How to Survive Peak Oil by Acting Locally – 7 ways

A key benefit of the book, The Last Oil Shock book by David Strahan, is found in the last two chapters in which he recommends a series of local and personal actions for urgent changes needed to survive this major threat.

In a chapter called “Pass-notes for Policy Makers” the book makes a broad recommendation to prepare as much as possible for the coming crunch by changing our consumption behaviours and managing our exposure to the main risk factors.

He also notes (quoting Thierry Desmarest – CEO of Total in 2006) that voluntarily reducing consumption by half could delay the expected peak by up to 10 years; however- we all know that this is highly unlikely without a massive epiphany.

Global warming* and the need for carbon management has now widely entered the public consciousness – peak oil needs to do the same.

Here are 7 things that you can start doing now.

  1. Educate yourself and your friends and vote accordingly. More articles here
  2. Make your own action plans for your country (check the Oil depletion atlas and file – Forecasts here. For example Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand Oil peak forecast year 2008, Australia – peaked in 2000, Japan peaked in 1992, USA peaked in 1970 while Canada is predicted to peak in 2034. Example spreadsheet from Energyfiles for New Zealand – others available.
  3. Reduce your own personal exposure to oil and energy shocks by reducing use of such resources. (Use more public transport, drive less, become a town planner and stop those idiot developers building carpark based shopping malls in the middle of nowhere – you get the idea.) More examples here try reducing by 3% each year.
  4. Use renewable energy sources where you can.
  5. Pressure politicians by finding out what their energy policies are and what they plan to do about the impacts of peak oil.
  6. Support public transport changes such as changing from diesel powered trains to electric in Auckland for example.
  7. Pressure for policy changes on roading and transport projects.

What we need to do now to to move from general actions towards specific actions in each country. As I live in New Zealand I am particularly interested in what can be done here at both the political level and the personal one.

What Is Your Local Energy Profile?

The New Zealand Energy Data File is available online website at MED.

  • Total primary energy supply decreased from 747 PJ (petajoules) in 2005 to 741 PJ in 2006, a 0.8% decrease;
  • Coal production increased 9.7%, from 139 PJ in 2005 to 153 PJ in 2006. Coal consumption for electricity generation decreased 4.8% to 52PJ from 2005 to 2006 and remained about the same for other sectors;
  • Total electricity generation increased 0.9% to 42,056 GWh (gigawatt hours) in 2006. Renewable electricity generation accounted for 66% of total electricity generation;
  • Natural gas production increased by 2.0% in 2006 to 163 PJ;
  • Total national consumption of petrol and diesel remained relatively constant around 221 PJ. During this period:
    Premium petrol was 24 PJ, up 5.9%
    Regular petrol was 89 PJ, down 1.4%
    Diesel was 108 PJ, up 0.7%

What about New Zealand’s position on Peak Oil?

The following exchange of questions comes from a New Zealand parlimentary debate on 26th July 2007 between the Jeanette Fizsimons -Co-leader of the Greens and the Government Finance Minister. (Green links on Peak Oil here.)

“What economic and fiscal strategies is he developing to prepare New Zealand for the impact of an “extremely tight” oil market within 5 years where oil production may not be able to keep up with demand, as predicted by the International Energy Agency’s Medium-Term Oil Market Report earlier this month?”

Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : “Low debt and projected surpluses give New Zealanders as much fiscal flexibility to respond to changing circumstances as almost any other developed country has. The development of an emissions trading system, and measures to support energy efficiency, to support biofuels, and to support passenger transport will help directly. Of course, as oil prices rise, individuals also react, by, in fact, adjusting to more efficient vehicles.”

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will he discuss with his colleague the Minister of Energy the need to amend this statement in the draft New Zealand *Energy Strategy: “It is unclear whether conventional oil production will peak in the next decade, or a decade or two later.” so that it reflects a greater sense of urgency, given that the Government has always relied on the *International Energy Agency’s fool’s paradise view that we still have around three decades until peak oil, despite all the other views to the contrary?

Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: “I do not propose to do that at this stage, at all. I am old enough to remember the report from the **Club of Rome in, I think, 1975, stating that we would have run out of oil by this point. In fact, proven commercial oil reserves now are still larger than they were 20 years ago.”

Later in this exchange Cullen notes that

Petrol prices at the pump now are significantly lower in real terms than they were, for example, in the early 1980s. It is not as though we have not been through these kinds of variables before. It is important to remember that other countries are going through the same experience…..

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister place on record, then, that he expects the current rise in oil prices to be a temporary phenomenon, just as the oil price rises in the 1970s were, and that it does not signal a long-term depletion of oil supply?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thought it was very clear from what I said that that was not what I was saying, at all—in fact, rather the opposite. I said that I expect that there are long-term pricing signals here that will lead to significant change in behaviour and practices by individuals, by business, and by others.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table an article quoting *Goldman Sachs Group headed: “$100 oil price may be months away says..”

