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    An Introduction to Peak Oil

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    What is Peak Oil ?

    Peak oil is the moment in time when global oil supply reaches an all time high and goes into decline. It doesn’t mean we are going to run out of oil but it does mean that supply will no longer keep pace with demand, leading to much higher prices and periodic scarcity. This geological reality will have a dramatic impact on the global economy, which is totally dependent on a cheap and abundant oil supply, not only for transportation, but also for food production and many of the things we take for granted each day. Fossil fuels are finite and non-renewable. It is a geological certainty that they will eventually run out. In the case of liquid fuels, namely crude oil, we are reaching a peak in production.

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    When will we peak?

    When global peak occurs (2010-2012) the decline rate is expected to be 2.5% per year. This doesn’t sound like much until you realise that in 20 years we will have half of the oil available compared to what we have today.

    Why is Peak Oil a problem?

    Our entire way of life is dependent on access to cheap oil. Oil is used in every aspect of our lives - think of something that you do every day and you can be sure that oil has played a part in it.

    As the planet’s oil supply diminishes the financial cost of oil consumption will increase dramatically. Many economists choose to overlook the fact that regardless of how much money can be made selling oil, once it takes an oil barrel's worth of energy to extract a barrel of oil, the exploration, drilling and pumping will grind to a halt. No oil being pumped means no oil for food production, transport, manufacturing, electricity production...our present way of life stops. Current predictions show that this is likely to occur around 2050, we can only hope that we have been weaned of oil by the time this occurs.

    What are our options?

    Unlike climate change there has been very little work done on forecasting the effects of peak oil. One study carried out by the City of Portland, Oregon, USA assessed the range of possible impacts of peak oil on the city and drew three possible scenarios. They are presented in decreasing order of desirability.

    1 Long-term transition

    A gradual decline in resources will allow sufficient time for mitigation options to be put in place. Voluntary reduction in oil consumption of 2.5% per year in line with the expected depletion rate. 50% less oil available in 20 years time.

    2 Oil Shocks

    Without any mitigation efforts and a slow decline in oil supply society will lurch from crisis to crisis as supply disruptions and price hikes take hold.

    3 Disintegration

    Without any mitigation efforts and a sudden decline in oil supply the impacts of peak oil will become so severe that the fabric of society will begin to unravel.

    The top 3 recommendations of the report were:

    1. Reduced total oil and natural gas consumption by 50% over the next 25 years

    2. Inform citizens about peak oil and foster community and community-based solutions

    3. Engage business, government and community leaders to initiate planning and policy change.

    What will the Isle of Man do about Peak Oil?

    A combination of very rapid population growth over the last 50 years and reckless economic growth during the same time has stored up massive problems for societies the world over. No nation is immune. The scientific evidence tells us all we need to know: carry on with business-as-usual growth-at-all-costs, and we’re stuffed” - Jonathon Porritt, www.forumforthefuture.org article 'Living within our means'

    Will we follow a business as usual model, with short term economic growth prioritised over long term survival? or will we use the resources, skills and knowledge of the Manx people to make a smooth transition into an oil free world?


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