UK Industry Taskforce Sounds Alarm on Peak Oil

On Wednesday 29th October 2008 I attended a press conference at the London Stock Exchange. The meeting was convened by the "Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security" ( to introduce a new report: The Oil Crunch, securing the UK’s energy future.

September last year, former US Energy Secretary Dr James Schlesinger addressed the ASPO6 conference in Cork, Ireland with these words:

The peakists have won ... to the peakists I say, you can declare victory. You are no longer the beleaguered small minority of voices crying in the wilderness. You are now mainstream. You must learn to take yes for an answer and be gracious in victory.
The taskforce behind this report formed around 18 months ago.

Click to download .pdf
Wednesday's meeting proved Schlesinger right. A group of serious, respectable organisations, had just published a serious and respectable report, in a serious and respectable venue stating:
The effects of peak oil will be felt in the next five years.

The risks to UK society from peak oil are far greater than those that tend to occupy the Government's risk-thinking, including terrorism.

The UK Government needs to re-prioritise peak oil – as the impacts are more likely to arrive first – before climate change.

The Taskforce

"no longer the beleaguered small minority of voices crying in the wilderness".

FirstGroup plc – the world’s leading transport company. Annual revenue of over $5bn, 137,000 employees and carry more than 2.5bn passengers per year.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) – one of the UK’s big six electricity companies.

Solarcentury – one of Europe's leading solar energy companies, specialising in design and supply of building integrated solar thermal and electric technology.

Stagecoach Group – public transport group operating bus, coach, rail and tram services. Employs around 30,000 people with extensive operations in UK, US and Canada.

Virgin – a leading branded venture capital organisation, has created more than 250 branded companies, employs approximately 50,000 people in 29 countries. 2007 revenue exceeded $22bn.

Arup – a global firm of designers, engineers and business consultants with over 10,000 staff working in 37 countries.

Foster + Partners – an international studio for architecture, planning and design.

Yahoo - a leading Internet services company.

These companies have come together in this taskforce with the commonly held belief that the threats to energy security are not receiving the attention they merit. Where have we heard that before? The aim of this report is to engage government on the peak oil threat and to alert other businesses and the public to the problem.

I note the involvement of public transport and the absence of the private transport sector. This might say more about the state of the UK car industry than the sector's position on peak oil. Virgin's interest seems to stem from aviation and train businesses however the taskforce's chair is Will Whitehone president of Virgin Galactic, the company trying to create the world's first commercial spaceline. He did a very good job at the press conference presenting the report however (and I now regret not asking him) it eludes me as to how space travel sits with peak oil occurring within the next 5 years.

The Context

The context of the report was explained by Will Whitehorn. This was not just a response to this summer's extreme price rises but the result of a broad range of companies recognising something was up in the oil market. The unacceptable uncertainty in the future oil supply/demand spurned this research. The taskforce concluded that we are going to reach peak in the early part of the next decade and that this represents a serious threat.

That conclusion is not new to regular Oil Drum readers. What is new is that a man like Will Whitehorn is saying it – with the support of those companies. The report is downloadable from the companies websites.

Jeremy Leggett made an analogy between the credit-crunch and the coming oil crunch:

If you could have imagined five years ago, eight companies across a big spectrum of British industry warning the government that five years hence – now – there would be a thing called a credit crunch because the financial institutions had been irrationally exuberant about their ability to manage really complex financial instruments ... had that happened, had they listened and exercised [proactively] the kind of leadership they now have exercised retroactively ... could we have softened the blow?

The difference with the oil crunch is that, if our analysis is correct, there are three to five years where we could try and engineer a soft landing, begin the restructuring ahead of time.


The main body of the report consists to two risk assessments – two essays on the "Risk from Oil Depletion". The first from Chris Skrebowski making the case for oil supplies peaking within the early part of the next decade and encouragingly the second essay or risk assessment was provided by Royal Dutch Shell, authored by Jeremy Benrham, Vice-President Global Business Environment. Whilst not part of the taskforce Shell were willing to engage constructively.

Shell's position is not as cornucopian as it could have been. They criticise the language of "peak oil", preferring to talk of sustained plateaus and muddy the waters somewhat by only referring to oil and gas production (around 135mbpd oil equivalent). However Shell also talks of: an "easy oil" supply gap, and say that by 2015 growth in supplies of easy oil and gas will no longer match the pace with which demand is growing.

Perhaps the most interesting inclusion is Shell's criticism of the IEA World Energy Outlook 2007. The IEA's reference scenario calls for oil supply to increase at 1.3% per year to 2030. Shell suggest that this may appear reasonable as for the last 25 years supply has grown at 1% per year but go on to point out that non-OPEC growth provided more of this past growth than OPEC did. With non-OPEC production "levelling off the IEA seems to assume a growth rate of OPEC production that is double or more the rate we saw in the last 25 years. This is not likely to happen".

It is a refreshing change to see an oil major publicly criticising IEA forecasts in this way.

Skrebowski's analysis behind this report, whilst predicting a peak within five years is likely conservative. The IEA World Energy Outlook 2008 report due to be released Nov 12th but seen last week by the Financial Times prompted them to write:

Without extra investment to raise production, the natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent, the International Energy Agency says in its annual report, the World Energy Outlook, a draft of which has been obtained by the Financial Times.

The findings suggest the world will struggle to produce enough oil to make up for steep declines in existing fields, such as those in the North Sea, Russia and Alaska, and meet long-term demand. The effort will become even more acute as prices fall and investment decisions are delayed.

The IEA, the oil watchdog, forecasts that China, India and other developing countries' demand will require investments of $360bn (£230bn) each year until 2030. The agency says even with investment, the annual rate of output decline is 6.4 per cent.

This 6.4-9.1% decline is more aggressive than the 4.0-4.5% decline rate used in the Taskforce's report.


The report distinguishes four qualitative global oil supply scenarios; growth, plateau, descent and collapse.

Growth represents the position of ExxonMobil and Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) which see production growing well beyond 100mbpd. Plateau represents Shell’s position, a plateau starting around 2015 and continuing into the 2020s. Descent represents the position of Skrebowski with a decline setting in within five years and collapse represents steep decline as some - possibly many - aged supergiant fields collapse.

