ODAC Newsletter - 9 October 2009
Welcome to the ODAC Newsletter, a weekly roundup from the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, the UK registered charity dedicated to raising awareness of peak oil.
"A peak of conventional oil production before 2030 appears likely" and "there is a significant risk of a peak in conventional oil production before 2020." says a new report by the UK Energy Research Centre (see ODAC press release). The UKERC’s remit is to analyse contentious technical issues and deliver clear advice to policymakers. So could this finally force the government to acknowledge peak oil and start to act? A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Government met with UKERC in July to discuss their initial findings – we’re interested in their report and will assess their conclusions closely”. After years of obstinate denial, this at least is a tiny step forward, although excruciatingly late in the day.
In another report on peak oil this week, “The Peak Oil Market”, Deutsche Bank forecasts an oil price of $175 by 2016, which it says will spell the end of the oil age and the beginning of age of electricity, with the electric car as a “game-changing” disruptive technology. The bank anticipates reduced demand for oil will result in expensive resources, like tar sands, remaining largely undeveloped. It also makes the assumption that there will be abundant natural gas to meet rising electricity demand - a risky assumption in the long term.
The Independent ran an exclusive this week which claimed that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Brazil, China and Russia have held secret meetings to end the dominance of the dollar in oil trading. The story has been vigorously denied by all concerned. True or not, peak oil is likely to have significant repercussions for the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.
In the UK this week Eon decided to shelve plans to build a new coal fired plant at Kingsnorth. The decision to delay what was to be the first new British coal plant in 25 years was hailed as a victory for the environmental movement, but Eon also claimed economic reasons for the decision with the recession reducing electricity demand.
At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne laid out what he described as “honest choices” about spending cuts. Labour too has been waving its hair shirt of late. What neither party seems prepared to confront is the impact of volatile energy prices on spending plans and priorities. Economists are currently debating whether the recession will be V-shaped or W-shaped. But repeated oil price spikes could deliver a downturn more in keeping with the internet age: www.
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A new report highlights how woefully unprepared the Government is for a looming peak in oil production
There is a 'significant risk' that conventional oil production will peak before 2020, and forecasts that delay the event beyond 2030 are based on assumptions that are 'at best optimistic and at worst implausible'.
So says a major new report that puts the excitement over recent ‘giant’ oil discoveries into perspective and directly contradicts the British government’s position. It also warns that failure to recognise the threat of peak oil could undermine efforts to combat climate change..
David Strahan is author of The Last Oil Shock, a trustee of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, and served on the Expert Group of advisors to the UKERC report.
There is a "significant risk" that global oil production could begin to decline in the next decade, researchers said today.
A report by the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could "peak" and go into terminal decline before 2020 – but that the government was not facing up to the risk...
ODAC welcomes the UKERC’s report Global Oil Depletion: An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production, published today (8th October), as a thorough and dispassionate assessment of the evidence that reaches compelling conclusions. The report also exposes the bankruptcy of the British government’s position on peak oil.
The government insists peak oil will not occur before 2030 , and has refused to conduct a risk assessment that it might occur before 2020 . But after an 18-month inquiry by a team of 8 academics and industry consultants, the UKERC report concludes the peak of conventional oil production is “likely” to occur before 2030, and there is a “significant risk” that it will come before 2020.
Christopher Patey, chairman of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, and a former executive with Mobil, said “this excellent report exposes the British government’s position on peak oil for what it really is – obstinate denial in the face of the growing evidence, and a reckless gamble on all our futures”.
The government bases its view on the work of the International Energy Agency, which forecasts conventional oil will peak in 2020, but which argues that rising output from non-conventional sources such as the Canadian tar sands will push the overall production peak out to “around 2030” The UKERC report does not address this question directly, but the numbers in the report show how unlikely it is that non-conventional oil will defer the peak for long, because of the sheer size of the hole left by conventional depletion.
The UKERC report shows that two thirds of current oil production capacity – 60 million barrels per day - must be replaced by 2030 before allowing for demand growth. By contrast, non-conventional resources are expensive and difficult to produce and unlikely to expand by anything like that much. One of the most optimistic industry forecasts for tar sands production, for instance, from energy consultancy IHS CERA, shows output reaching 6.3 mb/d by 2035  - less than one tenth of conventional depletion, even before allowing for demand growth. In ODAC’s view the date of peak oil is likely to be determined by the date of the conventional peak, and the government’s position is unjustifiable and dangerous.
 Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding the New Balance, IHS CERA, http://www.cera.com/aspx/cda/filedisplay/publicFileDisplay.ashx?KID=228&CID=9864&PK=36759
Here’s an intriguing thought: Global oil supplies are indeed set to peak within a few years, and no, that is not bullish for oil. Quite the contrary—it will spell the end of the “oil age.”