Frankly – it doesn’t seem that reassuring to me. Latest prices for oil are here

A comprehensive view to 2030 of global oil and natural gas – Working Draft US

This is from the National Petroleum Council in the U.S and is a major report called “Facing the Hard Truths About Energy,” which involved 350 participants and was led by former Exxon Mobil chairman Lee Raymond. (Exec Summary pdf.) July 18, 2007.

These 5 key recommendations are also referred to as “5 core U.S Strategies” :

  1. Moderate the growing demand for energy by increasing efficiency of transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial uses.
  2. Expand and diversify production from clean coal, nuclear, biomass, other renewables, and unconventional oil and natural gas; moderate the decline of conventional domestic oil and gas production; and increase access for development of new resources.
  3. Integrate energy policy into trade, economic, environmental, security, and foreign policies; strengthen global energy trade and investment; and broaden dialogue with both producing and consuming nations to improve global energy security.
  4. Enhance science and engineering capabilities and create long-term opportunities for research and development in all phases of the energy supply and demand-system.
  5. Develop the legal and regulatory framework to enable carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). In addition, as policymakers consider options to reduce CO2 emissions, provide an effective, global framework for carbon management, including establishment of a transparent, predictable, economy-wide cost for CO2 emissions

The Council identified these strategies by drawing upon more than 350 expert participants with wide-ranging backgrounds to provide analysis, information, and insight. Additionally, extensive outreach efforts involved more than 1,000 people actively involved in energy. Task Groups for this study reviewed a broad range of public and aggregated proprietary studies in order to understand and evaluate the many assumptions and forces behind recent global energy projections.

Given the massive scale of the global energy system and the long lead times necessary to make significant changes, concerted actions are needed now to promote U.S. competitiveness by balancing economic, security, and environmental goals. (Slide show version here.)

More International Research

Here are 80 global Energy Reports from UK based Energy Pointers including a A 218-page Australian Senate Standing Committee report examining Australia’s future oil supply and alternative transport fuels. There is plenty of reading so you can write your own action plans.

A solar policy success story in Germany

In a promising example of how to encourage alternative energy use Germany has managed to mobilise thousands of people to take part in generating electricity via solar in a massive public policy

“Even though millions of Germans flee their damp, dark homeland for holidays in the Mediterranean sun, 55 percent of the world’s photovoltaic (PV) power is generated on solar panels set up between the Baltic Sea and the Black Forest.

So far just 3 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from the sun, but the government wants to raise the share of renewables to 27 percent of all energy by 2020 from 13 percent.”

“There are now 250,000 jobs in Germany in the renewables energy sector. Asbeck expects the number of jobs in solar power alone to double to 90,000 over the next five years and hit 200,000 in 2020.”

They passed a law (EEG) which has helped change behaviour immensely. This is the most interesting part of the story. Perhaps we can learn from Germany on what the best mix of public policies and practical logistics is so that we change global energy behaviours. The incredible thing is that solar energy is not that suited to the German weather patterns and so other countries with more sunshine could do even better.

Also a 40MW solar plant is under construction right now and expected to be completed by 2009.

“Construction on a 40 megawatt (MW) solar generation power plant is under way at a former military base in the Saxon region of Germany. The total surface area of the planned photovoltaic (PV) installation? It’s comparable to about 200 soccer fields, said Matthias Willenbacher, cofounder and CEO of the juwi group.”

Germany takes second place only to Japan in the world in photovoltaic power generation.

Japan leads the world in solar innovation for example spherical-shaped solar cells which is well worth exploring in a later piece.

In Melbourne, Australia a company called Solar Systems has received government funding to proceed with construction of a 154-megawatt solar power station in Victoria. It will be the bigest if the world if completed. There are also major solar projects (150Mw) in Algeria that have been announced recently although the lead times are very long.

Useful links for Tracking Oil related Topics in New Zealand

Small Oil Find in NZ

The new Tui oil field doesn’t figure in the Energyfiles data as it is new, offshore and although estimates are promising – relatively unproven. Production started on 30th of July 2008. It is expected to produce 50,000 barrels a day and 10m barrels in the first year. The exploration company last year capped a gas find in Canterbury as it wasn’t viable. Tui is part of a group of fields in the Taranaki basin that could be promising although other commentators are not so hopeful. The latest information on these finds is released to the ASX as noted here. Tui shipped its first 300,000 barrels to refineries in Australia just this week. The Great South Basin has a few people excited. ExxonMobil and OMV have committed up to $1.2b in exploration resources.

*Global warming now has major recognition now and there is even a book on the NZ effects called Hot Topic by Gareth Renowden. Using the latest evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, Gareth Renowden puts climate change into its New Zealand context.

And here How vulnerable to oil shocks are we, really? from the Oil Drum

And an audio interview podcast between David Strahan and George Kenney at Electric Politics

And get informed read up on The Oil Depletion Protocol Project which is an initiative undertaken by Post Carbon Institute, in association with Richard Heinberg, to lay the groundwork for and facilitate the successful adoption and implementation of the Protocol.

This is Part 3 of a 4 part series. See these related posts in the series.

See also

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