Friday, January 25, 2008

Finally, An Admission

While geologists and climate change scientists have been urging the world to look for alternative and clean sources of energy, the multinational oil companies have simply sat back and raked in the money. Finally, the head of one of them has admitted that oil production will soon be unable to meet demand for several reasons. From London's Times:

World demand for oil and gas will outstrip supply within seven years, according to Royal Dutch Shell.

The oil multinational is predicting that conventional supplies will not keep pace with soaring population growth and the rapid pace of economic development.

Jeroen van der Veer, Shell’s chief executive, said in an e-mail to the company’s staff this week that output of conventional oil and gas was close to peaking. He wrote: “Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

The boss of the world’s second-largest oil company forecast that, regardless of government policy initiatives and investment in renewables, the world would need more nuclear power and unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil sands.

“Using more energy inevitably means emitting more CO2 at a time when climate change has become a critical global issue,” he wrote.

2015: that's just seven years away. For those of us in the US, that means that soon gas at $3 per gallon will be a fond memory. The increased costs of transportation have already shown up at the grocery store cash register and will continue to rise. The price of heating oil and electricity generated by natural gas will also skyrocket. Mr. van der Veer's assessment is at least a decade late, but is chilling nonetheless.

What is equally as chilling is his refusal to look beyond current technology (much of which I firmly believe has been held back by the power of the multinational oil companies). Nuclear power? We still haven't figured out what to do with the nuclear waste or how to secure the facilities from those who would use that waste or the uranium itself for terrorist purposes. Nuclear power generators rely on enormous amounts of water for cooling, water that is in scarce supply in much of the US right now. Oil extracted from sands? When it takes the equivalent of a barrel of oil in energy to extract a barrel of oil, what have we gained?

Mr. van der Veer is apparently taking this message to Davos this week. Hopefully he and the other thinkers at this international gathering come up with some better ideas.

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