Sir David King’s View on Peak Oil

Professor Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government since 2000 and former head of Cambridge University chemistry department has submitted a paper to the recently formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil (

I find this paper very disappointing, especially coming from someone of King’s calibre and position. It shows no original thought, preferring to cite the IEA, the USGS and historically static reserves-to-production ratios. It also shows no appreciation for flow rates or declining production from fields already in production, explains lack of new discoveries by low levels of exploration in the Middle East and attempts to square the development of unconventional oil sources with "radical reductions" in greenhouse gas emissions. King ends by saying hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have the potential to replace oil for transport. I'm left feeling King has presented a politician’s view rather than a that of a scientist.

The paper is probably the best indication we have to government's official position on the matter.

It is unclear how King's view as expressed in this paper relates to a conversation he had with David Strahan (author of The Last Oil Shock, link) in 2005 where King is reported to have said peak oil "in ten years or less".

Professor Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government

His full submission is reproduced below the fold.

The work of the IEA

As the Group will be aware, the UK Government works closely with the International Energy Agency (IEA) on oil resource and market issues. The IEA itself draws from a wide range of data, research and analysis in forming its views. The quality of its work is high, and I would endorse this as the most thorough and authoritative source for information on global energy market issues. It is appropriate therefore that I have drawn heavily on the IEA’s work in developing this note.

Assessment of reserves

The IEA’s assessment is that oil (and gas) reserves are sufficient to sustain economic growth “for the foreseeable future”, and “to meet anticipated increases in world energy demand through to 2030”. This view is supported by its latest medium-term market outlook, which predicts that global oil production capacity in 2012 will be around 9 million barrels per day (10%) higher than in 2007. However, it should of course be prudent to note the choice of date, 2030.  Any sensible planning should include provisions going further forward in time.

There are several graphs that I have included below with which the Group will I am sure be familiar. The first, from the IEA’s 2004 World Energy Outlook, reviews several estimates that have been made of reserves of crude oil and natural gas liquids. The estimates do not vary greatly, ranging between around 1100 to 1250 billion barrels.

“Proven” oil reserves are already larger than the cumulative production needed to meet rising demand until at least 2030. Although more oil will need to be added to the proven category to prevent production peaking before then, it has been a long term feature of the market that proven reserves have risen to equate to around 40 years supply on the measure of “reserves-to-production”. The manner in which these additional reserves have been added has developed in recent years (eg resulting more from the impact of new technologies and improved reservoir management rather than from new discoveries).

Moreover, the US Geological Survey has estimated conventional resources yet to be discovered, but expected to be economically recoverable, at 880 billion barrels, which together with proven reserves and reserve growth puts the figure for remaining ultimately recoverable resources at just under 2300 barrels – slightly more than twice the amount that has already been produced.

The size of new finds from wildcat drilling has reduced significantly over recent decades. However the concentration of drilling in regions with mature fields such as the US and the low level of exploration in the regions with the richest fields (in particular the Middle East) has been a major factor. The diagram below helps to illustrate this, and that where new finds have been made in the Middle East (and Africa) then the size of these has been significantly larger than elsewhere.

“Unconventional” resources

Further vast resources also exist from “unconventional” sources. The resources falling into this category have been estimated at a further 1 trillion barrels, including Canadian oil sands, extra-heavy oil from Venezuela and shale oil in the United States. The diagram below illustrates the quantities and economic recoverability of these unconventional sources (incorporating a cost for carbon to equalise with existing conventional oil sources).

It is worth noting that definitions of “unconventional” have developed over time. For example, in the 1970s much offshore production would have been regarded as falling into this category and to have been uneconomic, whilst today this accounts for around 30% of global production. This serves to illustrate the major impact of the development of new technologies and of the economics of recovery over time.

Conclusions and climate change

The conclusion that I would draw from this and other evidence, and that is the clear view of the IEA, is that absolute global geological resource is not in itself a constraint on production. Rather, production challenges arise from a wide range of market, investment, technology and geopolitical factors. This position is underlined in the IEA’s most recent Medium Term Report, in which it predicts increasing tightness in the oil market beyond 2010 and reduced spare capacity by 2m b/d by 2009, due to investment barriers such as constraints on labour and equipment, geopolitical risks and resource nationalism.

