What A Difference Two Years Makes

By the beginning of 2006 the EU's Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, was directly interpellated at Parliament about the coming issue of Peak Oil. “...no more than a theory” he answered. Full text (21/01/2006).

Peak Oil is more than a theory, and two years later the tune is different.

Crossposted at the European Tribune.

Two years ago, Caroline Lucas, a member of the European Parliament representing the Green Party asked Andris Piebalgs about the EU's plans to deal with Peak Oil. He replied that there was no plan, but there was also no need to worry:

The EU's energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has admitted he has no plan to deal with rapidly rising oil and gas prices in the face of shrinking supply and booming demand.

In a response to a parliamentary question put by Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, he shrugs off the so-called 'Peak Oil' scenario as 'no more than a theory'.

Dr Lucas, an MEP for South-East England and a member of the European Parliament's Environment and International Trade Committees, said: "The Commission's attitude represents a frightening dereliction of duty.


Mr Piebalgs said the EU was 'reflecting on an energy policy framework' but admitted future proposals would likely be restricted to a common energy policy - a solution likely to prove politically unpopular in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Two years and 40 more $/barrel later, Peak Oil looks a lot more real. Speaking to the Swiss Energy Congress (hat tip to Rembrandt) Commissioner Piebalgs sounded worried:

With the Commission set to release on 23 January a series of proposals designed to help the EU realise its commitment of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, Piebalgs argued that while tackling climate change is crucial, policymakers should not lose sight of the issue of security of fossil fuel supply.

The combined challenge of climate change and supply security leads to the conclusion that the EU cannot "hang on" to its "old, fossil energy system', he said.


Highlighting the potential gravity of the problem, Piebalgs noted that the oil crisis of the 1970s presented a discrepancy between oil supply and demand of only 5%, but that in a post-peak oil scenario, the gap between supply capacity and demand could widen by 4% annually, leading to a 20% gap within five years.

As noted by the original article by EurActiv, credit has to be given to the IEA for sending governments a clear message of urgency on energy matters during recent months. An energy shock is upon us and it is good to see that at least some of the stake holders are actually noticing it.

Commissioner Piebalgs and EU citizens in general lost two years of preparation for what will likely be the greatest challenge of their lives, not only collectively but also at an individual level. With the institutional stalemate addressed for the time being, let's hope the lag can be made up in the upcoming years.

Luís de Sousa

I wrote about the Piebalgs reply at the time. The thing that grated was that he didn’t answer the question. Lucas had asked:

“When does the Commission anticipate that peak production will occur?”

“What is its strategy for responding to the challenges posed by peak oil?”.

The reply:

“The Commission is certainly aware of the concerns by certain analysts that the point of oil peak production is likely to occur sooner than suggested.”

“The Commission is thus reflecting on a policy framework which should lead to a sustainable and highly efficient long-term energy profile of the European Union.”

So he didn’t answer the when or the what. What does "sooner than suggested" mean? As Luís points out though, things have changed. The rhetoric is that of reduced fossil fuel reliance - for energy security as much as the more “traditional” climate change justification.

Good to hear that leadership is waking up, in spite of the best efforts of Yergin and Lynch. The real test will be what near term changes in policy will be taken.

And he referred to the problem as security of fossil fuel supply, so that also includes natural gas, though not explicitly addressed in the quotes above.

Interestingly enough, building heat energy is within the grasp of the EU, just requiring a recognition of seasonal borehole energy storage of solar energy, in pronounced overabundance in solar thermal collectors during spring, fall, and especially summer. Indeed, most people with solar hot water heaters don't know what to do with all the excess heat during the summer, so either the valuable energy is bled off through an overtemp valve, or installers put in undersized systems that have inadequate winter performance.

Note that an entire neighborhood is being heated by season solar energy storage in boreholes in Canada near Calgary.

Your link to the Canadian village seems to be corrupted. At least, it does not work on my computer.

Col. Drake started this oil thing in Pennsylvania a century and a half ago. Now Drake's Landing using solar heat all winter long, and my efforts...

Best Hopes for the Drakes,

Alan Drake :-)

Storage of solar thermal energy can save a lot of fossil energy over time. A heat pump system could be designed in U.S. homes to store thermal energy during the summer and use that heat during the winter. The heat pump runs more efficiently during the summer and winter saving natural gas and electricity. Using solar thermal collectors, absorption cooling and a fluid source heat pump, most U.S. homes could save a significant amount of money and save a lot of fossil energy every year.

