21 Nov 2005
Energy Scenarios and Beyond…
I want to draw your attention to the excellent and deeply important work that has been undertaken by Richard Douthwaite of FEASTA and Phoebe Bright of VividLogic under the banner Energy Scenarios Ireland. They looked at how peak oil would affect Ireland through the examination of four scenarios, Business as Usual, Enlightened Transition, Localisation and Fair Shares.
In essence, under the Business As Usual scenario, oil continues to be cheap for the next 25 years until oil production peaks in 2030 and we allow the market to dictate our changeover to alternative sources of energy. With Enlightened Transition, oil does not peak until 2030 but we take a proactive approach, ensuring security of supply above economic growth. In the Localisation scenario, oil peaks soon and rise rapidly causing a recession. The market is allowed to dictate behaviour and we enter a period of cyclic recessions followed by every shorter recovery periods. The fourth scenario, Fair Shares, is that oil peaks soon but we are proactive and instigate a system of rationing to ensure fair distribution of remaining recourse. The outcome is much better than localisation, but there is little money for capital investment, so energy prices remain high for the foreseeable future.
The basis of the work explores how the rising cost of fossil fuels will affect the decisions that are made in society. Clearly whether we have to work for 2 hours to fill our cars with petrol, or 5 hours, will have a big effect on our lives, and knock on effects for the whole economy. The rising price of oil has knock-on effects across all areas of our lives. It is really worth exploring the findings of this study, they are as relevant to the UK as to Ireland.
When I spoke to Richard at the end of September he said that one of the most interesting things about the research is that from the time they began the study (January) until the time they reported (around now) the price of oil had risen so much that the first two scenarios were already redundant! Richard said that what he takes from the findings is that the two scenarios that remain, fair shares and enforced localisation, ultimately both point to the same conclusions, that we have to localise the economy. It is instructive to put the findings of this study alongside those of the Hirsch Report, with its assessment that;
>“…the peaking of world oil production presents the US and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and without timely mitigation, the economic, social and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking