At Last, A Date
By George Monbiot
December 18, 2008
The Guardian” — 15th December 2008
For the first time, the International Energy Agency has produced a date for peak oil. And it’s not reassuring.
Can you think of a major threat for which the British government does not prepare? It employs an army of civil servants, spooks and consultants to assess the chances of terrorist attacks, financial collapse, floods, epidemics, even asteroid strikes, and to work out what it should do if they happen. But there is one hazard about which it appears intensely relaxed. It has never conducted its own assessment of the state of global oil supplies and the possibility that one day they might peak and then go into decline.
If you ask, it always produces the same response: “global oil resources are adequate for the foreseeable future.”(1) It knows this, it says, because of the assessments made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its World Energy Outlook reports. In the 2007 report, the IEA does appear to support the government’s view. “World oil resources,” it states, “are judged to be sufficient to meet the projected growth in demand to 2030″(2); though it says nothing about what happens at that point, or whether they will continue to be sufficient after 2030. But this, as far as Whitehall is concerned, is the end of the matter. Like most of the rich world’s governments, the United Kingdom treats the IEA’s projections as gospel. Earlier this year, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the UK’s Department for Business, asking what contingency plans the government has made for global supplies of oil peaking by 2020. The answer was as follows: “the Government does not feel the need to hold contingency plans specifically for the eventuality of crude oil supplies peaking between now and 2020.”(3)