Thursday, 25 March 2010

UK government holds summit on Peak Oil

As announced in The Guardian on Sunday, the UK government recently held a summit on Peak Oil:

Lord Hunt, the energy minister, is to meet industrialists in London tomorrow in a bid to calm mounting fears about the disruption that could follow a sudden shortage of oil supplies.

In a significant policy shift, the government has agreed to undertake more work on whether the UK needs to take action to avoid the massive dislocation that could be caused by the early onset of "peak oil" – the point that marks the start of terminal decline in global oil production.

Jeremy Leggett, the executive chairman of the renewable power company Solar Century and a leading figure in the UK industry taskforce on peak oil and energy security, said the meeting, to be held at the Energy Institute, showed a welcome new sense of urgency. "Government has gone from the BP position – '40 years of supply left, the price mechanism works, no need to worry' – to 'crikey'," he said.
The event was held behind closed doors, but fortunately one of the participants, Rob Hopkins from Transition Towns, has published a write-up, respecting the Chatham House Rule under which the summit was held. Here's a little bit of it: was fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. Fascinating that it represented the first time the UK government has created a space to explore the peak oil question, what the Guardian that morning called a “significant policy shift”, how it overlaps with climate change and what policies they might make in response. Fascinating that Transition Network is seen as worthy of an invitation to such an event, that our work is recognised at that level.

Frustrating in that every time the question of economic growth and whether or not the idea had any mileage in a world of depleting energy reserves was raised it was largely glossed over. Frustrating in that so often the question of what we might to do in response to peak oil focused almost purely in transportation and on the timely and complete creation of an electric car fleet, with a recharging network and sufficient electricity to keep the whole thing going, with no consideration as to how a nation which is the second most indebted in the world, which has become a net energy importer at a time of increasing price volatility and little remaining indigenous energy, is actually going to pay for such an infrastructure. Frustrating because the techno-fix mindset was prevalent, and the idea that part of a response might include the intentional refocusing of the scale of economic activity, the application of the Proximity Principle to economics didn’t really register with people.

Anyway, who knows, perhaps nothing will come of it, but it certainly felt like a pretty historic occasion to me, and although it was only attended by a small number of people, I hope that this garbled account offers some sense of what went on behind the closed doors of the Energy Institute.

You can read the full report from Rob here.



Anonymous said...

We need to adapt. Take a look at this article The Great Transition:

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Meanwhile the world ignores the facts we have been shouting for years in the vain hope they will go away and oil will never run out...

You must excuse me M&T, I need to assult the nearest wall with my head.