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Peak oil highlights need for a unified policy
Paddy Manning, Sydney Morning Herald
The infrastructure Australia needs to respond to the world's dwindling oil supply is not the sort we are building.
Peak oil is forcing its way to the top of the agenda with stark warnings from the International Energy Agency and others repeated on ABC radio and television this week, after an investigation by the Catalyst program.
Following up a similar program she made in 2005, journalist Jonica Newby gained a rare interview with IEA chief economist Fatih Birol, who said crude oil production peaked in 2006 and, in veiled terms, added that governments should have started working seriously on the problem a decade ago and warned of the threat of more oil wars.
Whereas five years ago the IEA expected total production - including oil from deep-sea drilling and unconventional sources such as tar sands - could rise to 120 million barrels a day by 2030, the agency now expects production will reach only 96 million barrels. And Birol reckons there are no guarantees it can be brought out of the ground in a timely fashion.
... In the lucky country, of course, we'll be fine. Rising income from coal and gas exports will help us pay higher oil prices, even as our oil trade deficit blows out and oil hits $US200 ($A183) a barrel, as is forecast often enough. Can we go back to sleep now?
Not when the climate implications are taken into account, says Ian Dunlop, a former Shell executive and deputy convenor of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.
Dunlop says the manifestations of peak oil were temporarily masked by the financial crisis - itself partly triggered by high oil prices which hurt struggling homeowners in the US subprime mortgage belts - but are now confronting us as the developed world increases consumption. The world faces a 20-30 per cent reduction in oil availability by 2020, he says.
The problem with future oil production, Dunlop says, is the amount of energy you get out for the energy you expend - your return on investment - is dropping.
(30 April 2011)
Suggested by Big Gav and Michael Lardelli. -BA
Oil Crunch – Catalyst, ABC TV
Kjell Aleklett, Aleklett's Energy Mix
Finally the day has come when the Catalyst science programme on the Australian TV-channel ABC has broadcast its 12 minute long “Oil Crunch” segment on peak oil. The parts in which I am involved were filmed in Australia last November.
One month before that I received an email from Jonica Newby of Catalyst telling me that Catalyst was planning to do a segment on peak oil and that she wanted to interview me when I was in Australia. The reason for the segment was our peer-reviewed article “The Peak of the Oil Age” published in Energy Policy (PDF here). Of course it is interesting that Uppsala University should receive this attention.
The filming took 6 hours when we were in Adelaide. After that Jonica travelled to New Orleans, London and Paris to record other parts of the segment on peak oil. Here is the link to the programme which is available online: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3201781.htm
On the Catalyst website there are also longer interviews about our research and with the other people that appeared in the segment. There is also a short clip showing our “oilfield in a bottle” model of the phases of oil production. We built the model in Adelade to resemble an illustration in the book that I am currently writing on peak oil:
(29 April 2011)
ABC Catalyst’s “The Oil Crunch” and commentary resulting from it
Kjell Aleklett, Aleklett's Energy Mix
The ABC Catalyst program is very popular in Australia and is also influential. The Sydney Morning Herald is the largest broadsheet newspaper in Australia and they followed up with a story Peak oil: it’s closer than you think. This is the opening statement:
“Peak oil is forcing its way to the top of the agenda with stark warnings from the International Energy Agency and others repeated on ABC radio and television this week, after an investigation by the Catalyst program.”
One more segment from the article:
“Whereas five years ago the agency expected total production – including oil from deep-sea drilling and unconventional sources such as tar sands – could rise to 120 million barrels a day by 2030, the agency now expects production will reach only 96 million barrels. And Birol reckons there are no guarantees it can be brought out of the ground in a timely fashion. ”Existing fields are declining so sharply that in order to stay where we are in terms of production levels, in the next 25 years we have to find and develop four new Saudi Arabias. That is a huge challenge.” Worse, Catalyst also quoted the Swedish peak oil expert Kjell Aleklett – interviewed in this column last November – who said the agency’s assumptions about future oil flow rates were impossibly optimistic and that total world production passed its peak a year ago.”
At this point I should tell you that when the IEA currently states that the oil production in 2010 was 87.3 million barrels per day they are now also including 1,800,000 barrels of ethanol production. If we exclude this ethanol we find that oil production in 2010 was down to 85.5 million barrels per day. Another thing the IEA includes is “processing gains”, and these include, for example, chemical components added to different products produced in a refinery. Processing gains amount to 2.3 million barrels per day, and are, in part, a case of double counting as these products are generated from natural gas and oil. In other words, world oil production in 2010 was actually around 83.2 million barrels per day. Inclusion of ethanol and processing gains are examples of how the IEA disguises that Peak Oil has arrived.
Another comment on the Catalyst program can be found at the web forum Climate Spectator – a Business Spectator publication:
“It seems politicians everywhere are suddenly waking up to the implications of peak oil. When will it arrive? Has it already passed? What does it mean for prices? And what do those prices mean for economic growth, and geopolitical risk? Most are finding that whatever action they are thinking of taking now, they should have been doing decades ago.”
I have now worked with Peak Oil for a decade and what they now are saying is the same thing that I and ASPO have said from the very beginning. In the press release from the first ASPO conference in Uppsala in 2002 we said that oil production should peak in 2010 at 85 million barrels per day, (and that is without processing gains). However, it seems we were optimistic since (as I have explained above) the IEA is actually reporting 2010 production at 83.2 million barrels per day.
(30 April 2011)