Others are better placed than I to advise the Group on these wider investment and market aspects.

This is not to be complacent about addressing uncertainties in the information we have about resources where these exist, and the Government continues to support international efforts to improve reporting on global oil (and gas) reserves, as noted in the recent Energy White Paper.

More generally, I am personally not convinced that focusing on the “peak oil” concept is the most helpful approach.

The challenge I believe lies in framing policies and in advancing the technologies that will enable the fossil fuel resources that exist, whether conventional or those currently dubbed unconventional, to be utilised effectively, economically and sustainably.

I would place particular emphasis on the last of these. Climate change requires that as “non-conventional” oil sources are developed, which I believe inevitably they will be, it must be an imperative to do so in a manner consistent with achieving the radical reductions on greenhouse gas emissions that we need to achieve globally. Carbon capture and storage is a key technology in this respect. From an environmental perspective, water usage too will be an important consideration and constraint.

Alongside this, the radical transformation to a low carbon world that we must achieve to avert climate disaster requires step changes in the rate at which we develop and deploy new low carbon technologies. This includes second generation biofuels, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies that in the coming decades have the potential to replace oil as basis for our transport systems. In this regard the establishment of the UK’s new Energy Technologies Institute, with funding up to £1.1bn over 10 years, is I believe a key development, with its goal to accelerate the most promising technologies from research through towards market application and deployment at scale.

Professor Sir David King - 20th July 2007

Originally published by John Hemming MP here.

This is bureaucratic waffle or to describe it in Britspeak I'd say it was largely bollocks. How can petroleum use ever be sustainable unless we wait a million years for the next lot to be formed?

The pages of TOD have produced countless well reasoned arguments why neither hydrogen fuel cells nor CO2 geosequestration are likely to help anytime soon. All lost on Sir David apparently. UK officialdom needs someone else (with a science background) to give the hard delivery.

I find this paper very disappointing, especially coming from someone of King’s calibre and position.

Exactly how does one achieve caliber and position nowadays?
Through a great body of Works, perhaps?
Not a chance.
Having qualities deemed acceptable by his superiors?
You're getting close.
Having family members well placed to aid in his "achievements"?
Bingo! Works every time!
I don't know Professor Sir David King from Kwame, but I'll wager a sack of White Castle hamburgers the latter have more to do with his "position' than the former.


David King (scientist)
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Professor Sir David King ScD FRS

Born 1939
South Africa
Residence UK
Field physical chemistry
Institutions Cambridge Univ.
Alma mater Witwatersrand Univ.
Notable prizes Rumford Medal 2002; knighthood 2003
Sir David King ScD FRS is Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, and consequently head of the Office of Science and Innovation. He is also the Director of the Surface Science Research Group at the Department of Chemistry at University of Cambridge [1] and a Fellow of Queens' College. He was Master of Downing College, Cambridge until 2000.
In 1988, he was appointed Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge, and subsequently became Master of Downing College (1995–2000), and Head of the University Chemistry Department (1993–2000). From 2000, he has served as Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, In 2002, he was awarded the Rumford Medal by the Royal Society.
He founded two research centres, the Leverhulme Centre for Innovative Catalysis at Liverpool in 1987 and the Unilever Cambridge Centre for Molecular Informatics in 1998.
In his role of scientific advisor to the UK government he has been outspoken on the subject of climate change, saying:
I see climate change as the greatest challenges facing Britain and the World in the 21st century [2]
climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today - more serious even than the threat of terrorism [3]
He strongly supports the work of the IPCC, saying in 2004 that the 2001 synthesis report is the best current statement on the state of play of the science of climate change, and that really does represent 1,000 scientists [4]
He has criticised the United States government for what he sees as its failures in climate change policy, saying it is: failing to take up the challenge of global warming [5].
In an article published in The Guardian newspaper on 25 October 2005, George Monbiot drew attention to King's increasing support for nuclear power in the UK, which, Monbiot argues, contradicts his stance on climate change, and represents a mutation of his role. [6]
Sir David King told The Independent newspaper in February 2007 "he agreed that organic food was no safer than chemically-treated food" and openly supported a study by the Manchester Business School that implicated organic farming practices in unfavourable CO2 comparisons with conventional chemical farming. Questions have been raised about King's support for intensive bird farms in the context of the dangers it posed regarding bird flu and further questions have been raised about his environmental credentials again when he spoke on the BBC talking about "the end of free range farming practices."

