We held a thought-provoking discussion last night on the issue of "Peak Oil" - that is the very real likelihood that we are already near maximum production of oil and that we will then struggle even to maintain this level of production while global demand continues to soar, particularly in India and China. The discussion was led by Nigel Quinton, Liberal Democrat candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden.
Nigel is by training a geologist, and worked for more than 20 years in the oil industry, mostly at BP. He presented some sobering graphs and figures demonstrating the apparently inexorable rise in demand for oil against the brute reality that we are coming up against the production ceiling - and some fairly dodgy reserve figures particularly from OPEC where production quotas were pro-rated against boked reserves.The majority of remaining reserves are in countries not particularly noted for democracy or human rights. Oil shales and tar sands offer more reserves but only with huge amounts of energy and pollution to produce them.
The one carbon fuel which is in plentiful supply is coal, and conveniently the super-powers of the coming century - the US, China, Russia, India - have plenty of it. If they are confronted with producing dirty and high CO2-producing coal or seeing their economies grinding to a halt, it is not difficult to guess what they will decide to do, whatever the impact on global warming. LibDem policy to achieve a zero-carbon society must be the way forward. But the lead-times for investing in new technologies are not short. At a time when there is so much other negative news, we must not lose sight of the urgency of dealing with this one. And do everything we can to conserve oil. We will be continuing to hold policy discussions on key issues. The next one is on February 27th on the threats to Hertfordshire's Green Belt. Do get in touch if you want more information.