The Drake's Landing solar thermal system would use less energy then the heat pump system for general operation,

Heat pumps still use about 1/4 to 1/6 of the energy to move the energy, but when we reach a point where the grids are extremely expensive, and/or are down more then they are operating, the heat pump system turns into a loss of money, as it would use too much aucillary power to operate.

Or, let's not use ANY external energy to heat and cool. Still have to find a solution for your lights, water and cooking, but that should be simple enough...


The problem with these homes? They don't fit into the budget of about 99% of the planet. I do believe people are going to be stealing the concept, though, if the company doesn't make it more readily available.

Brilliant design, all said. My question is whether you can get similar results with logs, natural or hewn?


I have heard that argument before, but if your heat store gets down to 80F in February, you do not have much heating without a heat pump. Lots of people live where they have all electric homes and use heat pumps for heating and cooling. The heat pump is more efficient working with 60F fluid than 100F air when cooling. It is also more efficient using 80F fluid for heating than using 30F air. If you have PV panels offsetting the electricity usage, you can do quite well. Solar absorption cooling can take care of a lot of the cooling in many parts of the country and can offset a lot of compression cooling costs during the day. A systems approach needs to provide benefits in more places than Alberta or Phoenix.

We'll know for sure soon but it looks like a 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020 target will be set for the UK.


I'd love to watch him squirm when someone ask: "So, now that the Commission has had two years to REFLECT on a policy FRAMEWORK, what does the PROFILE look like?"

What should have been asked as a follow-up back then: "Commissioner, I want to believe you are an intelligent person who is capable of this position. Is this your personal or professional view? Because if it is your professional view, I suggest you look for another profession."

No one answers the difficult questions because they are not pressed to do so. What I would give to be an investigative reporter for an independent news agency with big BALLS.

Chris - no doubt you are well aware of the reasons Piebalgs, like practically all politicians, does not speak clearly on PO,
but for the interest of those that aren't, I'd point to the investor confidence issue.

If peak oil supply into EU economies was authoritatively stated as being 5 years hence,
then why would anyone continue investing in the vital major projects that would not pay off in less than ten years under normal conditions,
and may not ever pay off under post-PO conditions of terminal decline ?

And if that investor confidence is so caused to collapse, then the decline has begun earlier than might have been achieved.

Yet in not speaking out plainly, Piebalgs et al fail to achieve the vital preparations for post-peak society.

The dilemma has seriously pointy horns on it.



I thought my multilingual Portuguese colleague had made a typo, but:


"–verb (used with object), -lat·ed, -lat·ing.
to call formally upon (a minister or member of a government) in interpellation."

is apparently common usage across the pond when speaking of parliamentary matters.

Interpellate comes from the latin interpellare. Its originary meaning is to interrupt someone who is speaking.

A priest once told me that knowing greek is the key to understand all languages. I don't know nothing of greek, but speaking a latin language is a great help.

You have to love dictionaries, though, especially the terse ones. The circular 'definition' Nate found 'explains' it by re-inflecting it.

Dictionaries are usefull to check the spelling of certain words or check the meaning of uncommon words like "terse". I use Dictionary.com.

It's certainly an interesting word, but not one used by the British - probably because we don't often interrupt European ministers :-)

Yeah, it's the sort of word used by Scrabble players or foreigners who learn from a dictionary ;)

We would say "questioned", from the Latin "questare", meaning to ask a question.

A translator would call it a Latinism. It would be edited out, perhaps mistakenly so, though there is no exact equivalent. Question, call into question, challenge, or simply ask?

Lat. interpellare also means: indispose, hinder, obstruct. Summon, arraign, call forth, send for. All that semantic spice in the original post!

In French, since a few years, (“cela m’interpelle”) it is used in the sense of : it calls out to me, it grabs my attention, attracts my notice, intrigues me, etc. which would probably be translated as: (some formulation) is noteworthy, intriguing, interesting, etc.


A priest once told me that knowing greek is the key to understand all languages

That's not what he meant, Luis.

LOL! (I had the same thought.)

Thanks for the new word, Luis!

I think we may be missing the punch line here.