I did some digging and if you look at the fields he is involved with ie:

Leverhulme Centre for Innovative Catalysis
Surface science

The same old themes appear - big drugs, big petrochemicals, Monsanto-esque pig patenting eco-nightmare corporate lobbying....well you get the picture.

This guy is not part of the solution he is part of the problem

Of course thats all just an opinion, officer..

he is just a policy man, with little/no scientific training.

his main responsibilities were to either get more funding or do PR and get public support or big donations.

i doubt he could hold a scientific thought in his head.
you will note that there are no papers published under his name, nor is ever mentioned as a professor.

Oh come on----somebody isn't a professor of chemistry at Cambridge by hereditary title. I'm sure he actually is/was a practicing chemist or chemical engineer.

The principal mistake that he makes is the assumption that "peak oil" theory and predictions have nothing to do with the more superficially apparent economics or 'above ground factors' --- and that geophysical reality has no input into those as well.

"Peak Oil" of course as understood here has everything to do with those since it is about flows.

The fundamental driving fact is the geophysically justified assumption of non-replenishing (at human timescales) oil fields distributed with the usual power-law type of probability distributions in size, and space.

To that, add facts about human behavior and economics: easy oil is used up first----people deplete the largest and easy-to-get-at-high-reservoir-quality first.

Peak Oil is the inevitable conclusion that inevitably the depletion of previous oil fields---even assuming continuing improvement in technology and ability to extract 'deeper' into the probability distribution tails---the deficit from filling up the probability distribution easiest-to-hardest/biggest-to-smallest will inevitably win out over the improvement-in-technology curve. That is, even as technology gets better, the size of the oil fields now newly extractable will continue to get smaller, and not make up for the old, easier, oil being pumped out faster (due to application of same improved technology on geologically easier targets).

It a mathematical fact made obvious by continuity arguments: assume negligible cost to extract out oil no matter how difficult. What is the flow of oil the next year? Zero, of course. And zero, ever after that.

All the issues the professor talks about (usual above-ground factors) are always and still there, but the effect on society revolves quite prominently about the present situation w.r.t. the peak time.

The empirical question is "when is this peak?" Here, obviously we disagree with the professor. The effect on human society and decisions made will be quite distinct on the two sides of the peak, and the question of "are we close or not" really does matter.

And we have a winner!

Thanks for doing the leg-work Pondlife.

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

Do you want those with onions?

Strange report coming from one with such bonafides.

King reminds me very much in many respects of C P Snow another portentous Labour Government mouthpiece who gave scientific credence to Wislons Gubment in 1964.

He was of course the author of the nonsensical 2 Cultures debate and was also like ziz a product of Leicester University - he prior way as a chemist when it was a University College of U of London.

It was said that a large and unpleasant discolouration on one of the ceilings of what had been a chemistry laboratory and turned into the library was a result of one of his experiments that went wrong.

He wrote turgid novels stories about academic life and their interface with Government. he pretended like King to have inside knowledge on all matters scientific but actually portrayed a banal and impoverished understanding bolstered by a 2nd class intellect with a prose style somewhere between women's romantic fiction of the day and bad copywriting " The Corridors of Power" was the name of one of his stories in which Lewis Elliot (AKA CPS) "fixes" the fundamental problems of science, man and the known Universe. These sorts are always great on horizons, vistas, landscapes, panoramic views which allows themn to escape the sordid world at their feet.

King and his sidekick Stern are a matching pair of academic poltroons who have managed to convince the Blairs of the world of their omniscience (none too difficult a task) and which, because of the intellectual pygmies of the press are allowed to publish their trite , shallow views with all the power that the Government machine provides.

