Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Oil Production Will "Plateau" in Eleven Years

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Faith Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, revealed oil production will plateau by 2020, peaking within 20 years.

It is anticipated that the extraction of tar sands will have to increase in order to fill the deficit left by faltering oil supplies. Tar sand extraction is known to be immensely environmentally damaging, and although an increase in tar sand production would contribute to global energy needs by 2% within this time frame, although the nearly 2 million barrels of oil produced would inevitably inhibit greenhouse gas emissions targets.

This revelation comes weeks after the Government released their Building a Low Carbon Economy report, setting out plans to 'de-carbonise' the economy. If commitments are met, and a rapid frameshift in the public mindset ensues, it might be possible to wean ourselves off of oil as well as avoid a climate change 'tipping point'. Such a 'tipping point' would result in climatic positive feedback, whereby increased temperatures result in further temperature rises causing a breakdown in natural systems that we depend on, with a chaotic outcome for life on earth.

The media and entertainment services have a responsibility to change attitudes and encourage greener lifestyles. Road transport makes up most of the UK's transport emissions, making for a key target in transport emissions reductions. The immensely popular BBC TV series 'Top Gear' is thought to have played a part in dampening enthusiasm for 'green' cars. However, encouragingly they recently praised Honda's new hydrogen-fuelled FCX Clarity, which performs like an ordinary car and emits only water. Although hydrogen fuel celled-cars are still in their infancy in terms of mass production and feasibility, broad media support for alternative fuels such as hybrid technology and electric vehicles can only help meet emissions targets and help combat climate change.

As the recent global financial meltdown has illustrated, individual economies are now so tightly interconnected that, much like in natural systems, problems and perturbations in one part of the system create shockwaves through the wider system, much like the entire global financial system. The concept of safe, independent economies is clearly no longer relevant and we must now take a systems-based approach to solving complex problems. Britain has taken the lead in moving towards a low-carbon economy, but it is essential the rest of the world gets on board too. This will certainly require developed countries to provide financial assistance as well as technological expertise to developing countries.

The world depends on energy, but cannot continue on the current path of unsustainable growth and pollution. Climate change is not an insurmountable problem but the clock is ticking and so the moves towards sustainable development and clean technology must accelerate.

Check developments of the 14th Climate Change Conference of the Parties here:


Read the Government's Building a Low Carbon Economy Report here:


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