Thursday, October 8, 2009

Are You Prepared? I Know I'm Not

Today's good read comes from the fine folks at the UK Energy Research Council. The ones in the original UK, the United Kingdom, not the guys at our University who are researching the removal of mountains for the molehill of energy. This council is looking at the depletion of the global oil supply and its effect on the world as we know it.

What does that have to do with us, we are Americans and Americans have always had all the oil they wanted. When we run low we will just go find more, we always have.

The following quotes (in red) are from the executive summary:
Abundant supplies of cheap liquid fuels form the foundation of modern industrial economies and at present the vast majority of these fuels are obtained from ‘conventional’ oil. But a growing number of commentators are forecasting a near-term peak and subsequent terminal decline in the production of conventional oil as a result of the physical depletion of the resource.
These modern global economies will only work if the supply of cheap liquid fuels continues to grow since there will be more of the "global" community desiring to cash in on the "global" economy. From what I see here the first thing that is growing is the number of people realizing that the oil supply is not growing. We are Americans, we created this economy and we can control it.
Many believe that this could lead to substantial economic dislocation...
Well, we as the world leaders will just have to help the rest of the world when this dislocation hits them. Besides I've heard that the oil that we know about will last into the middle of this century.
Despite much popular attention, the growing debate on ‘peak oil’ has had relatively little influence on energy and climate policy. Most governments exhibit little concern about oil depletion...
Lexington's government has not made any formal statements about their concerns toward "peak oil". They are quite vocal about preparing for the WEG, or some terrorist possibilities, or a natural disaster like a tornado or earthquake. Are they preparing for a catastrophic increase in fuel prices (or even better) a complete lack of supply of fuel for their emergency vehicles? Does Lexington have a "strategic fuel supply" hidden somewhere? My guess is ... NO.
While the global economic recession has brought oil prices down from their record high of July 2008, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning of a near-term ‘supply crunch’ owing to the cancellation and delay of many upstream investment projects. There is a growing consensus that the age of cheap oil is coming to an end.
So, if cheap oil is coming to an end, how are you preparing to face the thought of fuel prices that could be double the $4 a gallon that we saw back in 2008? Alternative fueled cars? Will there be enough alternative fuels available? Ethanol, algae, solar bio-diesel? I don't see very much of those ideas here in Lexington. If gas is that pricey, who gets it first? The police? Fire? Lextran? HSR? Airline travel will be curtailed completely because the military will have the jet fuel.

If you live more than 5 miles from your work place, how will you get to work? Honestly, I live just about 3/4 mile(as the crow flies) from a bus stop, but I am no crow. I have a bicycle and I am not as young as I once was, but I could get to work. Groceries could be a problem but we have tried it just to see if we could do it.

We Americans have suffered before and we got through it, besides this is all just speculation.
...the transition away from conventional oil will have important economic, environmental and security implications which need to be anticipated if the appropriate investments are to be made.
This is fairly plain. Regardless of the eventual "peak" of oil production some transition away form our current fuel sources will have to be planned for. The security implications spoken of will also be tantamount, for if wars are being fought over the present oil fields then they will also erupt over any alternative fuel production capabilities. Will intercity passenger rail travel be available before, during or after this transition period starts?
While the timing of a future peak (or plateau) in conventional oil production has been a focus of debate, what appears equally important is the rate at which production may be expected to decline following the peak and hence the rate at which demand reduction and alternative sources of supply may be required. In addition, there are uncertainties over the extent to which the market may be relied upon to signal oil depletion in a sufficiently timely fashion.
With so many uncertainties to be concerned with, it seem that we should be, at least, looking at some sort of planning changes so as to be more prepared for whatever comes our way. It is becoming more clear each day that the situation cannot keep going as it has for the past 80-100 years. Just as the world had to change from the "horse and buggy days" so too will we have to adjust from the world of an oil based global economy. Given the dearth of innovation being put forth on some sort of alternative fuel or power sources it looks like our creative class has its work cut out for it.

The report's listed conclusions are:
1. The mechanisms leading to a ‘peaking’ of conventional oil production are well understood and provide identifiable constraints on its future supply at both the regional and global level.

2. Despite large uncertainties in the available data, sufficient information is available to allow the status and risk of global oil depletion to be adequately assessed.

3. There is potential for improving consensus on important and long-standing controversies such as the source and magnitude of ‘reserves growth’.

4. Methods for estimating resource size and forecasting future supply have important limitations that need to be acknowledged.

5. Large resources of conventional oil may be available, but these are unlikely to be accessed quickly and may make little difference to the timing of the global peak.

6. The risks presented by global oil depletion deserve much more serious attention by the research and policy communities.
I think that these conclusions are proof enough that Lexington and the State of Kentucky need to begin talking about plans to mitigate the effects to their residents, whether we think that we need them or not. Everything should be on the table; mass transit, land use, urban farming, home occupations, greater density, you name it.

Remember, We are Americans and the rest of the world needs us more than we need them.

What might your thoughts be?

By the way there is a local blog on the "Peak Oil" situation in Lexington. I have a link to it in my blog list to the right side of the page. It is not much but you have to start somewhere.


steveaustinlex said...

Good analysis - I shared this with my readers

I would definitely welcome you as a co-admin on the peakoillex site I've done...

Ahavah Gayle said...

I wouldn't hold my breath on the UCG taking peak oil seriously until it is far too late to actually get trolley lines to the neighborhoods and buy electric buses. They will wait until it is so expensive to act that no action can be taken.