energy politics sustainability

Parliament discusses peak oil – more campaigning required

Just to follow on from my earlier post on Sweden going oil-free by 2020, I noticed that parliament had a brief discussion on peak oil on friday. It’s something the UK government has really dragged its feet on, so I was interested to see if they were at least acknowledging to problem.

MP Barry Gardiner put questions to MP Joan Ruddock, under-secretary in the Ministry for Energy and Climate change. Results were mixed:

Gardiner gave an opening speech, acknowledging that supply will probably fall by 6.7% a year, leaving a shortfall of 64 million barrels a day by 2030. He also recognised that an “increase in coal generation is perhaps the single most acute threat that we can currently predict with some certainty” and goes on to call for a new generation of nuclear power stations, and investment in Britain’s wood fuel strategy, which he wrote. He ties together peak oil, climate change, the biodiversity crisis and overseas development in ways that are encouraging to hear in the House of Commons.

Ruddock’s response is woefully off the mark. First of all she says that the timing of peak oil is very hard to measure, but that they consult experts and keep an eye on it. Then she quotes the IEA report that states “the immediate risk to supply is not one of a lack of global resources, but rather a lack of investment where it is needed” – in other words, there’s plenty of oil out there, we’re just not spending enough money looking for it.

“Like the IEA,” says Ruddock, “the Government have always recognised that additional investment will be required to meet oil demand in the future, and that the challenge lies in bringing these resources to market in a way that ensures sustainable, timely, reliable and affordable supplies of energy.”

That the Department for Energy and Climate Change thinks its possible to ‘meet oil demand in the future’ in a ‘sustainable, timely, reliable and affordable’ way shows they have absolutely no understanding of peak oil. Part of that includes “pursuing initiatives to stimulate North sea investment and activity”, even though North Sea oil peaked in 1999.

Fortunately the government has set out a “long term vision for dramatically improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses”. Good news… or not: “The measures set out in the consultation could reduce oil consumption in 2020 by 6 per cent.”

So Sweden goes for 100% by 2020, we go for 6%, and the government still considers that ‘dramatically improving’?

Oh dear.

You can read the whole discussion here.

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