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Government failure to acknowledge the looming oil supply crunch threatens the climate and risks international conflict

Global Witness press release
There is an imminent oil supply crunch that governments have failed to acknowledge or act upon, the impacts of which will be felt throughout every aspect of modern society which is heavily reliant on oil, according to a new report published by campaign group Global Witness today.

Governments have not taken on board the four underlying oil production factors which clearly show there is a problem. Heads in the Sand outlines these factors – declining output, declining discoveries, increasing demand and insufficient projects in the pipeline – which clearly show that the world is facing an imminent oil supply crunch. Some of these factors have been apparent for many years. [1]

Governments and multi-lateral agencies have failed to recognise the imminence and scale of the global oil supply crunch, and most of them remain completely unprepared for its consequences. The report calls for governments to officially acknowledge the crunch and to shift urgently into safe sustainable energy alternatives.

“The world’s governments have been asleep at the wheel. Their collective failure to recognise the imminent end of the oil age means we have lost a decade in which action could have been taken to develop alternatives and avert the worst outcomes of a dramatic drop off in the supply of oil,” said Simon Taylor, Director of Global Witness. “Recognition of the oil supply crunch would have injected a sense of urgency and increased ambition for safer emissions reduction targets, both of which are sorely missing in the lead up to Copenhagen.”

For most of the past decade, the International Energy Agency (IEA) held an over-confident view about future oil production. But starting in 2007 and most dramatically in 2008, its position began to shift, when it projected a near 50% decline in conventional oil production by 2020 and a significant potential gap between supply and demand by 2015. [2] These factors should have rung alarm bells, yet the apparent lack of government response has been astonishing.

The report argues that it was a long-overdue breakthrough for the IEA to acknowledge the imminence of an oil supply crunch. But their suggested remedy of investment of over a billion dollars every day to 2030 is highly unlikely to bridge the supply-demand gap. [3] Massive investment cannot change the underlying fundamentals which clearly indicate a need to move away from oil. Global Witness blames governments for not facing up to these factors and recommends that rather than spending increasingly large sums of money chasing increasingly hard to reach oil, the world should be investing in safe and sustainable alternatives.

“A world without enough oil is unlikely to be a peaceful place. Our near-total dependence on oil for food production and transport mean that decreasing availability of oil is likely to lead to food shortages and increased geopolitical tension. It threatens the nascent global governance reform agenda and could cause major international conflict over resources. The poorest will be pushed to the back of the queue and inequality will grow, which in turn will feed social unrest,” said Charmian Gooch, Director of Global Witness.
(20 Oct 2009)
You can download the report from this page.
From the Global Witness website:
“Global Witness exposes the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems, to drive campaigns that end impunity, resource-linked conflict, and human rights and environmental abuses.

Global Witness was the first organisation that sought to break the links between the exploitation of natural resources, and conflict and corruption; and the results of our investigations and our powerful lobbying skills have been not only a catalyst, but a main driver behind most of the major international mechanisms and initiatives that have been established to address these issues; including the Kimberley Process and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Global Witness is largely responsible for natural resources occupying the prominent role in the international agenda that they currently do.”

UK Report Warns of Oil Shortage

Mil Arcega, VOA news
A new report by a prominent energy research firm warns that the world’s oil supply could start to dry up over the next 10 years. In a report unveiled at an International Energy Agency meeting in Paris, the UK Energy Research Center said petroleum production is likely to peak by the year 2020 leading to global shortages as supplies taper off.

The world’s demand for oil is unsustainable. That’s the warning from a new report delivered at the International Energy Agency’s ministerial meeting in Paris.

According to the U.K. Energy Research Centre, world oil production is likely to peak before 2030. The report’s author, Steve Sorrell, says the global supply could start to dry up sooner.

“The basic physical features of the resource mean that production will start to decline at some point and will continue to decline and no amount of investment is going to turn that process around,” Sorrell said. “Ten years, 15 years, even 20 years is not far away.”

…And some oil companies argue new fields discovered in Angola, Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico should be able to satisfy demand.

Sorrell disagrees.

“Even if you assume and make optimistic assumptions about the size of the resource, you assume that the investment takes place and these areas are open to access, the evidence still points to constraints within this period of time,” he said.
(16 Oct 2009)
The UKERC report is accessible here.

Key report aims to tackle global peak oil crisis

Bristol City Council press release
The Bristol Partnership and Bristol City Council have welcomed the report of the Peak Oil Study, presented at the Partnership board meeting on Thursday 15th October.

The study was commissioned by the Bristol Partnership and the city council to consider the implications for Bristol once global oil production has peaked and production is in decline. The comprehensive 108 page report spells out the potential impact of ‘peak oil’ on every aspect of Bristol life – transport, food, healthcare, public services, the economy, power and utilities.

Bristol is the first city in the country to take action in this way by commissioning the study, which is intended to be a starting point to help the city to prepare for the future oil crunch and the impact it could have.

The city already has a reputation as being a leading environmental player, and last year received many awards and accolades, including being short-listed for a European Green Capital award, crowned the UK’s most sustainable city in a Forum for the Future assessment, as well as being named the country’s first Cycling City. Recent figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change have also revealed that Bristol is one of the most energy efficient cities in the country*.

Barbara Janke, leader of the council, said: “As part of our Green Capital programme, we are already tackling climate change issues head on by reducing our dependence on oil and ambitiously working to cut our carbon footprint by 3% every year.

“Whilst this report paints a picture of how life could be if there is an oil crunch, it also arms us with the information we need so that we can begin to take major action now.”

Dick Penny, chair of the Bristol Partnership, said: “Although experts continue to debate exactly when peak oil will occur, there is growing consensus that it will be in the next ten to twenty years, and that we have to start making plans and changes now.”

“However, Bristol is already ahead of many other cities with this study. All the members of the Bristol Partnership, Bristol City Council and other key partners will now work together to consider the implications of the report and decide on the next steps we take to tackle the issue and ensure that the city is able to thrive – in a future without oil.”
(16 Oct 2009)
The entire Peak Oil Report can be downloaded from this page.