"Originary" (heh, heh, what the ...) Excellent Luis.

I'm pretty good with "American" (Hell Yea!!!! ... Damn Right!) English, but "originary" that's a new one for me as well. Learned a second word.

As, I believe it was Homer (Simpson) once said, "those French, they've got a word for everything".

I leave you with,

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe ... "

Without further ado, I shall now proceed to abscond this colloquium, via circumlocution.


Aye, we should all endeavor to eschew obfuscation!

I learned me a new word today.

Euan and I also!

I think that Commissioner Piebalgs is in dire need of the help of the Millennium Institute modeling !

For the USA we found that the best results, by EVERY metric (GDP, GHG, oil use) was a combination of a maximum push for renewable energy AND electrified rail AND TOD and bicycling.

I suspect the same is true for the EU.

How to contact him ?

Best Hopes,


Hey Alan why don't you have a go at it?


I quit contacting politians long ago.

For a while at LATOC in 2006, I had a feature called "The Pandemic of Dumbassery." When he wrote the article saying it was "just a theory", I posted that "the pandemic of dumbassery is running wild through the EU, just claimed EU's Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs."

Unfortunately thoses posts are lost as I cancelled my typepad account.

I tjhink it's worth quoting some of Piebalg's speech:

The question is whether the oil production to keep pace with this growth. The International Energy Agency believes that this is uncertain.

We see before us the so-called "peak oil" problem, that is the question the world when their maximum oil production rate will reach. In a single oilfield is that the rate of oil production reaches its maximum when about half the oil has been promoted. The same is true of the global oil reserves - that is, if we look at the half of the world consumes quantities of oil, then, the annual production volume will inevitably begin to fall.

As I said, the oil is by far not all, but an increasing number of estimates say that the "peak oil" within the next 20 years will be achieved. Some experts even say it, that we are just now on the "oil peak".

This is indeed interesting, because it's clear he has grasped the concept and is treating it seriously.

And some have argued that Saudi Arabia and the world are now at about the same stages of depletion at which Texas and the Lower 48 peaked in the early Seventies. Feel free to answer the questions in the following post on the Bush/Saudi thread at your convenience:


If he is taking it seriously, why does he denigrate it, and by proxy us, by using the phrase, "the so-called 'peak oil' problem?"

I wonder why so many people, including CERA, Pieballs, and the USGS take OPEC's in-ground claims at face value instead of the older, more transparent pre-jump numbers and extrapolate from there based on non-opec discoveries. If they did so, would there be any question that we're either at or within a few years of peak?

Hello all.

Don't underestimate Piebalgs ! He might not be a peakoiler but he is very well aware of the problematics involved in peaking energy supply.
From EU home page 2 days ago:
EU energy chief warns about 'peak oil'[fr][de]
Published: Wednesday 16 January 2008
Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has drawn attention to the 'overlooked' issue of dwindling oil reserves coupled with rapidly growing and unprecedented global demand. His comments were made in the run-up to the publication of a widely-anticipated package of Commission legislative proposals on energy and climate change.

Piebalgs is from one of the former Baltic countries ( Latvia) earlier part of the USSR. As such he is fully aware of most energy issues and he has repeatedly said and surely means and works for energy independence of the EU. For that reason,he has pushed constantly for tough energy efficiency goals in the EU as a way of reducing the dependence of energy suppliers.

Now one thing is a plan, another to get the 25 countries in the EU to implement the plans....
kind regards /And1

I have maintained for a long time there are two Peak Oil moments

1. When it happens
2. When there isa realisation that the pont is some time inthe future

It appears that Peibalgs has had a Damascene event. However last week when Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, spokesman for European energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs was asked about the Russian / Bulgarian deal over the South stream project he answered "... we consider Nabucco a priority project, rather than South Stream, because it will diversify not only the transport routes, but also the supply sources," .. evidently failing to grasp how Putin has done an end run round EU energy security.
see http://tinyurl.com/2mysff

Of course Piebalgs is otherwise occupied and is currently up to his neck in proposed EU legislation to limit imports to the EU of biofuels.

see http://tinyurl.com/3y8t82

Politicians should be held accountable for their beliefs -if none of them believe in Peak Oil then fine -let them say so. Only a handful of Politicians are willing to grasp the nettle as the implications are so huge its not exactly a vote winner. In addition you would only be winning a small % of votes but the necessary mitigation policies would piss off a lot of people...