These scenarios are then mapped onto the UK with the required "Annual rates of oil replacement" calculated – and compared with the climate change scenario of achieving an 80% cut in CO2 by 2050. Critically both descent and collapse, the two scenarios thought most likely (descent more so than collapse), call for faster "replacement" than climate change. I presume it is this result that led to the taskforce to call on Government to "re-prioritise peak oil – as the impacts are more likely to arrive first – before climate change."


In conclusion, this is a ground breaking report, not so much for its content as for the companies behind it. Shell's inclusion is a very positive development. These are not a "beleaguered small minority of voices" but billion dollar, international companies, employing tens of thousands of people sounding the alarm bell.

Although this is fairly massive news, the list of companies does seem, to me to be a bit suspicious.

At least three of those companies would benefit from pushing an political mandate style soloution (mandated public transport improvement/spending increases/restrictions on private transport) Lets not forget, that bus companies tend to be the first to support highly restrictive congestion charge type projects.

Three of the others (Arup, Forsters & Co & SSE) would benefit from large public infrasturcture projects (eg electrical grid improvements)

I'm all for companies pushing for a soloution to oil depletion, but remember that they're going to push for a soloution that benefits them and their shareholders first, and society second.

Ironically, as they no doubt have access to channels of influence that the public (& TOD) do not, they will be able to do a better job of raising awareness.

That said, I believe that TOD has done a good job in presenting evidence of a problem in a properly documented fashion, which will have no doubt helped us to get to where we are today.


Arup doesn't have external shareholders. The 10000+ staff own the firm. See

It will be interesting to see what reponse the Department of Energy and Climate Change make to this groundbreaking document.

I suspect that the way the Financial Times wrote what you cited here (as did many other media) is rather misleading or even a hoax. A worldwide annual rate of output decline of 6.4 per cent would even outstrip the Energy Watch Group's decline outlook (3%) and it is contradictory to the IEA's forecast that worldwide production will rise to 106.4 mbpd by 2030.

As far as I understand (and as explained by Rem Koppelaar of ASPO NL) this decline rate only applies to the most important the oil fields examined by the IEA. So possibly the IEA only examined the fields they got hold of reliable data (mainly OECD countries, which are all in decline?) and now has high hopes for the fields where they couldn't get information from (mainly OPEC countries). At least this sounds more logical to me.
Well, in a week we'll probably know more.

I expect you're right. 6.4% does seem too high. Could it be the IEA wrote that fields in decline, decline at 9.1-6.4%? So weren't referring to all production, just the fraction already in decline? Indeed, we'll know more next week.

Actually, reading Google's translation of Rembrandt's post, he seems to imply things could be even worse, given the impact on production from financial turmoil:

In the longer term, the economic downturn just before additional problems because there is less investment in oil production, far less than needed, according to the IEA. On this basis and looking to the oilfields in production in the next five years it is increasingly clear that oil production will peak around 2011/2012, and may depend on the behavior of OPEC earlier. The oil industry will be very hard to attract to the production after 2010 to legs, and in the current financial climate, this seems an impossible task. However, the agency in the WEO down the production with considerable investment will grow to 106.4 million barrels per day until 2030. This compared with a current production of 86 million barrels per day of total liquid fuels, and 74 million barrels per day of crude oil. The figure is a bloodletting in comparison with the previous report, where production amounted to 116.3 million barrels per day in 2030. According to the Financial Times it is possible that production in the final report even lower because this draft is a month old, and the latest insights on the financial crisis are not included.

I've been tallying Credit crunch impacts on production. Someone will read the roll call soon enough. This latest from Reuters is a doozy: FACTBOX-Financi al crisis hits global oil investment. Whole page of cancelled tar sands operations. And many say the credit unwind has just started!

...given the impact on production from financial turmoil:...

Hm, this is where I get a little confused. How does one distinguish "natural" (geological) decline from economically induced decline? It's probably hard to do, but it seems to me to be a distinction worth keeping (and making). I guess the most vivid example was the SU when an economically induced peak and decline preceded a later geological peak that is only occurring about now (do I have that right?)

Exactly this is what I thought of.

So the financial termoil is pulling back the curtain on ERoEI?

Right now there are many instances where obtaining credit is holding smaller companies back, which I'd say on the face of it operates independently of the geologic decline, or the current price of crude. Inability to obtain credit will impact supply, possibly eventually manifesting itself in a positive feedback loop; or the smaller companies and service outfits will find another avenue of doing business. Or the minor players will go under and be bought for fire sale prices - but will XOM want to tender a bunch of stripper wells?

How does one distinguish "natural" (geological) decline from economically induced decline?

There is no distinction. The economics have always been part of the picture. Less obvious, perhaps at high EROI and for the low hanging fruit - the easy oil.

cfm in Gray, ME

fields in decline, decline at 9.1-6.4%?

Over the past few weeks I've been seeing references here on TOD to decline rates significantly higher than the 2 or 3 percent I'd somehow come to expect - and why did I come to expect that??? It strikes me that a 5 or 6 percent rate - or something close to 10 percent - would make for very rough sledding. Perhaps the lower rates implied a full-bore effort at replacement, but with energy depletion taking out the financial system and destroying the ability to replace energy sources, the decline rate only gets steeper with every misfortune.

Has anyone else been noticing the stories about higher than expected depletion rates or is it my eyes only?

cfm in Gray, ME

Dryki, I've posted a few times recently: Colin Campbell is still talking of an all liquids average decline rate of less than 1.7% (ie 1.35 Mbpd) from 82 Mbpd in 2010 to 55 Mbpd in 2030. Is Colin wrong?

not if he terms it an 'all liquids decline rate', but for a geologist that is kind of odd terminology because it mixes geologic natural depletion (on oil) and economic growth of something else (unconventional and biofuels)

When will some agency do cost tranches for all these fuels? How much can we bring to market at X price and with Y non-energy input costs (land, water, etc.)

1.7% on all liquids seems too low.

We do need a pseudo decline term for syncrude and ethanol based on the nat gas energy inputs. This would in a sense capture the ERoEI at the same time.

The official WEO 2008 Executive Summary is out today and is quoted here:

It looked at 800 of the world's oilfields and found the average rate of decline was 6.7 percent for those that have passed their production peak. It expects that rate to increase to 8.6 percent in 2030.

