Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Coming soon: A post about oil

I've been (apparently "conspicuously") silent on the current oil / gas / petrol thing. Massive price rises, queues at the pumps, protests, shortages... the kind of things you'd expect a Peak Oil Evangelist like myself to be harping on about. But I made a conscious decision to keep quiet on the issue for a while.

Matt Simmons was recently interviewed on Channel 4 news, the New York Times had a major story on the global peak of oil production, and even our politicians have started to wake up ("Britain must use less oil, says Brown" was a recent headline in The Guardian). So I figured that my job was over. Why should I continue telling people "this is happening" when they only have to look outside their window (or inside their newspapers) to see it for themselves?

However, a friend of mine has convinced me that I may yet have something to add to the discussion (though he's already done a fine job at elucidating my general position) and in truth I really should put the finishing touches to the article I had been writing for The Sharpener. However, as it happens I'm inundated with work right now and in a couple of days I'm jetting off to Ireland for a week (I refuse to own a car... so I guess I have to find some other way of contributing to fossil fuel depletion).

So yeah, expect me to address this issue again. I'm just not 100% sure when that'll be.


Anonymous MattAG said...

Its all going off!! Toyota has just announced ALL their new cars will be hybrid engine based (given the added cost of production this is a big leap) and GeneralMotors DaimlerChrysler, Mercadies and BMW are joining together to make their own hybrids. So that will be pretty much all of them then....

14/9/05 02:47  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

As requested, the Energy Portfolio is yours. Was it you writing at the Sharpener about Peak Oil (meant to blog about that).

Will you be considering zinc oxide powerstations?


14/9/05 03:25  
Blogger Ryan said...

It has hardly become common knowledge that oil production may have already started to decline.

The majority of the coverage that I have seen about the current high prices, protests, panic buying etc., almost always puts accross the view that the source of the problem is government taxes, which have to come down, or oil company margins, which have to come down, or the refusal of some states to pump more oil.

It's only very occasionally that anyone admits that, although there are short-term factors behind these oil prices (like the effects of the hurricane), prices are going to keep going up in the long term. Because it's not an ifinite resource.

I think you need to keep banging on about it.

14/9/05 09:25  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Yeah MattAG, I noticed the Toyota story, but also noticed they were careful not to provide a timescale. Clearly auto makers must be freaking out about the oil crisis. But I can recall articles going back 8 years in which car manufacturers were announcing that very soon all their cars would be fuel-cell based (and that ain't ever going to happen).

The fact is, the private car has got a very limited lifespan. Whether it's hybrid or hydrogen, there's no justification - in a world with declining energy resources - for transporting a ton of metal and glass with you every time you go down the shops. Cars are ludicrously energy-inefficient by their very nature, and society is soon going to have to deal with that.

The Toyota announcement is still significant though... it seems to demonstrate that the world's second-largest car maker has woken up to the reality of diminishing oil supply.

DK, that article was indeed mine (though it's only part 1 of what was supposed to be a three-parter... I kind of felt that I'd been overtaken by events and it was time to let people come to their own conclusions based on what was happening in the news... I've now been convinced to write some more on the subject though).

"Peak Oil" is a subject I've been studying for the best part of a decade now, and it's been amazing watching it mutate from a fringe theory held by a couple of hundred petroleum geologists and assorted engineers and crackpots, into a major news story (and one that's still not broken fully yet).

Ryan, I think you're right. Every time I see Gordon Brown blaming OPEC I feel the need to break out my sandwich-board and walk the streets of Westminister (not that OPEC don't share some of the blame, but it's the consumers not the producers who are ultimately responsible for oil use).

14/9/05 13:19  
Anonymous MattAG said...

Is this the first uk political party to acknowlage peak oil? http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2177
What i want to know is what the hell took them so long!

14/9/05 21:52  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Actually MattAG, there's nothing in that statement that wasn't in their election manifesto.

What annoys me about the Greens, however, is the fact that they appear to be just as capable of ignoring basic physics as all the other parties.

On the same page that their manifesto called for a reduction in fossil fuel usage, energy conservation measures, and the examination of methods to decrease overall energy consumption; they also call for "full employment".

They are - in effect - saying that they want to decrease the amount of energy we use, but increase the amount of work we do*. Given that energy can be defined as the ability to do work, this is a fundamental contradiction.

I'm very concerned that our policy-makers are simply not qualified for their positions. I hate blowing my own trumpet (well, perhaps 'hate' is too strong a word... 'enjoy' might be slightly more accurate) but combining an academic background in philosophy with a successful career in industrial engineering gives me a mixture of theory and oil-stained hands-on experience that I simply don't see in any of our policy-makers. And while I know that some of my readers are economists (and are therefore a tad annoyed by my tendency to denegrate that profession), I honestly don't feel that the vast majority of economists are aware of just how far from reality their theories have brought them.

Even the Greens; when you actually analyse their proposals; are still in the thrall of economics. And so long as that's the case, I find it difficult to take them seriously.

* Yes, yes, the pedantic Greenie could argue that full employment doesn't have to mean 'more work'; that the average amount of work carried out by each individual could be lowered. But that ends up boiling down to an argument for a drop in energy efficiency and productivity. Not a good solution in my view.

14/9/05 23:57  

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