Prepare for big changes
By Sam Bartlett
Thursday, 12 May 2005
FLUCTUATING fuel prices and an ever increasing demand for oil indicates a quickly dwindling supply in the fossil fuel, and one that may dry up sooner than many think, according to Glen Innes businessman John Irvine.
But governments, oil companies and the media are refusing to recognise the issue, something that Mr Irvine says must change now.
With fuel prices in the Glen Innes area reaching $1.15 for unleaded petrol and $1.25 for diesel, the reliance on fossil fuels for the majority of our daily energy needs is becoming increasingly expensive.
Mr Irvine, who is director of a natural energy source company Aleurite Sun Oils, believes the only way society can adapt to oil depletion is to reduce its dependence on crude oil. He believes the high prices are an indication that world oil reserves are beginning to dry up, and with no viable alternative to replace oil as an energy source, life as we know it will change dramatically when it is finally depleted.
He is urging the Glen Innes community to prepare for the inevitable now, by re-establishing a more rural and regional lifestyle, such as market gardens, to prevent resource shortages.
"The government won't provide the answers and the information on the low energy situation, because people basically don't want to have to reduce their lifestyle standards," he said.
"If the communities were prepared for the changes they would be better off, because energy is better used on a small scale.
"There are lots of things communities can do to prepare. One thing I would like to see is the re-establishment of market gardens in the area, such as there are at Noosa and Hervey Bay, which will guarantee the food supply in the area.
"Local councils can act as a conduit for these sorts of things."
Energy experts across the world are predicting world oil production will soon reach its peak, that is the highest level of production, with some predicting the peak to hit as soon as next year. Once the peak is reached oil production will continue to decline until world supplies are completely exhausted.
With 40 per cent of the world's energy use coming from oil, many experts are predicting oil depletion to trigger the second Great Depression, leading to worldwide food and water shortages and a catastrophic collapse of the world economy and global society.
Such an event could lead to increased competition for resources, and a widespread outbreak of regional conflict.
The world consumes 77 million barrels (one barrel is 42 (US) gallons or 159 (SI/metric) litres) of petroleum daily, which makes 26 billion barrels annually. The biggest extractors are Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United States, and Mexico. The biggest exporters are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Norway. The biggest importers are the United States, Japan, Korea and Germany.
The peak of production comes broadly when half the total has been consumed. Deciphering the conflicting evidence as well as possible indicates that approximately 944 Gb (billion barrels) of Regular Conventional oil have been produced; 764 Gb remain in known fields (Reserves); and 142 Gb are Yet-to-Find. If so, the midpoint of depletion was passed in 2003, meaning that peak production is imminent. On present estimates, the overall peak of all categories of oil arrives in 2006, with that of oil and gas combined coming about two years later.
The world's oil reserves are predicted to be dropping at an alarming 8 per cent each year, with Australia's oil reserves falling much quicker.
Total production in Australia has fallen from about 650,000 barrels a day to less than 430,000 barrels a day since mid-2002. Some fields - for example the Bonaparte field off Western Australia - are now producing only about a quarter of 2002 levels.
The current energy infrastructure is not designed to handle alternative forms of energy so this also has to be replaced. Neither are the current users like aeroplanes, ships, and cars, which will have to be replaced as well.
Some replacements under consideration are hydrogen, natural gas, tar sands, coal, coal-bed methane, biofuels such as ethanol, nuclear fission, controlled fusion, hydro power, solar power or wind power.