800 wells sounds like a familiar number.


I, too, was at the press launch. Having read the report I felt that the 'solutions'in it were really for Peak 'Oil and Gas' rather than just Peak Oil. Also the section by Shell rather bundled 'Oil and Gas' together - maybe to obscure the immediacy of the PO problem.

That's why I asked the panel in the Q&A session to tease out the difference between Peak Oil and Peak Gas. I can't say that I was altogether satisfied with the answers. But they did suggest that there might be a 'Volume 2' on Peak Gas.

I look forward to it!


Is it true that according to the Hirsch report we would need a minimum of 15-20 years to prepare for peak and that some studies have shown that 70% of our energy supplies must go for a long period of time to create the new infrastructure required for post peak living? So if we are post peak, is it too late to make any difference or is there still hope?

That will cut out Sunday driving for a while. I think the set aside fraction for transitioning from fossil energy to cleantech at replacement level will be (cleantech payback period)÷(sacrifice period in years).

Thus if payback is 11 years and the sacrifice period is 15 years the percentage of annual FF energy invested in cleantech will be 73% for each of those 15 years. Too bad about non-capital outlays like food and transport power. This ignores compounding effects or conservation. The connection between payback and EROEI is for another day.

I reread the "Financial Times" article on the IEA draft report and the article is not clear on what the 9.1 percent refers to, indicating that the IEA did not provide a good press release for journalists to copy. Unless journalists are familiar with these issues (and very few are), they don't know the difference between oil field decline rates and production decline rates.

Of course, the 6 companies have a vested interest in the success of their companies. Their motivation appears to be their observation that the British government has been in denial about Peak Oil (like most governments) and they want action. They employed Chris Skrebowski, a very credible source for the Peak Oil analysis, and listened/reported on his conclusions, not those of Shell Oil.

Individual companies do not have much influence in government -- who wants to hear about Peak Oil and what lobbyists can explain Peak Oil with good data and facts and with a good knowledge of Peak Oil? Not many of those folks around.

Their task force approach is wise. It opens the door for them and everyone to discuss the issue. Now the door is open for the media to discuss Peak Oil.

Noteworthy is the absence of a National Science Foundation funded study or study by the National Academy of Sciences. Without such authoritative studies, the Task Force must generate it's own study. Without such authoritative studies, government officials can bury their heads in the sand.

I agree that the task force model is likely the most effective if not only vehicle for publicly making the peak oil case, and I look forward to reading the report more carefully. I don't know about the NAS or NSF getting involved just yet, however.

In my experience, the NAS studies what they are paid to study -- no money = no study. Since Peak Oil is not widely acknowledged by the US government and is portrayed as controversial, I would not expect an NAS report until the wolf is seen at the door.

The National Science Foundation might possibly support such a study, but it would require a critical mass of academic researchers (read that as PhDs working in major universities) working on the topic. Plus, NSF tends to focus less on applied work and more on furthering our understanding of fundamental processes, and I see PO as being very applied work -- the exception may be the impacts of ever decreasing oil supplies and the human response, which just might receive support. NSF tends to be reactive to the research community they support, and a quick search of NSF awards returned no results for "peak oil" or "oil depletion". By the way, anyone can easily search NSF awards going back several years at

Lastly, I would expect any study of PO to originate from (or for the NAS, to be funded by) the Department of Energy -- oil supply issues are clearly within the DOE sphere, and if there is anything agencies hate it is an upstart working their side of the street.

If the TOD team had the dollars, the data and the time, we could do it. (the dollars would be needed to get the data, presumably)

DOE is all about supporting the fossil fuel industry. Only token funding goes to other topics.

The only way to get funding out of NSF is to frame oil depletion as an opportunity to study interactions between humans and the environment. A group of TODers could in theory apply to the NSF coupled human natural systems program (the name may have changed a little) if you could frame basic questions about processes driving the current trajectory (and you had a critical mass of PI's at research universities). This program is supposed to target big environmental problems that require a better understanding of system dynamics underlying our inability to break the cycle of env. degradation/species extinction/resource depletion etc.

Noteworthy is the absence of a National Science Foundation funded study or study by the National Academy of Sciences. Without such authoritative studies, the Task Force must generate it's own study. Without such authoritative studies, government officials can bury their heads in the sand.

It's a Catch-22 situation. While government officials continue to bury their heads in the sand there will be no authoritative studies.

The Oil Crunch Report states that descent(5%decline after 2015) is the most likely outcome, with collapse(>10% decline) "a possibility".
Even with fairly conservative improvements of vehicle fuel efficiency by 2020, they conclude that the UK can adjust to the descent outcome. So the important issue is IF the less likely collapse in oil is a reality, what improvements would be required? This is not examined presumably because the collapse possibility is considered unlikely. Since most of us at TOD anticipate the least optimistic "collapse" outcome this is worth perusing.
If we examine vehicle transport( the critical need with declining oil availability) the study is assuming a reduction of 30%(in oil use) in passenger vehicles and 20-25%in truck(diesel) use, through a reduction in VMT and an increase in fuel efficiency.They are also assuming 1million EV/PHEV's by 2020. In the past new vehicle designs take about 7 years to get into full production, so it is possible that we could have exclusively HEV, EV and PHEVs in full production by 2016, and if we are talking about an emergency as a collapse would indicate, a much faster new model introduction, with compulsory closing of lower mpg vehicle production. If new vehicles represented 7% of the fleet, we would expect at least a 10% reduction pa in fuel use(if these were all EV's), starting in 2015 , and a 5%reduction pa in VMT especially older(pre-2010) vehicles(due to higher petrol prices), giving a further 5% reduction in fuel. This 15% reduction pa is without any petrol rationing, which could easily give a further one off 25% reduction until EV had replaced a significant proportion of the vehicle fleet(one vehicle for every second household).
If oil prices start to rise well before 2015, we could see a much earlier reduction in VMT and faster ramp-up of PHEV vehicle models that are planned to start production by 2011. This would avoid having to use petrol rationing.

