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George Monbiot meets … Fatih Birol
In the latest in the ground-breaking interview series, Britain’s leading green commentator tackles the International Energy Authority’s chief economist, who reveals for the first time a startling and worrying prediction for the date of peak oil
(15 December 2008)
If you don’t see the video at the above link, look at Monbiot meets ….

George Monbiot conducts an aggressive, substantive interview with Fatih Birol. At the end, Monbiot asks if the IEA will apologize to peak oilers for a 2005 statement by the IEA director in which they were called doomsayers. -BA

When will the oil run out?

George Monbiot, Guardian
George Monbiot puts the question to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency – and is both astonished and alarmed by the answer

Can you think of a major threat for which the British government does not prepare? It employs an army of civil servants, spooks and consultants to assess the chances of terrorist attacks, financial collapse, floods, epidemics, even asteroid strikes, and to work out what it should do if they happen. But there is one hazard about which it appears intensely relaxed: it has never conducted its own assessment of the state of global oil supplies and the possibility that one day they might peak and then go into decline.

If you ask, the government always produces the same response: “Global oil resources are adequate for the foreseeable future.” It knows this, it says, because of the assessments made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its World Energy Outlook reports. In the 2007 report, the IEA does appear to support the government’s view.

… So the IEA had better be right. In the report on peak oil commissioned by the US department of energy, the oil analyst Robert L Hirsch concluded that “without timely mitigation, the economic, social and political costs” of world oil supplies peaking “will be unprecedented”. He went on to explain what “timely mitigation” meant. Even a worldwide emergency response “10 years before world oil peaking”, he wrote, would leave “a liquid-fuels shortfall roughly a decade after the time that oil would have peaked”. To avoid global economic collapse, we need to begin “a mitigation crash programme 20 years before peaking”. If Hirsch is right, and if oil supplies peak before 2028, we’re in deep doodah.

So burn this into your mind: between 2007 and 2008 the IEA radically changed its assessment. Until this year’s report, the agency mocked people who said that oil supplies might peak. In the foreword to a book it published in 2005, its executive director, Claude Mandil, dismissed those who warned of this event as “doomsayers”.

… “Although global oil production in total is not expected to peak before 2030, production of conventional oil … is projected to level off towards the end of the projection period.” These bland words reveal a major shift. Never before has one of the IEA’s energy outlooks forecast the peaking or plateauing of the world’s conventional oil production (which is what we mean when we talk about peak oil).

But that is as specific as the report gets. Does it or doesn’t it mean that we have time to prepare?
(15 December 2008)

Beyond laissez-faire

Editorial, Guardian
When the cabin crew admits to anxiety, it is time to panic. The International Energy Authority has always brushed off claims that oil will soon dry up, adopting the tone of a nonchalant air steward guiding jittery travellers through turbulence. This morning, however, the organisation’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, tells the Guardian that he expects global production will stop growing in around 2020. It is a remarkable turnaround for the IEA, which only three years ago was insisting that there was no fundamental reason why oil should not continue to grease the cogs of the global economy.

The news will give an edge to the London summit of oil producers and consumers due at the end of the week. It is, however, only one of many reasons for overhauling the marketopian thinking that has long exerted a peculiar hold over British energy policy…
(15 December 2008)

Global oil supply will peak in 2020, says energy agency

Terry Macalister and George Monbiot, Guardian
Global oil production will peak much earlier than expected amid a collapse in petroleum investment due to the credit crunch, one of the world’s foremost experts has revealed.

Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was “not good news” for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.

The prediction came as oil companies from Saudi Arabia to Canada cut their capital expenditure on new projects in response to a fall in oil prices, moves that will further reduce supply in future.
(15 December 2008)