such a report recently appeared on the agenda of the City of Vancouver. But it didn’t. It appeared in Burnaby – the municipality just to the east. And what a subject: “Global Peak in Oil Production: the Municipal Context.”

For those interested in the subject, there’s not a lot that’s new in the report; it’s primarily a background piece. Even on those terms, it makes informative reading. What makes it significant, however, is that it was requested by politicians, prepared by staff and comes with the seal of government –- as far as I know, the first such report of its kind in Canada.
(20 Jan 2006)
The full report produced by the City of Burnaby Transportation Committee is available here.

While it doesn’t go deep into solutions or policy recommendations, having something like this focusing on the problem of Peak Oil actually published by your local council would surely make more successful freeway proposals less likely.

Oil Vulnerability in the Australian City
Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe, Griffith University, Urban Research

The paper assesses the resilience or vulnerability of urban communities to increased fuel prices and how the socio-economic impacts will be spread across different localities.

In particular, the paper seeks to assess how different socio-economic groups will be affected by rising fuel costs, at the neighbourhood level. We base our analysis on ABS Census variables that are combined to indicate potential household vulnerability to fuel price rises, based on existing levels of social disadvantage, household motor vehicle ownership and current dependence on motor vehicles for work trips. This information is used to generate a ‘vulnerability index for petroleum energy rises’ (VIPER).

Maps generated with the VIPER demonstrate that high levels of oil vulnerability are present in Australian cities but that this vulnerability is unevenly distributed. Localities situated on middle and outer suburbs are most vulnerable to the socio-economic impact of oil price rises. New policies emphasising public transport services are needed to avoid, remedy or mitigate the impacts of oil price rises.
(Dec 2005)
A rare example of an academic urban policy study incorporating a Peak Oil analysis. And love that acronym! The paper focuses on public transport availability to conclude that life will be especially harder post-peak in the middle to outer suburbs of the studied cities, especially in those areas of lower economic status. -AF