The problem with this is that transport does not exist in an economic vacuum. Peak oil is not just about the price of petrol. High oil prices and/or declining oil production cause declining economic activity (slowing or negative growth), inflation, rising unemployment, slowing demand for consumer goods, reduced discretionary spending (with a big impact on retail, tourism) etc, etc.

Modelling for the near term peak oil scenario by the CSIRO (Australia) Future Fuels Forum indicated not only steep increases in petrol prices, but a decline of up to 40% of road transport and at least 3% of GDP by 2018.

The problem with this focus on replacing cars is that car travel will be less affordable relative to average household income, regardless whether we are talking about ICEs or EVs. There will be less demand for car travel due to higher unemployment and impacts on various sectors of the economy. There will be less demand for road freight, airline travel, etc. Essential goods will take up a higher proportion of household budgets.

Many of these things are already happening due to the combined impact of high oil prices and the world financial crisis. Grocery prices are increasing. Airlines are merging and downsizing. Car sales and house sales are declining. Unemployment is starting to increase. This is what peak oil looks like.

Keeping as many cars on the road as possible is not the answer, because it costs the economy too much for too little return. I did a conservative estimate recently that the direct cost of car dependence in Brisbane today is approximately $8 billion p/a. All of our cars and fuel are imported, so this is a huge loss to the local economy. We do, however, make buses and trains. I'm not suggesting for a minute that we can or should leave cars en masse tomorrow, but we need to become much less car dependent. BAU is unaffordable. EVs will not solve this.

The CSIRO Future Fuels Forum has a range of possible future fuel costs, it was only the rapid decline in oil and SLOW TECHNOLOGICAL response that would dramatically impact on household budgets. As an example they are predicting <5% of vehicles EV or PHEV and 30% mild hybrids by 2030.
From 1972 to 1980 oil prices increased ten fold, and there was a reduction in new car sales. By 1990, vehicle fuel efficiency had improved by 50%. In the last 8 years we have had a 5 fold increase in oil prices, it's not unexpected to have some slow-down in new vehicle sales, but we can also anticipate US and Australia increasing average fuel economy to at least the values in Japan and EU today, and with a sensible energy policy could see at least a 100% increase in fuel economy by adopting the EU's 2010 targets.
As fuel economy improves, less is used, counteracting higher costs. New vehicles are driven more, so have a bigger impact on actual fuel economy.
I am not advocating to keep as many cars on the road as possible, just saying that a collapse of oil availability does not have to lead to a collapse of the world economy. Mass transit can help but it cannot be expanded to replace private transport within a decade. At best the transition could avoid petrol rationing, if EV and higher fuel efficient vehicles are adopted quickly, but it may be necessary if oil supply declines faster than 5% per year.

The CSIRO Future Fuels Forum has a range of possible future fuel costs, it was only the rapid decline in oil and SLOW TECHNOLOGICAL response that would dramatically impact on household budgets.

Incorrect. Read what the report says about the range of peak oil scenarios:

... if there is a near-term peak in international oil production resulting in declining future oil supplies, petrol prices could increase to between A$2 and as much as A$8 per litre by 2018.

Australia is more vulnerable to changing market circumstances than some other countries due to its relatively high vehicle use, the relatively high fuel consumption by vehicles in its fleet, its 97 per cent reliance on oil-based fuels for transport and declining domestic reserves of conventional oil.

In the event of a decline in international oil supplies technology alone will not be sufficient to meet the fuel supply gap. Reduced travel across freight and passenger transport will be necessary. If international oil supply declines slowly then modest reduction in travel of less than five per cent is sufficient. However, if reduction in oil supply is rapid and alternative fuel vehicles are slow to become available then passenger and freight travel may be reduced by up to 40 per cent. Reduction in travel of this magnitude can be expected to have significant social and economic impacts, but these were not quantified in this study. Literature, however, indicates at least a three per cent decrease in GDP. Transport intensive activities such as tourism and mining would be most vulnerable. Early action to accelerate the availability of non-oil based alternative fuels and less fuel intensive modes of travel is key in avoiding impacts in the high end of this range.

The choices Australians make about the size of their vehicle, how much they need to travel and in what mode (e.g. public versus private passenger transport) are likely to be equally as important as the fuel and technology choices that they make in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their vulnerability to the impacts of higher prices for oil products. This is important because of the uncertainty that still remains over which future technologies and fuels will proceed to be commercially available at reasonable cost. The modelling projected that a greater shift toward public transport and lighter vehicles, and increased use of rail and sea freight could reduce kilometres travelled by 30 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent.

To put this into context, Australian oil production is already declining, we are already 50% import dependent, and based on official forecasts we will be 75% import dependent by 2015. World oil production will likely begin to decline in the 2010-2012 timeframe, at rates anywhere between 4% p/a and 9% p/a. In addition to that is the problem of (already) declining net exports. And in addition to that is an increased likelihood of real oil shocks, i.e. sudden declines in production due to wars, natural disasters and the like. Given all this, a steady 5% p/a decrease in oil availability for Australia is a delusion.

In the meantime, there are no clear price signals to trigger rapid introduction of EVs. Oil prices here on the bumpy plateau are highly volatile, as predicted by Campbell/Laharrere some time ago. EVs don’t make economic sense for the average consumer and won’t for some time.

Finally, a few words on the literature indicating "at least a three per cent decrease in GDP." This is highly conservative to say the least. The "literature" indicates a correlation between GDP growth and oil consumption growth of 1:1, in order of magnitude. So, a permanent decline in oil availability of, say, 5% p/a would more realistically be accompanied by a permanent decline in GDP in the order of 5% p/a, in an era where personal debt is at an all time historical high. The real challenge, in the face of this, is to keep people employed so that they can keep food on their table and a roof over their heads, not try and keep shiny new cars in their driveways.

From 1972 to 1980 oil prices increased ten fold, and there was a reduction in new car sales. By 1990, vehicle fuel efficiency had improved by 50%.

I’m not sure where you got your data from, but it is incorrect. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that, since 1963, average passenger vehicle fuel efficiency has varied between 11.3 l/100km and 12.6 l/100km. Average passenger vehicle fuel efficiency today is almost identical to what it was in 1963.

Mass transit can help but it cannot be expanded to replace private transport within a decade.

