The man who invented the term “Peak Oil” delivered a lecture at Melbourne University on Wednesday night declaring that: “fossil fuel energy does the work we don’t like doing ourselves” and “without energy there can be no economic growth”.
Kjell Aleklett, Professor of Physics at Uppsala University in Sweden and President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), believes that oil, gas and coal are reaching peak production, which is set to leave the world with a deficit of energy relative to future demand.
Aleklett’s analysis of declining world energy resources is bittersweet. On the one hand his research shows that the price of food is likely to rise exponentially leaving many of the world’s poor more hungry and malnourished. The world currently requires 12 million litres of oil per day to feed itself! On the other hand, the direst of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), he argues, are unlikely to ever eventuate due to the steady decline in the availability of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
According to Aleklett the world is fast approaching a global energy crisis. The six countries feeding the world’s appetite for coal – the United States, Russia, China, Australia, India and Germany are all likely to face a supply crisis in the future with China’s coal reserves estimated to reach peak production by 2020. A world gas shortage is also predicted with Russia’s Nadym Pur Taz (NPT) Region, which supplies 20% of the world’s gas, likely to approach its production peak by 2015.
Whilst Aleklett’s predictions are more severe than those made by the International Energy Agency (IEA), he gives off an air of quiet optimism that the up and coming generation will be able to meet the energy crisis with real solutions if nations exporting fossil fuels voluntarily reduce supply. However, big money makers, as usual, stand in the way of such visionary policy setting, making the future grimmer than it otherwise need be.
Aleklett’s human well being equation - Human Well Being = Food & Water + Climate + Economy + Security - inspired by the views of his students, captures the essence of his resolve to the peak oil dilemma: energy equals survival and natural resources dictate the economy; but as peak oil, gas and coal show, they make good servants, but bad masters. As the energy crisis worsens the choice between food and fuel will become stark perhaps providing the political pressure needed to ensure sustainable regulation of fossil fuels.
Our future rests in recognising the invaluable role that energy from natural resources has in all our lives. For Australians, whose insatiable desire for private vehicles accounts for 50% of total domestic oil use, investigating alternate modes of transport might be the first critical step in planning for a post peak oil future.
For more information:
Kjell Aleklett’s powerpoint delivered at Melbourne University:
Global Energy Systems, Uppsala University: www.fysast.uu.se/ges
The Oil Drum: www.theoildrum.com