A new report from the UK Energy Research Centre pours cold water on government assumptions that fossil fuels supplies will see us through to 2030. The report is the first independent review of the data, drawing on over 500 previous studies, and concludes that a peak before 2030 is ‘likely’, and there is ‘significant risk’ of it occurring by 2020.
However, peak oil campaigners will be disappointed to see their counter-predictions swept away too: “It makes no sense to provide precise forecasts of when a peak in oil production will occur” says author Steve Sorrell. “The data is unreliable, there are multiple factors to consider and a ‘bumpy plateau’ seems more likely than a sharp peak.”
That ‘bumpy plateau’ is already in evidence, and “there is a growing consensus that the age of cheap oil is coming to an end”. Price vacillations are here to stay, and supply in the future will be difficult, the report cautions. Although large new oil fields have been found this year, they are not significantly large. Each find of a billion barrels delays the peak by a mere week.
The report is far from alarmist, but it does recommend that “the risks presented by global oil depletion deserve much more serious attention by the research and policy communities.” If you’ve read the government’s recent Wick’s report, you can’t help but agree.