Mass transit will never replace private transport, but it can have a much bigger impact at reducing our oil dependence more quickly, more affordably and at greater benefit to the local economy than focusing on cars. The public transport network here in South East Queensland could realistically be expanded to double, triple or even quadruple its present capacity, with existing technology, based on existing plans, at a fraction of the cost of introducing EVs and expanding the road network, within four to five years.

South East Queensland has a functioning rail network which is already in the process of being significantly upgraded . Further expansions and preserved transport corridors are identified in the South East Queensland Infrastructure Plan and Program. In addition to these the recent Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation includes an option to upgrade the Ipswich to CBD rail line to a high frequency service with a capacity of 20,000 passengers per hour; a new rail corridor has been identified between Ipswich and Springfield; and the Ipswich city centre is being developed into a regional transport and employment hub (due largely to the efforts of Rachel Nolan, co-author of the McNamara Report).

Demand for public transport in Brisbane is already exceeding supply. In the last four years TransLink (the integrated PT network) patronage has increased by 40 per cent, with buses and trains already overcrowded. Brisbane’s fleet of CNG powered buses are locally assembled and the metropolitan rail fleet (not to mention Perth’s fleet, plus QR tilt trains, plus other trains) is manufactured entirely in Maryborough.

By contrast, we have no local car manufacturers. Tens of billions of dollars have been committed to motorway expansions to alleviate traffic congestion caused by a relatively small proportion of road traffic based on bogus feasibility studies which assume that traffic will always grow. Some of these bogus proposals are already on the verge of collapse even before construction has started. These options are vastly more expensive (i.e. $750K per metre of road tunnel) than rail for much less benefit.

The only reason that mass transit is not yet at the forefront is that decision making processes have been corrupted by the undue influence of the roads/car lobby. The imminent collapse of Brisconnections will hopefully provide an opportunity for public scrutiny and a much needed change in direction to prepare for peak oil.

Given a choice between waiting for a few imported EVs to start turning up in a few years time or a rapid expansion of mass transit that would save billions of dollars per year, provide local jobs and bring billions of dollars a year into the local economy, the former makes absolutely no sense at all.

New vehicle sales may have been 7% of the fleet historically, but sales in October dropped 32% year on year. New car sales depend highly on consumer confidence and access to credit.

I suggest a slight modification to your statement "5% decline after 2015."

On page 19 is the following:

In Opinion A, Chris Skrebowski, Consulting Editor of Petroleum Review, presents evidence that total global oil production will begin declining somewhere in the period 2011 - 2013.

I read that as "5% decline beginning in 2011 to 2013" not "5% decline after 2015." In any case, by 2015 they expect oil to be on solid decline (see page 15 "By mid-decade oil supply is likely to be in sustained decline"). And they clearly favor Opinion A, Chris Skrebowski's view, over Opinion B, Shell's view.

Also, I don't have numbers for the UK but the October sales for the US have come out:

The monthly sales were ~ 1,060,000 cars or 12.7 million on an annualized basis. At that rate, fleet turnover for the US is at best approx. 17 years, since I expect car sales to slow even further as gasoline climbs again in price. Given that several oil production models put world oil production in 2025 at something like 50 million b/d, the rate of turnover is far slower than it needs to be to continue the car culture.

I think the math demonstrates that we will be heading into Energy Descent largely with the fleet we have now. Even if there were EVs and PHEVs widely available (they are not and won't be soon enough to sell in large numbers in this worsening economy), the market penetration rate is too slow.

I for one have already bought two five gallon gasoline cans and fully expect rationing to occur.

Not there yet,

All the above quoted companies probably have a vested interest in sounding altruistic.

I like the Shell Oil Co TV ads where they tell us how they are saving the planet with their Gas-to-Liquid fuels.

I think that the reality of peak oil will not have struck home anywhere in the world until we see all the Airlines starting to make big noises.

They are the quintessential consumer of oil and they are the only ones who truly have no alternative fuel source.

On average airline types are of the intelligent class and I am surprised that the recent events have not yet rung their alarm bells.

Ships can at least use sails again.

Maybe it is time for long term future shorts on airlines and aircraft manufacturers.


It seems to me that almost everyone in the peak oil camp discounts the probability of what a depression will do to consumption. Everyone points to Asia and says, "See, they're still growing." But anecdotal evidence indicates that those export driven economies are going downwhill very fast. Auto sales are down more than 50% across the board. I still maintain we are headed to depression, not recession, wherein consumption will decline up to 15%, which comes to nearly 13 million b/d.

We might be better off talking about peak consumption rather than production as the continuing high cost of fuel will continue to force major changes. As incomes fall, the cost of fuel gets proportionately higher (affordability) and forces consumption down further.

Or to put it another way, while we may have reached peak production, the cause is the result of PEAK DEMAND! and not depletion.

You are posting B/S. China auto sales are down 1.44% YOY-a far cry from 50%

No he is not posting B/S. His sentence was "Everyone points to Asia and says, "See, they're still growing." But anecdotal evidence indicates that those export driven economies are going downwhill very fast. Auto sales are down more than 50% across the board."

BrianT, your the one that cherry picked China out of "Asia" and cherry picked China out of the words "50% across the board." Let's see what the statistics are for auto sales from Asia across the board, not just China.

You source the statistic of China auto sales down 1.44% year on year. That does not sound like a growing economy to me at this time. We can look at the Chinese stock market and ETF and mutual fund returns on Chinese investment as another indicator. Like Europe, China has proven not to be immune to a decline in the world economy, despite the worship by American investors of these economies over the last decade.

But the real future may be with China and Asia:
Interestingly, China is already much further along the path to a plug hybrid car that the U.S.

Warren Buffet has recently invested 250 billion dollars in this company (BYD) which will build it's own batteries for the plug hybrids (a huge advantage). As articles down the page in the link I provided indicate, China has suffered from a reputation for unsafe cars, but they are working hard and fast on this problem. BYD is already scheduling it's first export sales to Isreal:

The BYD plans are now propelling Japanese makers Nissan and Toyota to move much faster on plug hybrid and electric vehicle development. The competition is heating up. Things may be slowed down by the world economic instability at this time, but plans are already being laid for a time past the current economic troubles.

It is not unreasonable to assume that with each passing year, oil consumption will begin to flatten and then decline.