That’s the take from Deutsche Bank’s new report, “The Peak Oil Market.” In a nutshell: The oil industry chronically under invests in finding new supplies, exemplified both by Big Oil’s recent love of share buybacks and under-investment by big oil-producing nations. That spells a looming supply crunch...
In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.
Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars...
Saudi Arabia hasn’t held talks with China and other countries on dropping the dollar as the currency for pricing oil, Saudi Central Bank Governor Muhammad al-Jasser said, denying a report in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper.
The Independent report is “absolutely incorrect” and there has been “absolutely nothing” of that nature discussed between Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and other countries, al-Jasser told reporters in Istanbul, where he’s attending an International Monetary Fund summit. The dollar pared losses after his remarks...
The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday raised its outlook for world oil demand at the end of 2009, as the economies of China and other Asian countries begin to improve.
In its new monthly energy forecast, the agency said it now expects an increase of 410,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter of 2009 from the same period a year ago. Its previous forecast estimated just a 240,000 bpd rise in fourth-quarter demand...
Additional reporting by Tom Doggett in Washington; Editing by Walter Bagley
Oil rose in New York as the dollar weakened against the euro and a government report showed an unexpected drop in U.S. crude supplies, boosting optimism about a demand recovery in the biggest energy-consuming nation.
Oil pared yesterday’s 1.9 percent fall as the dollar declined, increasing the appeal of commodities as an alternative investment. Prices were also supported by a report from the Energy Information Administration, which showed crude stockpiles fell 978,000 barrels last week. A 2 million-barrel gain was forecast in a Bloomberg analyst survey...
A Nigerian rebel group said it plans to resume attacks against the country’s oil industry when a three-month-old cease-fire expires next week.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, in an e-mailed statement through a spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, rejected a government amnesty offer and said it wouldn’t send a representative to a meeting with the government scheduled for Oct. 9...
The new chief executive of Total SA's Canadian unit said on Monday the French oil major will delay giving the final go-ahead for its Joslyn oil sands project in Alberta, waiting until higher oil prices allow it to wrest a solid return from its Canadian investments.
Jean-Michel Gires, who took over as chief executive of Total E&P Canada late last month after six years as Total's executive vice-president of sustainable development and the environment, said that current oil prices just won't justify Total's ambitious strategy in Canada's oil sands...Editing by Peter Galloway
OPEC member Kuwait's plan to raise its oil output capacity to four million barrels per day by 2020 has been delayed by 10 years on manpower shortage, the emirate's oil minister said on Tuesday.
"We have decided to move the target date for raising output capacity to four million bpd to 2030 instead of 2020," Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah al-Sabah told reporters...
Iraq has delayed the discussion of a stalled hydrocarbons law, seen as key to the country ramping up its oil production, until after parliamentary elections in January, a senior MP said on Saturday.
The proposed law, which would regulate the oil sector and divide responsibility between the central government in Baghdad and Iraq's provinces, has been held up for three years due to disagreements between MPs from the country's majority Shia and minority Sunni, Kurd and other communities...
"There is no agreement on the contents of the oil law ... because this government wants the management of the oil sector to be centralised," said Ali Hussein Balo, a Kurd and chairman of the parliamentary oil and gas committee.
French energy giant EDF is looking for investors to pay up to £3.2billion for a 20 per cent stake in its new business building four nuclear reactors in the UK.
It has already agreed a partnership that would give Centrica, the owner of British Gas, a 20 per cent stake in the joint venture.
It is understood that Pierre Gadonneix, chief executive of EDF, wants it to retain a 51 per cent stake, but would like other nuclear companies to take stakes...
An obscure, desolate plateau on the southwestern shores of Greenland could transform the future of consumer technology and shift the balance of power in the global supply of rare earth metals.
The treasure trove beneath the rocks and ice of the Ilimaussaq Intrusion represents the world’s largest known reserve of rare earth metals, the “technology” group of lanthanide elements used in products from mobile phones and low-energy light bulbs to hybrid cars and missile guidance systems...
Back in 2001 William Kamkwamba was a semi-educated 14-year-old Malawian who had been forced to drop out of secondary school when, during a terrible drought, his parents could no longer pay for him to go. This week, he has been in California and Chicago on a whirlwind book tour, hailed as a "genius" and appeared on TV chat shows. He has been the toast of international technology conferences, lauded by Al Gore and environmentalists and shared a stage with Bono and Google co-founder Larry Page – as well as co-writing a book about his life, with journalist Bryan Mealer.
