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Peak Oil Is So Over

The peak oil brigade is leading us into bad policymaking on energy | Dieter Helm | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

One can't assume energy prices are going ever upwards. The real problem is there may be too much fossil fuel, not too little.

Chris Huhne, the British secretary of state for energy and climate change, is pretty sure that oil and gas prices are going ever upwards, that they will be volatile and that a core function of energy policy is to protect British industry and consumers from the consequences.

The Earth's crust is riddled with fossil fuels. The issue is not whether there is a shortage of the stuff, but the costs of getting it out. Until recently, the sheer abundance of low-cost conventional oil in places like the Middle East has limited the incentives to find more, and in particular to go after unconventional sources. But technical change has been driven by necessity – and the revolution in shale gas (and now shale oil, too) has already been transformational in the US, one of the world's biggest energy markets.

New technological developments take time to penetrate markets, and customers may not feel the benefits for quite a while. But it would be a mistake to assume they won't eventually. Even worse, it would be wrong to design energy policy to protect them from price volatility so that if gas prices fall, they will be prohibited from gaining the benefits.

At the global level, the reason emissions keep going up – and why Kyoto has made so little difference – is that coal is the rising fuel; its share has risen from around 25% to nearly 30% during the Kyoto period, and it is a percentage of a growing total. Switching from coal to gas is cheap – and it cuts emissions by roughly half. It doesn't solve the climate change problem in the long run, but it gets emissions down much faster and much cheaper than all those offshore windfarms in the short to medium term.

The comments are a joy...


This all sounds quite sensible to me – so what’s it doing on CiF?

This is a suspiciously reasonable article by someone who knows what they're talking about. Very poor.

There are many other reasons why the 99% should not want more fossil fuels to be extracted:

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