The peak oil debate is back on the table, with alarm bells ringing about the possibility of oil depletion before 2030. A report released yesterday by the UK Energy Research Centre found that easy-to-access oil is running out and the new reserves will be more difficult and expensive to extract. This debate is not new. It has been on and off the agenda partly because the data needed to make a more informed analysis is still unreliable, as pointed out in the report, but also because people are reluctant to come to terms with giving up oil because of our heavy reliance on it. Local government for one is very dependent on carbon-based energy to fuel its operation, such as powering council buildings and properties and ensuring the smooth running of public transport.
Whether oil is depleting or not, we know for a fact that oil is a limited resource. The focus perhaps should be on diversifying our energy sources to more reliable, cost effective, clean and renewable options, such as solar, wind and wave energy, which we know are unlimited resources. Moreover, the costs of renewable energy should decrease over time in the form of paybacks from initial investments, but the cost of oil will only increase over time (with a limited supply). For example, more alarm bells are ringing today with the release of Ofgem’s review that shows volatile world energy prices and Britain’s increasing dependence on gas imports could push UK domestic energy bill up by 60% by 2016.
As Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former oil minister for Saudi Arabia said, “The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones”. We don’t need to wait until oil runs out. We can move onto new technology because it’s better and available now.