Much of the world's remaining 1 trillion or more barrels of oil will be left in the ground and under the sea. The only nation that seems totally out of the loop to the revolution fast approaching is the United States, still viewing the world as oil driven into infinity. To Americans, a world of declining oil consumption is a world of decline and death. The real future is already beginning to pass us by.


As evidenced by the recent gasoline dislocations in the southeast after the hurricanes, there is a considerable difference between demand and conspumtion. Ergo peak production equals peak consumption. (But your general observation is correct - there are 2 sides to peak oil coin - supply and demand)

Demand and supply are two linked sides of the same problem - on the supply side the investment in profitable/affordable new production has to at least equal the decline rate of existing production to avoid peaking - as the oil fields get ever more expensive to produce over time this becomes more and more difficult.

Peak oil flow has nothing to do with depletion, it has to do with adequate new profitable investment, when the new investment slows the geology takes over and overall decline rates escalate. Depletion of the reserves just tells you how much is left, not how fast it can be supplied.

Peak profitable supply = peak affordable demand, the profits depend on adequate demand and the affordabilty depends on adequate supply at any given price.

Peak profitable supply = peak affordable demand, the profits depend on adequate demand and the affordabilty depends on adequate supply at any given price.

This is what many people don't get. I have used a similar phrase many times here regarding magical new technologies viz:

To be profitable it (a process) has to be affordable, conversly, If it aint affordable it won't be profitable. If it aint profitable no one will invest and it won't happen. Its an elegantly simple concept to understand.
I have often wondered how EDF really views the UK as a safe place to invest in new nuclear build. We will see in the years to come.

An interesting chart from the report

Hello TODers,
ECB rate to 3.25 percent, BoE slashes rate to 3 percent as inflation ebbs, recession looms

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The European Central Bank has cut its key rate by half a percentage point to 3.25 percent, joining the Bank of England, Swiss and Czech central banks as they confront the looming recession.

The ECB announced the cut of half a percentage point from 3.75 percent on Thursday shortly after the Bank of England lowered its key interest rate by a startling 1.5 percentage points to 3 percent.
Yet the global stock markets continue downward. IMO, we appear to be losing faith in fiat currencies and debt creation faster than the govts can create them out of thin air.

We have problem with far too much debt, therefore we will slash interest rates to discourage more borrowing

We have a related problem of weak capitalisation of our banks and savings ratios, therefore we will slash interest rates to encourage saving

We have another problem with an aging population who due to our prudent policies have just seen their pensions slashed by 50% in recent months. By slashing interest rates now we hope to encourage savers who may be lucky enough to have any money left, to spend the lot right now so they will have a nice nest egg for when they retire.

This problem has been caused by people who borrowed much more than they could afford to repay and this move is designed to punish these people by making life much more easy for them whilst deservedly shafting everyone else.

Well said Euan :-}

Something qualitatively new seems to have happened with the cash money supply in the US in the month before the election. Here is a link that makes a graph of the BASE money supply (notes and coins only, held outside of the central bank and outside government, similar to M1) from the St. Louis Fed. For comparison, here is the same graph plotted along with "depository bank borrowing from the Fed" (BORROW) and "free and borrowed bank reserves of depository institutions" (FORBRES), showing that this huge spurt in cash occurred after the onset of huge bank borrowing and negative reserves (a fine concept...).

Could this 1.36x jump in cash be the first example of true 'helicopter' money? Could people have withdrawn 0.31 trillion dollars in real cash (i.e., 16 billion $20 dollar bills) in a few weeks? Note that the only other blips that visibly rise above the normal monthly increase of .000003 trillion are Y2K and 9-11 (see graph in first link).

Finally, is there similar data available online for the UK and EU?

Marty - these charts are something else. Mega finance is not my strong point - but I do understand the implications of government action on individuals. The only thing I could guess at is individuals losing confidence in the banks and starting to hoard cash. I don't know of equivalent data in the UK - try Bank of England.

The FOOTSIE is down 5.7% today - and yet I can hear Gordon Brown saying "our prudent policies have allowed us to lower interest to the lowest level for 50 years".

This is an act of panic that will do little more than ease the pain of those who have borrowed too much. The Government is taking 12% on the pref shares they have in banks but have decided that savers should essentially receive nothing. This smacks of the death of capitalism since those with capital who may have spent some income at a time like this will have nothing to spend. Looks like we may all have to start working again:-(

our prudent policies have allowed us to lower interest to the lowest level for 50 years

Or put another way ... "to ecourage you all to destroy your wealth at an even faster rate we are now paying a savings rate that, after tax, is well below inflation. It is right, and prudent, thank you all for doing this, the fundamentals are sound."

Do they really think British savers are so stupid?

no they're too busy watching east-corri-dale on the TV....

ego , yes they are too stupid :(


Nothing to do with the Glenrothes by-election (tonight) which was a 10,000 seat majority for labour in 2005.

Do you see greater tension between Scotland, Ireland and the rest of the UK?

Do you think a European super grid is a) feasible and b) a good idea?

I wonder if Iceland could connect a HVDC cable to Scotland and start selling electricity to the UK.

Nothing to do with the Glenrothes by-election (tonight) which was a 10,000 seat majority for labour in 2005.

And a still healthy 7000 majority for Labour last night - stunning all the pollsters and politicians who'd predicted a Labour loss to the SNP.


Continuing the conversation from the November 5th Drumbeat about communicating a TOD energy plan to the Obama administration

From Gail and others:
"I think we need to engage our neighbors."

Agreed. Keep doing more of that. However, if we think these kind of sea changes in energy policy are going to solely come about from a grassroots effort, we are mistaken. Soon-to-be President Obama will own the Bully Pulpit and his party controls both Houses of Congress. The time to insert our ideas is NOW.

"Obama is clueless about our energy problem" (several posters):

I do not completely agree on his total cluelessness. He seems to be a very intelligent, samrt person. So educate him as best we can. Don't just say he is clueless and go to to talking amongst yourselves (preaching to the choir).