These sort of people are always atracted like moths are to a flame to "emerging technologies" fuel cells, soalr power, geothermal power, HVDC across oceans / continents, anyone remember the Mohorovijic layer ? Bore down and heat the world forever for nothing ?

King? - perhaps Court Jester.

advancing the technologies that will enable the fossil fuel resources that exist, whether conventional or those currently dubbed unconventional, to be utilised ... sustainably.

Oh boy! If this guy believes that fossil fuels can be utilised sustainably then he is in for a massive shock. I hope this submission will be laughed at profoundly by APPGOPO, not only because of the above gaping fallacy but also for his utter reliance on very old forecasts (I notice that two of his graphics come from 2004 and 2000), with no corroborating evidence for his assertions (as in, just what has been the record of those USGS predictions?)

He will, of course, be able to claim that he said there were "uncertainties" in the information. But, apparently, not uncertain enough to make him doubt for one second that there is any problem with oil supplies for at least 20 years.

advancing the technologies

According to one well worn joke, a man finds a magic lamp with a genie inside. He wishes for world peace. The next day the human race is exterminated. R.I.P.

Well, one of the "advancing technologies" can be a bomb that kills most humans except for the elite few. That will make oil "sustainable".

Ah! Pig man, what a charade you are!

Sounds like the case of a paper being due and him pulling something together the night before. :)

You do realise that only 'important' papers would by written by the CSA. I doubt this would have qualified. It reads to me like the work of a bag carrier pulling together some existing data to answer a posed question. CSA probably read over it, but wouldn't have given the matter any thought.

If you want to reply to him, I'd suggest:

a) don't tell him he's an idiot. Point out 'factual inaccuracies in the report' and 'inconsistent policy statements' - it gets much more notice.

b) see if you can find a route direct, not via his front office. Otherwise probably the first person to see it will be the person who wrote the document, and he won't pass it on.

c) emphasise how efforts to mitigate the risk of peak oil are 'compatible and supportive' of efforts to reduce climate change. From a reading of this political capital has been staked in supporting Brown in pushing a climate change agenda, and he doesn't want anything confusing it. To get him onside, it has to support his main policy aim.

Hello Chris,

"The paper is probably the best indication we have to government's official position on the matter."

If that is true, that is a very sad development. Hell, even a TOD & EnergyBulletin newbie could write a better paper after just studying the latest info for a mere three months.

Sir King needs to be invited to TOD so he can get up to speed. Is he going to the Cork ASPO conference?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Having said that however, I'm not convinced the "official position" necessarily reflects government's (or at least certain key individuals) understanding. At least I hope not!

Maybe Sir David King truly knows the PO (Peak Oil) danger and he is making a political choice not to mention PO but concentrate on climate change so that he doesn't dilute the case for action between two causes.

I think his climate change concerns are valid.
It might be that the government wants to choose it's fights and keep quiet on PO for now, concentrating on CC.

News management.

Carbon (Coventry, UK)


How would you answer his point on Middle East well levels?

The rest does not consider, OPEC overstatements, unscaleability of unconventional and the speculative arctic and EOR etc. Can you think of anything else?

It would be great if someone were to write a response to his points.

The man is a scientist, he understands, probably more than most, how to write a report. This was half warmed over slop. He should be ashamed of himself.

Given that his target audience is/was MP's (ie mostly former lawyers/bureaucrats) I'd say its not too bad. If he presented anything technical most MP's would have ignored it.

That said the content was terrible. I get the distinct impression that the government is trying to stay away from discussing peak oil, because this then lends good ammunition to the oil industry to call for lowering of the offshore oil duties levied upon them. The oil co's will argue that in return for a reduction of duties, the flow of oil will increase following a return of investment. Thus help the UK's balance of trade.

Oh, and if there is a recession and the price of oil does drop slightly Joe Bloggs will simply assume that peak oil is a load of hokum and assume the government lied to him (again).

Thus they're sticking to their climate change story.

Of course if, for any freak reason, we experience global cooling in the next decade then the wheels will fall off that wagon too.


