Home

Running on Empty

26 April 2005
Sensational claims about the coming end of oil are nothing new. They are probably misleading. And even if they contain a grain of truth, the "peak oil" theory is, as I wrote here, likely to be a diversion from more serious challenges.

A report in today's Guardian fits a familiar pattern:

Matthew Simmons, an adviser to President George Bush and chairman of the Wall Street energy investment company Simmons & Co, says he thinks Middle Eastern countries may have far less than officially stated and that oil prices could double to more than $100 a barrel within three years, triggering economic collapse. (You can read Simmons's own words here).

Well maybe. But then again maybe not. As Retort argue in a 21 April piece for the London Review of Books, the imminence of peak oil is often exaggerated. The US Geological Survey believes that the peak is decades away; Shell puts it the other side of 2030; and the US Energy Information Administration says somewhere between 2021 and 2112.

The whole question of oil reserves is murky for a number of political and financial reasons. Large reserves could yet be discovered in Libya, western Iraq and other places. Deep water drilling has exposed previous inaccessible fields. Further, technological advances are resulting in hugely better recovery rates. The conversion of Canadian tar sands into usable hydrocarbons would fundamentally reconfigure the geopolitics of petroleum.

Even if all the organisations are wrong and oil really is running out, there is more than enough coal and gas to burn, resulting in, among other things a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions.

Caspar Henderson

Who's getting rich from COVID-19?

Boris Johnson's government stands accused of 'COVID cronyism', after handing out staggering sums of money to controversial private firms to fight COVID-19. Often the terms of these deals are kept secret, with no value-for-money checks or penalties for repeated failures which cost lives. And many major contracts have gone directly to key Tory donors and allies – without competition.

As COVID rates across the country surge, how can we hold our leaders accountable? Meet the lawyers, journalists and politicians leading the charge in our free live discussion on Thursday 1 October at 5pm UK time.

Hear from:

Dawn Butler Labour MP for Brent Central and member of the House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology

Peter Geoghegan Investigations editor, openDemocracy, and author of 'Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics'

Jolyon Maugham Barrister and founder of the Good Law Project.

Peter Smith Procurement expert and author of 'Bad Buying: How Organisations Waste Billions through Failures, Frauds and F*ck-ups'

Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief of openDemocracy

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData