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Peak Oil - nowhere nearly reached?

On 13 Nov 2012 at 10:24am John Stockdale wrote:
There's a story in today's Guardian (see link below) that currently known sources of oil won't be more than one third exhausted by 2050. The problem is not learning how to live without fossil fuel because there isn't enough. But learning how to live without it because we can't afford to go on burning it on account of what it's doing to the planet. Same message, different reason - and with the next financial crisis being a collapse in the value of oil stocks. Have Transition Town taken this on board and what do they have to say about it?

Check it out here »
On 13 Nov 2012 at 10:29am Albert Square wrote:
I'm nothing to do with Transition Town and neither have I read the article but I do know that "known sources of oil" is a tenuous and misleading phrase. In parts of the old Soviet Union, for example, there are huge amounts of "known oil" but extracting it is prohibitively expensive and likely to never be commercially viable.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 10:53am Pete wrote:
Not to mention Russia's poor track record of wasting oil during extraction and production, some say as much as 50% .....
On 13 Nov 2012 at 11:13am Southover Queen wrote:
There's also the question of fuel security. We are already at the mercy of Russian gangsters and oligarchs for our gas supplies; I really don't want that to spread into oil supplies as well. As a nation we need to spread our risk so that a safe proportion of our energy needs are generated in this country. Since we've squandered most of our own fossil fuels, that means finding renewable sources - tide/wind/solar - and probably also grasping the nettle of nuclear generation too.

We can help ourselves as well, as individuals, by insulating our homes properly, and reviewing how we heat them. Scandinavian countries use far less energy because they take this stuff seriously, and perhaps we will too as energy prices go on rising. Spreading the load was one of the reasons I installed a woodburner: I can heat the whole house for most of the winter with perhaps £150's worth of wood, so that the gas central heating is supplementary or at least complementary rather than the only option.

Perhaps in the end the climate change argument will mean less to many people than the blunt fact that burning fossil fuels to heat their homes is getting more expensive every day, so we'll find ways to bring that cost down, with the benefits to the climate that brings too. That's not an ideological point of view either - more based on evidence and the effects of the market!
On 13 Nov 2012 at 11:52am local wrote:
"Squandered most of our own"? Can you elaborate please?
On 13 Nov 2012 at 12:06pm Southover Queen wrote:
North Sea oil and gas supplies are nearly exhausted, which is why we're dependent on supplies from overseas - gas specifically from Russia, which I think is a dangerous dependency. Most of our domestic coal is now too expensive to extract and we rely on supplies from Poland.
So yes, pretty much all gone in fairly short order: squandered, because we actually gained little benefit from the oil and gas.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 1:26pm Local wrote:
Not sure I get your point. North Sea oil and gas was either used (saving the country having to import it) or sold (bringing in vital revenue). It wasn't smeared over the country's cliffs, or poured down the drain. What else was meant to have been done with it??
If your point is that the revenue should have been spent on building wind-farms or hospitals, that's another point altogether.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 1:33pm Mother Earthy wrote:
Transition Town may be picking up on this slowly. There is the anti-fracking campaign but not quite sure if they've really grasped the implications. The real problem is too many fossil fuels not too few.
The primary thing is getting fuel supplies that have lower emissions but are price competitive. Basically nuclear power plus wind, hydro and maybe a little bit of solar (probably not the best for the UK though for obvious reasons).
Notice there is a guy speaking at Skeptics in the Pub this month about energy stuff and taking v much this line.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 1:42pm Southover Queen wrote:
The huge revenues the country earned from North Sea oil and gas were not invested in industry or - for instance - the railway infrastructure or updating the underground system or building affordable housing or subsidising education for the very poor. They were largely used in keeping taxes low and making more people feel feel rich. As a nation we could have used that money far more creatively. Instead we did the equivalent of buying a 50' flat screen telly. From Japan.

However, we are where we are. We don't have fossil fuels any more so we can't rely on cheap North Sea gas to heat our homes or fuel our power plants. So we need to figure out how to manage without them, preferably without placing ourselves in the hands of Russian gangsters while we're at it. That's all, really.

Whether burning fossil fuels is contributing to climate change (which most agree it is) is almost irrelevant. The fact that changing our habits because our bank accounts demand it is just the free market in action, isn't it? Aren't we told that's the ultimate arbiter? So let's do it, and save the planet as well as our money.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 1:59pm Mother Earthy wrote:
Not sure what point yo're making SQ? Whether or not we wasted north sea oil revenues is an argument that's been running since approximately 1983 with no definitive conclusions. It might be relevant to where we are now but perhaps not directly.
The problem with a peak oil argument is that it's based on the notion that fossil fuel prices will just keep on rising as supplies run out. It seems that this is not really going to happen and that is a problem. One not really addressed by your point above. New sources of oil (tar sands etc) may be attractive from the point of view that they also free us from politically vulnerable supplies.
Seems that it is more important to get realistic about the mix of energy supplies we might need.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 2:24pm Southover Queen wrote:
I was responding to Local pulling me up on one word in my original post. I don't think it is terribly relevant now, except that we don't have our own supplies any more which did confer fuel security. (And I do think we could have used the revenue from North Sea oil far more creatively, but that's a political point)

I agree with you that fossil fuels not running out as quickly as it was supposed is a problem if you're using that as an argument to use them more frugally. Part of that problem is that as prices rise then it becomes economic to exploit reserves which previously were discounted as being too expensive. However the environmental cost of exploiting those reserves is even worse - look at tar sands, for instance, or fracking. It still means that the cost of fossil fuels will continue to rise and that should be something to make consumers consider their options. I do think that fuel security is a big challenge, personally, and that's why I am so glad of my woodburner as gas prices soar.

