Saturday, 14 August 2010

Peak oil is the villain governments need

Interesting article in the Guardian, pointing out a view I've agreed with for a long time:

"Determined action at the global level will become possible only when climate change is no longer some scientific prediction, but a reality that people feel … A world incapable of preventing climate change will have to live with it."
What effect would a barrel price of $200 have on industrial economies, should that spike be sustained for any length of time? We would witness endemic global market disruption, reductions in agricultural yield, increased transport costs for both finished goods and raw materials (true pessimists would add an oil war or two for good measure). The shockwaves would be felt everywhere, although as ever, the poor will take the brunt of it. And yet when the price of oil shoots up, we use less – meaning we output less CO2.
Peak oil is inevitable. Something has to give, and it's consumerism. Governments know this perfectly well. What they really need is some externality, something abstract they can blame – deflecting the public wrath from the ballot box. Western governments need a villain. Oil at $200 a barrel fits the bill perfectly.
The impact of passing the peak of global oil supply is far more immediate than climate change, and the effects are much more visible and easy to understand. The solution - using less oil (and gas and coal, as they ultimately face the same resource constraints), is also pretty common sense for most people.

Fortunately most measures that might help us cope with peak oil will also help mitigate climate change, but the important point is that it doesn't really matter if you believe in human influence on the climate - we have to deal with peak oil anyway.


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