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Page added on January 25, 2012

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Oil Supply as a Strategic Risk

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Concerns about the climate have not inspired a lot of action lately on global energy policy. Now two professors are arguing that supply concerns and rising oil prices ought to be enough to get governments moving, even if the climate does not.

In an opinion piece released on Wednesday by the journal Nature, James Murray of the University of Washington and David King of the University of Oxford point out that global oil production appeared to hit a cap of about 75 million barrels a day in 2005. Since then, they note, small supply bumps have caused big price gyrations, yet even when prices spike above $100 a barrel, supply appears incapable of rising to meet the demand.

The professors make only a glancing mention of the term “peak oil,” a widely promoted and widely attacked concept, but their argument resembles some of the less feverish versions of the peak oil case.

They essentially argue that oil supply now represents a large strategic risk to global economic growth, and that smart governments ought to be developing comprehensive plans and pushing hard to move their citizens into more efficient cars, onto public transit and so forth – a greener energy path that would also be good for the climate.

The professors also call for some steps that might not go over well at a Greenpeace meeting, like a stronger push for nuclear power.

Variations of the oil-peaked-in-2005 argument have been made by others, but rarely in the pages of Nature, the world’s most august scientific journal. I would expect this one to get a lot of attention, and probably a lot of criticism because of its high profile. One gap I see is that the professors fault the United States government for inaction but never mention some of the things it is doing, like imposing tougher regulations on the fuel efficiency of cars. Dr. Murray said in an e-mail that the authors were limited by space constraints.

The required energy transformation “will take decades, so we must begin as soon as possible,” the professors write. “Emphasizing the short-term economic imperative from oil prices must be enough to push governments into action now.”

NY Times



3 Comments on "Oil Supply as a Strategic Risk"

  1. BillT on Thu, 26th Jan 2012 1:37 am 

    Anyone with a functioning brain knows that more oil equals growth and less equals contraction and we are on the path to less that will widen into a road and then an 8 lane superhighway down over the next decade or so.

    No, nuclear is NOT the option for many obvious reasons and many less obvious ones. But, again, thinking people already know that. And ‘renewables’ are band aids over a gushing artery.

  2. Kenjamkov on Thu, 26th Jan 2012 4:35 am 

    Reducing usage is good, but what countries do you think will “pick up the slack” if the US reduces?
    This is not a US problem, it is a World problem. Reducing one country is going to give another country more. All that legislation will do is transfer power to another country. The environment will still be screwed and the peak slope will continue.

    Reducing all countries oil usage at the same time will be the only thing that will do enough to be effective. Good luck with that.

  3. BillT on Thu, 26th Jan 2012 5:27 am 

    Ken…, it will be easy and we are on the way to that resolution right now…a Worldwide Depression.

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