In this framework the best policy for a politician who wishes to get elected is to be concerned with the issues and open to debate but not willing to commit to any hard policy that would put people off -i.e. sit on the fence- and that's exactly what we see happening.

Unfortunatley -as reported in The Hirsch Report- PO mitigation needs to start at least 10 years b4 the event in order to avoid the worst effects. In short, if CERA are wrong and PO is now 'we are stuffed' and can look forward to two decades+ of 'painful happenings'... (terms deliberatly generic as my crystal ball is a little cloudy today)


Here is a webpage in New Zealand that shows how they are attempting to hold the politicians accountable.


The page is pretty well self explanatory
I think that almost every area and region could benefit by using this idea, even if they have had no success to date.
It will be beneficial for future reference.

I have to admit that figure is more wishful thinking than scientifically based.

In reality we probably either go off a cliff or a new way of living that is MUCH lower energy is met by increases in other sources (coal, nuclear and renewables in more or less that order). If we go for the coal option we are likely to see a hotter world if we are not careful which will bring its own problems that a resource constrained world will struggle to adapt to.

Statistically I've got another 30 or 40 years so I'll get to find out what happens, yippee...


"An energy shock is upon us and it is good to see that at least some of the stake holders are actually noticing it.

Something along this line is happening with the upcoming (Jan 23-27) Davos forum. The Global Risks 2008 Report prepared for the event lists food and energy security among the four main global risks. But the Report fails to assign those issues their real degree of severity, and perhaps more importantly, it does not seem to understand the real dynamics driving them. Which is critical because, if scaling up biofuel production is meant as one of the main mitigation measures for peak oil, then the poor of the world are screwed, and at the very least they should be made aware of that.

I posted my comments on the Report at my blog http://peaktimeviews.blogspot.com/

The text of his speech can be found at: http://www.europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/08/13...

I think that:

Klimawandel und Versorgungssicherheit. Zwei große Herausforderungen. Beide führen uns zum selben Ergebnis: Wir können nicht an unserem alten, fossilen Energiesystem hängen bleiben.

is better translated as something like:

"Climate change and security of supply. Two big challenges. Both lead us to the same result: We cannot remain dependent on our old fossil energy system."

If this guy can come around on Peak Oil as being more than just a theory, then maybe Inhofe will eventually come around to the idea of Global Warming. On 2nd thought, naw, it will take the partial collapse of Greenland or West Antarctica, and even then he'll probably say something really stupid like, "Well, it looks like Gore's wish came true!" ,or "Those darn natural fluctuations!"

The problem is that, even if the Euro commission is starting to "get" it, the EU as an instrument of strategic planning is pretty much broken. Each nation makes its own plans -- or fails to.

In the UK, they are staring at a serious energy-price crisis : big jumps in the retail cost of electricity and gas. Those who live by the sword... In recent decades, the UK didn't simply fail to plan for future energy supplies, they deliberately chose NOT to plan, because the market is smarter than the planners... well guess what... the "invisible hand" has come back to goose them.

Chickens come home to roost : http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/jan/19/householdbills.consumeraffairs

The government was coming under renewed pressure last night to launch an investigation into the home energy market after Britain's biggest supplier became the third power firm to raise prices substantially. The move, which was blamed on higher wholesale costs, prompted consumer groups to demand a Competition Commission investigation into whether the big six power firms that dominate the market were acting in "tacit collusion".

Britain does have an energy policy now:

1) Subsidized offshore wind farms.

2) Unsubsidized restart of the nuclear power industry.

Both of these sources will work post-peak oil. One can argue the British government isn't moving fast enough in how they implement these decisions. But it seems to me they've chosen the two biggest contenders that are workable in Britain. It isn't like solar or biomass are good fits for Britain. Not sure about geothermal.

That he is from the Baltic state LAtvia is telling. Their precariosu position between the power blocs makes thm more reality based than th larger powers who can afford to ignore the situatio for longer ude to resources and politcal strength. When Sigmar Gabriel(German envrionmental minister)or the French or British energy or environemtnal ministers prclaim PO as acritical survival issue then we may have a European enrgy summit leading to a global summit like Kyoto and Bali. Anyway hey are starting to wake up in Brussels.