Would it be possible to get the eMail addresses of David King and John Hemming (and any other MPs in the PO study group) ?



John Hemming can be contacted through his websites:

...or through

David King can be contacted through his university page:

He has academic and government email addresses on there.

I believe there are at least 25 MPs and 7 lords signed up the APPGOPO but I don't have the list, I don't think it's been published.

I understand the correct form of address would be

Dear Professor Sir David

Has anyone approached him via e-mail yet? I'm more than half tempted to do so myself.

It is no longer astonishing to me that people like King, well-known for their advocacy on environmental issues, and particularly climate change, become scientific illiterates when they are asked to think about petroleum.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, King doesn't know anything about oil — this is clear from his views. This doesn't stop him from making ignorant and unhelpful comments. All of his information is second hand, half-baked. The other reason has to do with psychological defense aka denial, rationalization, etc. (See Anna Freud) He will not acknowledge the problem, which is strange because he works for a nation whose oil production declining, and which is now a net importer. I suppose it is just those uncomfortable truths that causes the man put his head up his arse when the "peak oil" argument arises.

And then there is the weird disparity between those studying fossil fuels, and those involved in environmentalism. The "enviros" all of a sudden become unintelligent if you mention oil depletion. Jared Diamond comes to mind. Jeffrey Sachs, a well-known environmentalist and social activist in the U.S. (at Columbia University), flatly denies there are any problems with the oil supply. Robert Kennedy Jr. opposes the cape wind farm because it may obstruct his view from the beach at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport. Since I studied environmental problems and climate change for years before deciding to concentrate on peak oil problems, I find all of this new-found ignorance embarrassing and distressing. How is it that these people can be concerned about rain forests and "peak fish" and all manner of sustainability problems, and then not "get it" when it comes to the sustainability of fossil fuel consumption? What a crock of shit.

How is it that these people can be concerned about rain forests and "peak fish" and all manner of sustainability problems, and then not "get it" when it comes to the sustainability of fossil fuel consumption? What a crock of shit.

The Iron Triangle has an additional "Carbon fiber & hemp" polygon:

People who think that 'peak oil' is propaganda lies from the environment-hating oil companies to justify their "gouging" and maximize the value of their assets.

The object--rightly---to the complaints from the oil industry that "prices would be so much lower if the environmentalist nazis would get off our backs", and assume incorrectly that the 'peak oil' argument is part of the assault against "real" environmentalists.

I've been looking for some indication on what Jared Diamond's views on oil depletion were for quite a while now...there's a whole chapter in Collapse dedicated to oil rigs and refineries, but I don't remember globally declining production rates (and the consequences thereof) being mentioned once...are you aware of anything he has actually stated or written on the matter?

Very disappointing report indeed! However, let's remember that Sir David King is first of all a chemist specializing on catalysts. So when first ask about oil production, he naturally googled a lot and copy pasted all the arguments that showed up that seem to come from respected governmental/scientific institutions (USGS/CERA/EIA). Problem is that he didn't reviewed the arguments or used his critical judgment. For instance, he's making also the most common mistake about oil production: he equates large reserve numbers to large flow rates.

Indeed - and why I was disappointed, it is precisely that reviewing of arguments and application of critical judgement that I would expect from a government's chief scientific advisor. His paper as it stands could have been written by any politician/civil servant - there is no evidence of the sharp scientific analysis which is surely what his unelected post is meant to bring to the debate.

respected governmental/scientific institutions (USGS/CERA/EIA).

Regarding these venerated institutions, it is only in hindsight that their % political /% scientific ratio is sussed out.

Im reading an amazing book right now "The Worst Hard Time" about the depression, farming and dust bowl in the American plains states in the 1920s and 1930s. The American government, at the time, had a slogan "Soil - its our only inexhaustible resource", meant to incentivize people to plow it up and grow food. Well, a decade later, they became aware that the plowing up of topsoil in windy dry areas was a recipe to carry this soil in the air and leaving behind a veritable desert. Point being, organizations that have been following the same rules and guidelines that have generally worked for decades (a generation) will be VERY slow to change their viewpoints. Theres always been more oil found before, lets not get hasty...

