Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Kent and Peak Oil

The global peak supply of oil is approaching(1). This has significant implications for Kent as a rural county with many car dependent households especially in the countryside. It also has implications for the price of everything, especially foodstuffs, making Kent-produced foods very important for the future. Also, there are development implications such as whether new housing should be built on the fringes of existing towns like Ashford, or whether oil-dependent development like the massive dock expansion planned for Dover is actually realistic.

Steve Dawe comments: “There is now an abundance of credible evidence that we are close to the peak of the world’s oil supplies(2). For a county like Kent, with a large rural-based population and uneven coverage of public transport, this will prove very challenging over the next decade. However, there are positive alternatives to current oil uses(3) which will help:
· Switching to hydrogen fuel cell and electric buses;
· More emphasis on walking and cycling especially in urban areas;
· Choosing to buy locally-grown foodstuffs from farm shops and farmers’ markets;
· Abandoning new major road schemes, creating more funds for public transport;
· Cutting the carbon use in new buildings and in renovation, as much as practically possible;
· Strongly taxing heavy goods vehicles to move long-distance freight on to rail;

“These changes will cut air pollution and increase exercise, both good for public health. Also, if people are persuaded to buy more from local producers, this will be good for employment in Kent. More expensive flights will contribute to the existing growth of domestic tourism, also supporting jobs in Kent. There are, consequently, advantages in preparing effectively for these changes now.”

1. North Sea Oil supplies peaked in 1999 and have been in decline since. Oil supplies in the USA peaked in 1970.

2. The Peak of oil supplies was calculated as 2009 by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Exxon, back in 2001. Then Shell was caught exaggerating its oil reserves by over 25%. Then it was noted that Saudi Arabia had been claiming the same level of oil reserves for 15 years. Finally, very recently, the International Energy Agency has reported that key oil fields in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have oil reserves at levels which are roughly half of what was recently claimed. Kuwait's largest field has 48 billion barrels not 100; Saudi Arabia's largest field has 78 billion barrels not 150 billion. Rationing activities in Iran - taking place at present - do not suggest an abundance of oil there either. The IEA consequently predicts that by 2012 only 75% of oil demand will be met, meaning oil price rises from now on to levels not previously seen. There is no good reason to have confidence in the claimed oil reserves figures of authoritarian states nor any reason to imagine that all of the actual reserves are economically recoverable.

3. The Kent Green Party submission to the Government’s Nuclear White Paper examines these issues in more detail. See www.kentgreenparty.org under Resources.

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