I agree that we have to be realistic about the mix, and I'd favour low carbon options such as a mix of renewables and nuclear. I can see no logical reason for pulling the plug on nuclear, and it's perfectly clear that other forms of power generation will not supply what the modern world needs. I think you and I probably agree - I just got sidetracked because of one word!
On 13 Nov 2012 at 2:31pm Mother Earty wrote:
Maybe. Is important to realise that technology is also changing making new sources viable (and cheaper) to exploit. I think one of the probs here is people changing their thinking to reflect that. Peak Oil isn't still a helpful way of thinking I reckon.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 6:20pm Local wrote:
Maybe it was just one word in yet another of your oh-so-important left-leaning sermons. But it was quite a significant word and, it would now seem, rather a poorly chosen one.
On 13 Nov 2012 at 6:34pm Southover Queen wrote:
You may think so, Local. I don't. I think it was a very well chosen word. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

What about the original question? Is it okay to go on burning up the world just because we can? Why is it "lefty" and "sermonising" to suggest that consuming everything and possibly destroying the planet is foolish? Why is it "lefty" and "sermonising" to point out that in Scandinavian countries they insulate their houses so that they barely spend anything on heating? Why not consume a little less and live just as comfortably? What is the problem with that?
On 14 Nov 2012 at 11:11am Clifford wrote:
I'd be interested Local to hear how you define 'left' and 'right'.
On 14 Nov 2012 at 11:33pm Local wrote:
In brief -
Want to spend other people's money
Don't understand that entrepreneurs and risk-takers are the only ones who create wealth
Still persist with the ridiculous notion that everything / everyone should be equal
Believe in positive discrimination for their pet likes whilst constantly harping on about every other form of discrimination
Believe in market forces
Retain a sense of perspective on discrimination issues
Hopefully tough on crime
Encourage wealth creation
Take a realistic global view on competition
Believe in personal responsibility
On 14 Nov 2012 at 11:50pm Southover Queen wrote:
Gosh, that's not at all biased, is it, your little list?

"A sense of perspective" vs "persist with ridiculous notion". Hmmm. A long litany of negatives followed by a list of the unparalleled virtues of the right. I wonder which you think is better? (Actually, I don't)

Enough of this jollification! You still haven't answered the question. Why not consume a little less and live just as comfortably? What is the problem with that? Why is that "lefty"? It's just sensible.

Look, you're clearly struggling with the whole concept. Let me put it in nice simple terms. Your elderly mum is struggling to pay her gas bill which has gone up 50% in three years. Should she spend her savings on expensive gas from Russia or should she insulate the house and fix the windows? She'll spend half what she was spending on the gas and *at the same time* she'll be saving the planet. Brilliant, eh? It works for me.

You could even get a couple of entrepreneurs to do the work for you. Win win all round.
On 15 Nov 2012 at 12:07am Local wrote:
Tell me what the payback period is on 'fixing the windows' and I'll tell you if she's likely to be alive still.
Alternatively, she can just spend a little more of my inheritance each month and enjoy her last years without the worry of getting involved with potential cowboy window companies and endless LDC consent application forms.
On 27 Nov 2012 at 10:08am Ian Cooper wrote:
Let's have a counterpoint to Local's right wingnut list, shall we? -
Want to share the wealth
Understand that the people who do the work are the only ones who create wealth
Believe that everything / everyone should have an equal playing field
Believe that discrimination is wrong
Believe capital is the only thing that matters
Believe whites should rule
Believe blacks should be poor or in jail
Want the poor to stay poor
Want to stifle foreign competition
Believe in every man for himself
On 27 Nov 2012 at 10:25am Ian Cooper wrote:
Now let's have an unbiased list -
Want to share the wealth
Understand that the people who do the work are the only ones who create wealth
Believe that everything / everyone should have an equal playing field
Believe that discrimination is wrong
Believe in market forces
Take a pragmatic view on discrimination issues
Hopefully tough on crime
Encourage wealth creation
Take a pragmatic global view on competition
Believe in personal responsibility
On 27 Nov 2012 at 10:49am Kettle wrote:
A couple of corrections:
Believe in market forces, unless the banks need bailing out.
What the hell is a 'pragmatic view on discrimination issues'? Ensuring that white men keep all the power?
Encourage tax dodging
Take a pragmatic view on competition, i.e. help their mates - it's only sensible!
Believe that the poor should pay taxes
On 27 Nov 2012 at 11:50am Southover Queen wrote:
On the subject taxes vs benefits, which is the greater burden on the state - (a) benefit fraud or (b) tax evasion.

The answer, inconveniently for the Daily Mail, is that tax evasion costs the exchequer 12% vs .6% for benefit fraud.

I can't be bothered to argue the rest of it. I think Local's answer explains nicely why the right finds it quite impossible to do the sensible thing as far as climate change goes..

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