Monday, November 12, 2007

Peak Oil Expert Speaking to Council; Nov 12th 2007

Monday morning’s committee of the whole meeting will hear from Daniel Lerch, author of a new guidebook for municipalities on peak oil and global warming. The presentation to city councillors comes in the wake of recent rapid increases in the price of oil and concerns about looming fuel shortages.
Lerch is the program director of the Post-Carbon Institute, a California organization that has been warning about the end of cheap oil since 2003. Concerns about peak oil led Hamilton’s council to commission a report in June 2005 – only the second municipality in Canada to do so – just a couple of months before Hurricane Katrina briefly sent gas prices soaring.
That report was delivered by Richard Gilbert in April 2006, at a time when peak oil was still widely regarded as a fringe theory. At that point oil futures were selling around $55 a barrel. This week they climbed above $98 a barrel for the first time, having more than doubled in the last year.
The Institute believes those prices will continue to rise dramatically, making long distance shipment of food and other consumer goods prohibitively expensive. They argue that cities should respond with a strategy of “relocalization” including “the local production of food and energy, and the relocalization of currency, governance and culture.”
Yesterday’s New York Times says the world is heading for an oil shock and warns consumers to brace for significantly higher fuel costs. As evidence it quotes a spokesperson from one of the world’s biggest oil companies.
“The concern today is over how will the energy sector meet the anticipated growth in demand over the longer term,” Linda Z. Cook, a board member of Royal Dutch Shell. “Energy demand is increasing at a rate we’ve not seen before. On the supply side, we’re seeing it is struggling to keep up. That’s the energy challenge.”
But the newspaper isn’t using the term peak oil yet, and contends that a “frenzied search for new sources” will, over time, provide additional supplies.
Peak oil theorists suggest that’s unlikely, arguing that the world has probably already reached the point where the most accessible oil has been extracted, and the difficulties in obtaining the rest mean the amount on the market is going to shrink. That will mean the growing demand from countries like China and India will exceed the supply and result in much higher prices.
The Spectator’s international columnist Gwynne Dyer is using the term peak oil and is willing to accept that it may have been reached, but holds out hope that the impending fall in availability can be successfully managed if action is taken quickly.
“The German-based Energy Watch Group declared last month that global oil output peaked in 2006 at 81 million barrels per day,” notes Dyer. “It will fall to 58 million b/d by 2020, they predict, and to only 39 million b/d by 2030.”
Lerch is in Hamilton to address the annual Spirit of Red Hill Valley lecture on Monday evening. Panelists helping to question him include Gilbert and Mayor Eisenberger. He’s also speaking in the afternoon to students at Assumption high school in Burlington, and Tuesday morning to a graduate class at McMaster.

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