Well, mixing up reserves and flow rates is mistake 1A when dealing with peak oil, and shows that he thinks an oil field works the same way as a gas tank.

Sir David King has just completely contradicted himself now - I wonder why on earth he is doing this? Some pressure from some corner or other.

In a paper to the Energy Institute in 2005:

"Sir David ended the afternoon by answering questions from those assembled.
Among them was a question on peak oil production – did Sir David expect such a peak and, if so, when?
In response, Sir David said that, in one sense, the answer was relatively simple – ‘Oil is a finite resource and it is just a question of when it will run out’. He noted that ExxonMobil had forecast ‘a plateau in productive capacity’ within the next few years and went on to state that, in his view, productive capacity would fail to meet demand within the next 10 years, at which point, alternatives would be required."

Que Bono?

What good would it do for the Establishment to , for example take Euan Mearns recent post on the balance of payments and PO and put it on the six o'clock news at this stage? Disaster with no credible and timely solution: We may all just stop bothering to go to our worker-ant cubicles!

The official bodies by which Governments make forecasts have been saying peak circa 2030+ then a plateau and, as such no focus on PO has been attempted. Until 2005 -2007, PO was a fringe issue and the Establishment was already learning how to deal with the newly mainstream issue of Global Warming.

King is a 'politician's scientist' With all the usual attributes that attracted people like Blair and the new labour project. (Scientists who come up and say ''we are running out of energy and we are all going to die''. Need not apply for positions in Cool Britannia...).

PO was supposed to be an SEP. but it looks like a disturbing problem for a government now, and it is effectively coming out of the blue, now, within a parliamentary lifetime....And the establishment have only just got on board with the GW Thingy.

Consider this report nothing more than an attempt at ''dont worry, go back to sleep, technology will solve it''.

For public consumption only. But highly dangerous never the less.

Trouble is, where choices of public information are concerned we are now in the ''hanged if we do, hanged if we dont'' phase of the coming crisis.

Prof King's paper reads like the work of someone who is concerned about global warming and sees peak oil as a potentially dangerous sideshow - i.e. what if policy makers decide oil will be over soon so see no need to take action on climate change? King thinks focussing on peak oil is not 'the most helpful approach'. I submit it depends on who or what you want to help. What King seems to mean by 'sustainable' use of fossil fuels is use that enables 'the radical reductions on greenhouse gas emissions that we need to achieve globally'.
In this respect his view seems similar to that of George Monbiot, who until recently regarded peak oil as an unhelpful distraction from climate change issues. Monbiot looked more closely at the evidence and started to wonder.
King hasn't got it yet, but my guess is that like Monbiot he will. Meanwhile, for those of us who aren't burdened with the task of being a government's chief scientific advisor, it may well be possible to focus on more than one issue at once. Scientific, no?

RE: Figure ES1

All that enhanced recovery and development of unconventional resources is expensive. Oil prices need to be 2-3X higher to make them economic. OK, that will happen soon enough. But that is to recover the initial investment and turn a profit. Where is that initial investment money going to come from?

Remember that at the same time, we are also talking :about making massive investments world wide in things like carbon capture & storage; electrified rail transport to replace reliance on motor cars; renewable energy resources (wind, solar, additional hydro, geothermal, tidal); and maybe more nuclear power plants. All of these massive projects, in addition to ongoing needes to reinvest in maintaining existing infrastructure.

I repeat: Where is all of that investment money going to come from? Is it even possible for the world to come up with all of that investment capital under ANY possible scenario? If not, it is time to stop talking "pie in the sky" and start talking about making some very difficult prioritization decisions. Actually, I rather suspect that time to start talking about that was quite a while ago.

In rough estimates, $60 to $90 billion/year investment could finance a -1.5% annual decrease in USA oil consumption (for about ten years) under a moderate decrease scenario; with a 4 or 5 year delay (increase spending to $50-70 billion for several years before significant results and then step up spending).

Just a data point to put things in perspective. Doubling spending will increase, but not double, results IMHO.

