Peak oil alarm revealed by secret official talks
Speculation that government ministers are far more concerned about a future supply crunch than they have admitted has been fuelled by the revelation that they are canvassing views from industry and the scientific community about “peak oil”.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is also refusing to hand over policy documents about “peak oil” – the point at which oil production reaches its maximum and then declines – under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, despite releasing others in which it admits “secrecy around the topic is probably not good”.
This is an interesting story for a couple of reasons, not just the subject of “Peak Oil”
For one, it shows that the UK government has not been quite up front about this topic with the public.
[…] documents obtained under the FoI Act seen by the Observer show that a “peak oil workshop” brought together staff from the DECC, the Bank of England and Ministry of Defence among others to discuss the issue.
A ministry note of that summit warned that “[Government] public lines on peak oil are ‘not quite right’. They need to take account of climate change and put more emphasis on reducing demand and also the fact that peak oil may increase volatility in the market.”
Those comments were written 12 months ago, but a letter in response to the FoI request written by DECC officials and dated 31 July 2010 says it can only release some information on what is currently under policy discussion because they are “ongoing” and “high profile” in nature.
There is no doubt that the UK government is worried about oil and natural gas. The UK North Sea production of oil has been on the decline for some time now and it is unreasonable to expect any significant change to that long term trend. The North Sea oil and gas production was quite a boon to the UK and sheltered them from having to have significant imports.
Those days are over. The UK will be increasingly dependent upon foreign oil and gas producers (especially the Russians for the latter.)
[…] Yet the note of the workshop distributed last year talks about secrecy around the topic being “probably not good”, although it also suggests officials stick to the line that the “International Energy Agency is an authoritative source in this field” and stresses how the IEA believes there is sufficient reserves to meet demand till 2030 as long as investment in new reserves is maintained.
But the Paris-based organisation has come under increasing scrutiny from a growing group of critics who believe the IEA’s optimism is misplaced. Last year the Guardian revealed that the IEA was also riven with dissent over the issue with senior staff members privately telling newspaper they thought the official numbers on future global oil supply were over-optimistic.
This is not a subject that is going to disappear. Though quite a bit of the peak oil discussions on the net are laced with all sorts of marginal and fringe thinking, the reality of the importance of oil and furthermore the importance of oil depletion cannot be escaped.