"Obama supports clean coal and ethanol and nukes" (various posters): Energy policy will need to include a complete mix of options, for now. Remember that politics is the art of negotiation...any President who throws big oil and king coal under the bus is politically dead in the water. Bones have to be thrown. The important thing is to mollify the Drill Baby Drill crowd...I would support drilling 10,000 wells in ANWR and 100,000 wells in the OCS area if we concurrently moved out with a 100M roof PV initiative and doubled CAFE and the feds mandated buildout of long-distance transmission lines for massive wind farms, on and off-shore. You have to do a little dealing with the devils in order to get our long term goals moving out to the point where afuture administration could not reverse them (solar, wind, geothermal, energy efficiency). Also, do not think Obama is dumb enough to go Jimmy Carter on us...the message is HOPE, not the President addressing us in a sweater and telling us that life is going to suck from now on. Use some marketing skills, people, unless you want President Palin in 2008!

"TOD is not a lobbying organization" (Gail):

OK, it is your forum, as you wish. However, after reading this forum for a while, you could have fooled me.

IMHO, Energy policy is JOB ONE. As long as the Dems stay away from third rail social quixotic quests, they have a shot at implementing sound energy policy so that we don't have to keep shipping $700B+ per year (or whatever) to ME countries so they can buy arms to kill each other and us. Maybe our top 10 arms companies could make up for some of their lost revenues by investing in alt energy? Hey, GE makes wind turbines!

If TOD wants to wring its collective hands and talk amongst itself and cry that no politician will ever 'get it', then TODers are not any more than a minuscule part of the solution.

Also, keep in mind: Do NOT let perfect be the enemy of better, or good enough for now. Don't come out swinging scaring the red state folks with hippie talk of communes and ox carts...let us take some giant steps in solar concentrating plants, PV, wind, geothermal for now, along with some rail reinvigoration. The Pres should make the master metric as "number of barrels of oil imported", and chart out progress to the American people every month. Keep it simple, stupid. A lot of Americans aren't that intellectually deep...keep the message simple and truthful and verifiable.

Off to work...

Moonwatcher wants us ALL to do what he suggests. A group effort then?

Yet he insults most everyone , especially Americans and red staters, except his highly intelligent, liberally wise, top dog Brits.

State your opinions if you wish but asking for help when you take a condescending superior tone is reckless.

As a long time TOD member you have insulted me.

Should I respond in kind? Thats what brings us to this impasse.
That superior attitude is what drives business leaders to take us to this meltdown. They forget there are real people out here. Some might even be smarter than they are. At least they do real work.

TOD is not going to fix anything. It does very well what it does and thats disseminate information. As stated by a staffer , they are all across the board politically, as is the membership.

Of late the berry, berry elite seem to be having a lot of fun bashing the red state folks and conseratives, as well as Christians and many others. Great fun ehhh?

So go dance in the street and wave your arms. Time will tell. I spent 8 long long years waiting for the Clinton years to end.


As a long time TOD member you have insulted me.

If you were insulted by Moonwatcher's suggestions, then you're clearly part of the problem.


There is this mantra that mgmt likes to spout:

"If you not part of the solution then your part of the problem."
Its a nauseous idiotic statement meant to say this:
"I am the smart one,you are nothing. If your not following MY lead then your an a**hole(part of the problem)."

Now we all know that mgmt (CEOs,Execs,etc) have taken us to the edge of the abyss so they are really quite dumb themselves and quite taken with such idioms.

I have mostly solved any problems on my horizon.



Do what you wish. I simply was trying to encourage people to write their elected leaders and ask for positive movement on the energy front. If you do not think this is wise nor productive, that is your opinion and you are welcome to it. If you are truly insulted and feel inferior, rather than passing electronic gas, then you are responsible for your own emotions.

We have had since ~1973 to get our acts together and do develop wind, solar, geothermal, etc. No President since then did anything about it, either Republican or Democrat. Carter came closest to trying to do something, but he shot himself in the foot (no, the head) by not being decisive handling the Iran Hostage debacle. People didn't dig his wearing a sweater during his fireside chats and telling people they had to sacrifice, because we were sold on Ronnie Raygun's 'Morning in America' 'Shining City on the Hill' shtick. No sacrifice or changing ways for us, no way, no how! Party like it's 1999! Of course the overthrow of the Shah was but one of many indications that our addiction to oil, particularly ME oil, was and is the problem. Propping up dictators with loads of American arms didn't work then, and it won't do any long-term good now or in the future. Once we stop sending them (ME folks) buckets of money every millisecond, they won't have the means or will (once we leave their precious lands) to try to harm us.

Certainly President George W. Bush and his minion Cheney, both in the pockets of the oil industry, did nothing to help us on the energy front. I wonder what was decided during Tricky Dick's secret energy meeting way back in the beginning of this reason-forsaken administration? Have things turned out how they wished?

You try to tar the brits as 'Top Dog Liberals'? Some thanks for them being our closest close we share with them our top-drawer military technologies. Liberal is no insult, mister.

If you can't understand what a laughingstock Governor Palin made of the Republican party, you truly are in la-la land. Sara sure was a Socialist for redistributing the oil companies' wealth and spreading it around to all the little folk by way of continuing the windfall profits tax backing the Alaskan Fund. I could go on about her buffoonery, but Gail doesn't have the bandwidth. Palin is out of her depth in a parking lot puddle. Maybe next time the Republicans will talk issues, instead of flailing about casting all kinds of whack-job names/labels/accusations. John McCain, who changed most of his 2000 positions to bow to the right wing, sold out his honor by facilitating the hate campaign against Obama. "Kill Him"..."Terrorist"..."Sit Down, Boy". If those are your 'Red State Values' then I feel sorry for you.

As for your Christianity, It is your right to believe as you wish...what do I care as long as you don't try to make this country a theocracy? Go to church 3x per week, pray to the East 5x per day, just don't try to write the Bible or Koran or Scientology scriptures or whatever into US Code. Do you have the same tolerance for people of other faiths, or no faith?

Your posts don't seem to support the idea that you are here to fix PO and any other of humanity's sustainability challenges...are you an end-timer survivalist here to heckle and to find out when you should load up all your guns?

"Your posts don't seem to support the idea that you are here to fix PO and any other of humanity's sustainability challenges...are you an end-timer survivalist here to heckle and to find out when you should load up all your guns?"

Well partially right.

I am an avowed survivalist. My postings have always stated thusly.
And I am definitely not here to fix PO and if you think scribblings to your congress critters will change anything then you are wrong.