When Kamkwamba stopped going to school because his family could no longer afford the fees, he went to his local library, read up on his science, found a DIY guide to making a wind generator and set about trying to build it. Using a tractor fan, shock absorbers, PVC pipes, a bicycle frame and anything else he could lay his hands on, he then built a rudimentary wooden tower, plonked his home-made generator on the top, and eventually got one, and then four bulbs to light up. He is now known as "the boy who harnessed the wind" – the title of his book...
Britain’s self-sufficiency in wheat will end next year, because a giant new biofuel refinery needs so much of the staple crop that home-grown supplies will be exhausted feeding both the factory and the nation.
The £300 million plant at Wilton, on Teesside, which is due to open this autumn, will be the largest bioethanol refinery in Europe and will consume a tenth of the country’s annual harvest, more than the national surplus...
Environmental activists claimed a major victory last night when plans for Britain’s first new coal-fired power station for 30 years were shelved after a sustained campaign.
The announcement by E.ON that it would delay a decision on Kingsnorth for three years is a serious setback for the Government’s principal environmental policy of supporting the capture and storage of carbon emissions from coal plants. The delay also heightens the risk of power cuts after 2015, when EU rules will force Britain to close nine of its largest and most polluting power stations...
George Osborne on Tuesday outlined plans to stop Britain “sinking in a sea of debt”.
The shadow chancellor announced a series of measures to shave £7bn off the budget deficit, which could set up an early clash between a future Tory government and public sector unions...
National Grid, the UK's network operator, yesterday made an agreement with its Norwegian equivalent, Statnett, to draw up proposals for a link-up that is likely to cost around £1bn.
Under the preliminary agreement, the two grid operators would each hold a 50pc stake in the project, after feasibility studies suggested that the cable would be economically and technically viable...
A report from Friends of the Earth reveals the huge extent of the pollution and financial losses caused by our love of landfill and incineration
By sending resources that could be recycled to landfill or incinerators, the UK is wasting £650 million each year and generating 19 million tonnes of avoidable carbon dioxide...
Just five hours' worth of gas storage capacity will be built in the UK over the next two years, even though gas imports this winter are forecast to reach record levels.
The energy minister Lord Hunt admitted in a parliamentary answer last week that only a tiny fraction of capacity will be added to the 16 days' worth of average supply now available...
When I got this year's council tax bill from Southwark council, I glanced at their budget and noticed something extraordinary. The council was spending £32.5m on waste collection and disposal (if you include capital expenditure). But what really astonished me was when I compared this to the borough's total council tax bill of £86.4m. An astonishing 37% of my council tax was being spent on waste collection and disposal. What an enormous, ridiculous waste of money, which could be far better spent on elderly people, education or cutting the borough's carbon emissions.
This got me wondering what the story was nationally. After a bit of detective work with the help of the Audit Commission, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) and the Welsh assembly, I finally tracked down the relevant figures. No one had ever asked before for a comparison of council spending on waste with total council tax collected...
• Donnachadh McCarthy is the founder of national Carbon Footprint day.
The extent of the public's refusal to fly less often has been revealed by research that suggests attempts to slash greenhouse gas emissions from aviation will struggle to get off the ground.
Fewer than one in five people are trying to reduce the number of flights they take for environmental reasons, warns the study from Loughborough University. The findings come after the aviation industry vowed to halve emissions by 2050 and the government's climate advisers called for a deal at UN climate talks in Copenhagen to cap emissions from flying...
The US and other developed countries are attempting to "fundamentally sabotage" the Kyoto protocol and all-important international negotiations over its next phase, according to coordinated statements by China and 130 developing countries at UN climate talks in Bangkok today.
As 180 countries started a second week of talks, the developing countries showed their deep frustration at the slow pace of the negotiations on a global climate deal, which are planned to be concluded in two months' time in Copenhagen...
Additional reporting: Luke Harding, Moscow
Living standards in Britain and other rich countries must fall sharply over the next decade if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming, according to a leading climate research centre.
Consumption of energy-intensive goods and services should be cut and remain capped until low-carbon alternatives are available, said the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research...
The perfect technology to benefit from efforts by government to stimulate their economies out of the current crisis would probably soak up considerable labour from a depressed construction industry, provide a long-term economic boost when completed and offer green benefits to boot.
It is consequently no surprise that high-speed passenger rail lines – labour-intensive to build, able to boost the economies of the places they serve and to lure passengers out of cars and aircraft – are featuring in many governments’ stimulus packages...
Companies' choices about how they deliver products to key markets have become increasingly sophisticated during the recession as they try to switch as much as possible to low-cost modes, according to logistics companies, writes Robert Wright...
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