Oil Independence? What 50 US Cities Are (Not) Doing To Get There
Every blogger encounters the feeling that they’re obliged to have a go at Peak Oil. In a way that’s not surprising, because the subject is vastly topical. This is a review of what the policymakers are doing.
The participants in the Peak Oil debate can be split into the oil barons, the worried public/activists/scientists and the politicians. The opinions of oil barons are one end of the spectrum and those of scientists/activists/public at large the other end. Policy makers are stuck in between. The big question? Whether peak oil actually means that we’re almost out of the stuff.
The oil companies say this is nonsense but it appears that they are less and less assured of political support. One of the most notable anomalies has been described in the book Half Gone, written by the former oil industry geologist Jeremy Leggett.
He says that the annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy consists largely of facts derived from third parties. This is poignant because the Review, which is regarded as a standard reference work by oil industry professionals, apparently relays in small print that the figures included don’t meet US Securities and Exchange Commission criteria for determining proven reserves.
This means that the company relies on completely different numbers for its own operations. Leggett writes that this is outrageous, especially since “this is an energy bible used by researchers the world over.” The anomaly spotted? BP treats its investors way different than the outside world. It makes you think twice about the words of BP’s Lord Browne, who said a few years back that people had yet to demonstrate that there has been a shortage of oil. “There is no shortage of oil, and that there never need be a shortage… there is no reason why there should be any shortfall in the foreseeable future,” Browne said.
Policymakers find themselves paying attention to the scientists that prove the likes of Browne wrong but large scale projects to reduce oil dependence or prepare for a depletion scenario are few and far between at the moment. Worldwide only one country has pledged to become oil independent at a future date; Sweden is determined to reduce its consumption by up to 50% by 2020. In the US, the city of Oakland followed in Sweden’s footsteps at the end of 2006, launching the Oil Independent Oakland By 2020 Task Force.
There was an update on the Task Force’s progress a week ago which you can read here. Oakland hopes to become a model for other cities. Interestingly, the city’s communications underscore that there is a lack of guidance on the part of the policy makers at Federal level on sustainable energy policy issues. An organisation that steps in here is the OilDepletionProtocol. Private persons and communities can sign up and Oakland is a signatory.
A very obvious yet persistent anomaly in oil circles is the belief that higher oil prices simply solve the problem of oil shortage. People who believe this argue that higher prices simply finance looking for oil in places that had been bypassed in earlier years because of the costs involved. “Energy isn’t like other commodities. At some stage it will take more than a barrel of oil’s worth of energy to drill for a barrel of oil, so the job won’t be worth doing however high the oil price – not in my back garden or underneath the ocean or in Canada’s tar sands”, retorts a writer of UK newspaper The Times.
A book/website entitled How Green Is Your City is also a good resource on the status of play. It ranks 50 US cities in terms of sustainability, reviewing each of the cities on 15 sustainability factors. It was first published in June 2007 and is frequently updated. Currenly, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle form the top three. Oakland ranks fifth.
Entry filed under: Green Economics, Green News, Green Scientific Discoveries, The Planet's Resources. Tags: BP, energy, Half Gone, howgreenisyourcity, Jeremy Leggett, Lord Browne, Oil Independent Oakland, oildrum, Peak Oil, PeakOil, postcarboncities, sustainable.