I have visited mine in DC several times in the past. My son works for the federal government so I used to go to DC often. I found it to be worthless endeavors so I decided that this approach was going nowhere.

Now you at this very very late date when the crisis really starts to gen up are crying for ALL of us to come together yet you insult and demean those who saw it long ago and are making personal plans.

Get a clue.


Lots and lots of words and not too many pictures.

I gaze in wonderment at Virgin's involvement here - not just because they are trying to develop space tourism, but also their fantasy that biofuels are somehow "green".

Branson's nuts didn't come from Indonesia - but one can guess that a forest got flattened somewhere to grow them.

Of the companies involved, Scottish and Southern Energy will be a very valuable partner since they are well advanced in assembling a network of renewable energy sources - including all our hydro dams - and in planning how the grid may be balanced.

I predict that Shell at some point seamlessly adapt their position to the inclined plateau followed by the steeply inclined plateau.

"....the inclined plateau followed by the steeply inclined plateau." Nice!

What does parc mean? It appears several times in the report.

Not sure exactly what it stands for - if it even stands for anything - but it means the total vehicle population.

Does TOD have a 'library' or links page for numerous reports such as this? Is there another PO site with a library to good reports such as this? I would prefer a collection of reports that is fact-based and analytical, without going down the doomer/Mad Max road. Such reports and white papers would be good links to send to the Obama transition web page. One can only hope that someone will read them and that perhaps the new administration will move us away from dependency on oil, starting with jettisoning our imports of ME oil.

Question: the consensus seems to be that the UK is facing a huge crisis because it now faces declining oil and gas production.

The consensus seems to be that the UK cannot survive or will barely survive as it has to import oil and gas.

The consensus seems to be that even though the UK will produce oil and gas for years if not decades into the future, that it will become a net oil and gas importer and this will cripple the nation and lead to terrible suffering.

QUESTION: In what way will the UK be in worse shape than Japan, an island economy which produces NO OIL AND NO GAS?

Just curious.


Hi RC,

I am not a Brit, but I think Japan only survives because it makes millions of Toyotas and TV's etc.

After Norton Motorbikes and Triumph Cars, (RR, Rover maybe) the Brits do not make enough to afford to be able to import enough oil.

The Great Leveler is that, (TOD quoted,) one barrel of oil equals about 11 years of human energy and at corporate wages that would be worth about $200,000. Not the $65 we are paying this week.

Something is profoundly wrong.


I think the main thing is not being self-sufficient in energy (indeed a significant (10th in the world?) exporter less than a decade ago) or being an importer. There are many examples of successful economies both exporting and importing energy.

The problem is the speed of transition. That Japan is okay with virtually no oil and gas production is not any evidence than the UK will be okay during the transition from major producer/exporter to minor producer in less than two decades. Two very different things.

In what way will the UK be in worse shape? Our trade deficit is set to double over the next 5 years or so (if we can find oil/gas to buy and the prices continue to edge up). Change is what hurts, not absolute situations.

As a nation we have forgotten how to work hard, manufacture and export. The US has run a huge trade deficit for decades and this has led to the illconceived notion that many countries might do the same.

Trade surpluses in oil and gas (real) and in financial services (imaginary) have held the UK deficit in check for 20 years.

France and Germany are also good comparators. The former with 55 nukes and the latter with Mercedes Benz and Siemens.

There seems to be no conception in the UK that energy supplies are of strategic importance, and that without them nothing else works:
Crunch halts fundraising for Dorset gas-fill project

A £500 million gas storage project designed to reduce volatility in UK energy prices has become the latest victim of the credit crunch.
Fundraising for the scheme, to create one billion cu m of gas storage in underground salt caverns beneath Portland, Dorset, has been suspended after the Portland Gas directors said they were unable to agree acceptable conditions with lenders.
Portland Gas was granted planning permission in May to build the facility, which would provide up to 5 per cent of the country’s gas at peak times.

What is truly extraordinary is that a supposedly socialist Government should have bought in so completely to the most extreme ideas in laissez-faire capitalism.

Perhaps we can call in the RAF to guide the economy in to a safe landing? :-)
Blinded pilot guided to safe landing by RAF after suffering mid-air stroke

We certainly have a blind pilot!

To be fair, the report fails to consider the relative rarity of many of the metals required for the high efficiency "lithium-ion" batteries, IF we are to replace ICE vehicles in the numbers that the public would prefer, as much of the public see private transportation almost as a birth-rite.

Gallium and Indium being a case-in-point:

In the case of lithium, the battle is mainly joined between Tahil, of Meridian International, and Evans, who countered his arguments and feels that there is plenty of lithium.
It should be noted though that Tahil does not feel that we can't do electric cars and so on, just that things like Zebra batteries and Zinc will be more important - zinc is the subject of next generation research from Toyota.
For those interested in the debate here are a few links:

Personally my take is that we don't have any show-stoppers here, and we can confidently go ahead with electrification.

Lithium occurs in the Earth's crust 18 gramme/tonne by weight, which makes it more abundant by volume than copper @ 68 gramme/tonne. If you take things to the extreme, there is enough gold in the Earth's crust @ 0.004 gramme/tonne (approx 8 tonnes/km^3) to make car body shells out of a gold (strength/weight would be an issue as well as cost of course). The show stopper is the affordability of an available energy supply to extract adequate materials at the rate required and the ability of the environment to absorb the disturbance caused by the extraction process and subsequent waste disposal.

When aluminium was first extracted as a pure metal it was more valuable than gold! To produce 1 tonne of Al uses 15000 kW of electrical energy = to 1500 litres of oil plus the energy required to mine and transport the ore, so cheap energy, particularly electricity, was clearly critical to the viable use of aluminium as a structural material. I cannot find a reliable data source for the energy requirement to produce 1 tonne of lithium metal, including mining.

Conclusion: Absolute mineral resource will not be the demise of mankind, establishing an affordable and sustainable energy supply, in order extract the mineral resource, may be, who knows. After all there is no shortage oil in one form or another, its getting it out of the ground both affordably and at an adequately positive energy balance to sustain society thats the problem.

(source of element abundance data: ISBN 0-7506- 3365-4)