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British energy policy is a dangerous farce

David Strahan, blog
A year ago Tony Blair declared in the Energy Review that securing a ‘sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply is one of the principal duties of government’. He was right. But under New Labour energy policy has veered from criminal to farcical. And with the recent reappointment of Malcolm Wicks as Energy Minister that farce is ready to transfer from Whitehall to the West End stage.

It was unfortunate that the undeclared part of Tony Blair’s energy policy involved invading Iraq, causing the deaths of perhaps a million people so far. The policy has also been a disaster in terms of the oil supply. As I report in The Last Oil Shock, the plan was to defer the onset of terminal decline in global oil production (so called ‘peak oil’) by opening up Iraq as a free-market playground for the international oil companies and raising the country’s output threefold. But in the chaos and butchery that transpired, Iraqi oil production still languishes at about the pre-invasion, sanctions-bound level of less than 2 million barrels per day. Far from putting off the date of peak oil, the invasion may well have brought it closer.

After a blatantly temporizing energy white paper in 2003, Blair finally made up his mind about nuclear power two years ago – to renew the ageing power stations – and only then announced a ‘consultation’.

…The British government has never produced its own forecast of when global oil production will peak, unlike France (2013-2023) or Germany (2017). The UK has long dismissed such alarmist talk on the basis of much more sanguine forecasts from the International Energy Agency. But now even the IEA has shifted position dramatically, predicting a global oil crisis by 2012. The Agency argues this will happen almost irrespective of the strength or weakness of economic growth – “the supply crunch could be deferred – but not by much” – and concludes that any attempt to boost oil exploration “might do more to fuel further [oil industry] inflation rather than generate extra oil”. Not only does oil look extremely tight in five years time, but this “coincides with the prospects of even tighter natural gas markets at the turn of
the decade”.

The IEA insists that its “supply crunch” will be caused by above ground factors such as Iraq, and is not the same thing as peak oil – the geologically-driven, irreversible decline of global oil production. But those living through it may be forgiven for failing to appreciate the distinction. The IEA’s predicted crisis falls squarely within the range of independent forecasts of the date of peak oil. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has predicted $95 per barrel as early as this autumn if OPEC fails to raise its production, which many experts doubt it can. The farce of British energy policy would hysterical if the challenges were not so deadly serious.

David Strahan is the author of The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man.
(24 July 2007)

Peak Oil and Dentistry – the Final Taboo

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
I remember Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s ghastly press secretary, saying something like “I have one word for those environmentalists who would drag us back to the 18th century. Dentistry”. Modern dentistry is very oil dependent, and painless dental work is something we have come to take for granted. In the surgery of the dentist I went to in Ireland he had, as a conversation piece, a dentist’s chair from the 1920s and some old implements. I think it was to impress upon the visitor how lucky they were to be in his comfy padded seat with all his amazing implements.

Ben Brangwyn, co-founder of the Transition Network doesn’t have great teeth, and is fascinated by peak oil, and so therefore has many opportunities to lie with his mouth open pondering the oil dependency of dentistry. Having scoured the internet and found that indeed, dentistry is the final peak oil taboo, with pretty much nothing in print out there, he decided to do some investigating. What follows is his report, which is, I think, a first. At the end he invites your comments, please use the comments box here to discuss any issues around this that you want to.

Peak Oil and Dentistry.

by Ben Brangwyn. 21-July-2007.

There is a deafening silence from the world of dentistry on the subject of Peak Oil. As we move into the era that marks the end of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, all healthcare systems will need to adapt to the ensuing constraints, dentistry included. In this document, two UK dentists respond to a set of questions regarding dentistry and Peak Oil that were recently posted on the ODAC website. Both dentists have chosen to remain anonymous for the moment. They are identified, rather unimaginatively, as Dentist #1 and Dentist #2.

1. Introduction from Dentist #1

As a quick intro, here are some notes about the state of dentistry right now. Most of the focus in the UK is on NHS dentistry [as opposed to private], because until recently, this is where the majority of dentists worked. This is now changing however. Prior to last year, if a dentist had room on his books and a patient called them, that patient would generally be seen (although it was not uncommon to have to wait). However, one has to remember that at that time 50% of the population didn’t have a dentist. The newspapers picked up on this fact and turned it into a big story. All of a sudden, people who weren’t really bothered suddenly got scared because there was a perceived shortage of dentists. This resulted in a flood of people vying for limited places, which resulted in shortages, letters to MPs and more media attention.
(24 July 2007)
Energy- and resource-efficiency have not been priorities of modern dentistry. However, it is possible to develop an advanced post-peak dentistry. As a step in the right direction, see Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson. This book, which has been around for decades, is produced by the same organizations that publish the famous manual, “Where There Is No Doctor,” – originally written for Mexicans in the rural highlands who did not have access to the expensive, modern health care system. -BA

BP reports profit fall on declining production

Agency France Presse via Petroleum World
British oil giant BP announced a fall in net profit in the three months to June following 24 months of continuously falling production despite strong world demand for energy.

Net profit on the basis of replacement costs, which excludes the effect of changes in the value of oil and gas inventories, fell by 0.5 percent to 6.087 billion dollars (4.406 billion euros) during the second quarter, compared with the same period in 2006.

The replacement cost figure is closely watched by the market. ..
(24 Jul 2007)

Slope production drops faster than estimated

Tim Bradner, Alaska Journal
Alaska North Slope oil and gas fields declined 12.5 percent in production of crude oil and natural gas liquids last year, according to an analysis by the state Department of Revenue.

North Slope average daily production in state fiscal year 2007 was 738,000 barrels per day, down from an average of 844,000 barrels per day in the previous year.

The drop in production is higher than estimates by both industry and the state. The state makes long-term production forecasts as part of its twice-yearly state revenue forecasts. Royalties and taxes from oil production pays for 85 percent of the state budget.

Part of the decline was due to the Prudhoe Bay field’s partial shutdown for several weeks in 2006 after BP experienced leaks in corroded pipes. The decline was also partly attributed to weather conditions at the Valdez Marine Terminal in November that impeded tanker loadings, the analysis shows.

But the data also shows a steepening of the natural decline of the large, older fields on the Slope, rates that exceeded estimates by the producers and the state. ..
(22 Jul 2007)

The Round-Up: July 24th 2007

Stoneleigh, The Oil Drum: Canada
Water concerns are emerging in North America as the world warms. The US would wants a continental approach to water supply, but Canadians disagree. Meanwhile, in parts of England, there’s “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”.

The ‘true north’ tries to be ‘strong and clean’, but can’t seem to do a proper energy audit. Arctic gas pipelines move a step closer to reality. Power supply in Ontario tightens further, while Cameco discovers uranium in the soil. Can we harness tornado-power next?

The insatiable debt-monster of Wall street spreads from subprime to Alt-A, bond ratings spawn legal action, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac attempt a subprime bail-out. The savings rate stays negative south of the border, as Americans keep borrowing just to stay on the treadmill.
(24 July 2007)