(Not So) Solid Foundations

There is a substance most of us take for granted that is the basis of our everyday life and upon which the world economy is built: oil.

How many everyday uses of oil can you think of?  Here are a few: man-made fibres for clothing, carpets, rugs, etc.; waxes for candles, milk cartoons and polishes; fertilizers; pesticides; detergents; food additives; cosmetics such as nail varnish and lipstick; medicines; plastics in their numerous forms; and, of course, fuel for cars, aeroplanes etc.

Given the importance of oil, then, you would have thought the concept of ‘peak oil’ – the point at which global oil production will reach a plateau then begin an irreversible decline – would receive the appropriate coverage in the mainstream media and be a major issue for the ‘big three’ political parties.

When will we hit ‘peak oil’?  No-one knows for sure but a recent posting by Craig A. Severance, an energy economics expert, on the Energy Bulletin web site states ‘The permanent end of the era of cheap oil is coming as soon as next year [my emphasis]’ and asks the question ‘did global oil production permanently peak in 2008? [again, my emphasis]’ .

The Green Party wants the UK to kick its oil addiction and build a sustainable society based on renewable energy.  If we used renewable energy, our economy would be less affected by the global oil peak.

There are various techniques to kicking an addiction, such as ‘cold turkey’ shock treatment, drug substitution or gradually cutting down and then giving up over a period of time.

We fear that society may not survive the pain of ‘cold turkey’ and so a plan to wean our world from oil must be implemented without delay.  To help tackle ‘peak oil’, the Green Party supports (and has done for some time):

  • state investment in renewable energy;
  • state investment in energy conservation;
  • state investment in energy storage technologies;
  • penalties and taxes on carbon emission;
  • personal carbon allowances and trading;
  • improved building regulations to include renewable energy technology as standard;
  • research and development of oil-free transport;
  • appropriate taxation on aviation;
  • state investment in the expansion of affordable public transport;
  • expansion of local services and local food production; and
  • increase public awareness on the cost and quantity of their energy use.

For further details, please read our ‘peak oil’ briefing.

Whilst some, the Transition Towns movement for example, are tackling the ‘peak oil’ issue, more needs to be done at all levels of society and the sooner the better.  (Please also visit our Transition Town Medway page for an overview of the Transition Movement.)

Polyp Peak Oil Cartoonhttp://www.polyp.org.uk/


David M. Davison

PS I almost forgot to mention the ‘peak’ concept applies to all fossil fuels and the fuel (uranium) for nuclear reactors.


6 Responses to “(Not So) Solid Foundations”

  1. The impact of peak oil is simply felt through rapidly rising oil prices, which translate quickly to petrol pump prices and then on through the economic chain. Peak oil will prevent long term economic growth, especially while the economy is completely dependent on it (not that I am wedded to the need for economic growth of course!).

    Recent pump price rises have been driven through exchange rate changes, but those we experienced in 2008 were due to the rapid rise in oil price.

  2. I agree with you on the significance of peak oil.
    What is also signficant is the profit system & an understanding of how accumulation is inherent to capitalism.
    To be green is to be anti-capitalist, to be against the profit system.

  3. I am very happy to see the important issue, Peak oil, being addressed. Another useful source of information is ODAC the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre. Transition Initiatives address peak oil, climate change and building communities and the website http://www.transitiontowns.org/ is worth a visit. As a member of Transition Town Faversham I have found the public has a sketchy understanding of climate change but practically no awareness of peak oil. Lets address this.

  4. Thank you for the useful info Helen. Funnily enough, I signed up for ODAC’s newsletter today. Unfortunately your are right about the public’s awareness of peak oil and climate change. As you are undoubtedly aware, trying to change this is very difficult – it would help if the mainstream media reported consistently on such issues.

    David M. Davison

  5. New Zealand believes it is time for cross-party talks on peak oil:

    The time is long overdue but at least they are starting to understand the situation – how long before the UK political parties have such talks?

    David M. Davison


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