Best Hopes for Trying,


This is what David King said on the 12 June 2007, not so long ago, in evidence before the Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee:

The planet is finite and the amount of oil on it is, therefore, a finite amount. We are probably approaching having used about half of it. The implication of that is that there must be a peak in oil production at some point. The economics means that the oil price will go up as demand exceeds supply and at that point we will turn to less likely sources of oil, such as the tar sands, but eventually we will reach a point where converting coal to the usual oil products, such as chemicals and gasoline, will be a more economically viable route. We are pretty close to that right now. What I am referring to is the process that was developed in South Africa, the so-called Sasol process, for taking coal and converting it into perfectly useable, very good petrol product...[but] it is not much of an ally, we still need to focus heavily on not burning all that carbon that had become naturally sequestered under the planet's surface.

He also highlighted the danger of a shift to coal for petrol (Full minutes:

I fail to see how his new statement corresponds to what he said then: I can find neither his opening assertion that peak is now, nor his emphasis on coal-to-liquid.

Gordon Taylor

He claims that world reserves of oil and Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) are larger than needed to meet rising demand until at least 2030. However, when quoting mainly the IEA and the USGS as data sources, he should consider their likely agendas. In a matter as important as this, it is only prudent to consider all possible data sources. In particular, there is no reference to ASPO or the Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group, lead by Professor Kjell Aleklett, who are surely independent. (See and This last shows that oil and NGL will peak around 2010. At the very least, this will lead to a continuing increase in the price of oil.

He says that he is not convinced that focusing on the ‘peak oil’ concept is the most helpful approach. Yet most people realise that the planet and all its fossil and mineral resources are finite, so that production rates must peak. Moreover, there is no mention of the declining net energy of fossil resources, resulting in a ‘point of futility’ long before the resources are exhausted. (See Indeed, there is no mention of the vital need for a transition to a sustainable energy future. (His use of the word ‘sustainably’ in connection with fossil fuels implies that he does not understand its true meaning). He should know that it takes decades and huge investments of energy to make major changes to energy infrastructures. This is recognised in most other developed countries, including by the governments of the Netherlands and Sweden. (See and,,1704937,00.html).

Most of the paper is devoted to oil and NGL, which are largely used for transportation fuels. Yet the Carbon Capture and Storage that he advocates is certainly not practical for moving vehicles. He further claims that hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have the potential to replace oil as the basis for our transport systems in the coming decades. Thus he seems to be unaware of the physics and technology limits that militate against such options. (See ‘The Future of the Hydrogen Economy: Bright or Bleak?’ Also he seems to be unaware that the automobile manufacturers have ceased spending significant funds on these options. DaimlerChrysler (soon to be Daimler AG) has allegedly spent a billion euros on the R&D of fuel cell vehicles, but has very little to show for it. GM and Ford are both hugely in debt, and thus happy to spend any funds granted by the U.S. Government, even when the prospective return is problematic. Toyota and Honda have both produced fully engineered fuel cell cars, but from such profitable companies, these may be regarded as ‘due diligence’ exercises. Meanwhile, both are doing good business selling hybrid cars in ever-increasing volumes, with Ford - and soon GM, Daimler and BMW - following at a distance.

Spending up to £ 1.1 billion over 10 years via an Energy Technologies Institute would probably do little for U.K. industry. The U.K. has lost most of its capability to design and build capital goods, such as power stations and even wind turbines. Moreover, it would probably be wrongly targeted, as so often when the U.K. Government tries to ‘pick winners’. Analyses from Switzerland and Sweden have shown that – for energy sustainability – the largest contributions and best investments would be energy saving options. (See
Indeed, many energy saving options would be available at negative cost, especially if the various market distortions were removed. (See
Hence the U.K.’s energy R & D efforts would be far better directed to determining where all the primary energy is going, and comparing that for every energy conversion and end-use with the theoretical limits. This should reveal the opportunities and thus enable the U.K. to be at least an informed buyer, even if most of the design and manufacture of the capital and consumer goods takes place overseas.

These comments drew upon my presentation at the recent ‘European Sustainable Energy Forum’, entitled ‘Energy Criteria for Sustainable Energy Solutions’. (See