17 May 2006
It’s Official – UK Government Acknowledges Peak Oil.
Well not in so many words, but I think that historically when we look back for the day that peak oil was reached for the UK, it will be 16th May 2006. Tony Blair’s speech to the CBI was a carefully stage managed trailer of the supposedly independent energy review process that has been going on for many months, and came out in favour of nuclear (hardly a surprise). The UK Government, despite being in deep denial of the subject publically, as was illustrated in Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks’ letter to PowerSwitch, have of course been clearly aware of the matter for years. Indeed Tony Blair’s speech to the CBI could have been re-titled “PM acknowledges peak oil” and would have read exactly the same. Try it.
>Yesterday I received the first cut of the [energy] review. The facts are stark. By 2025, if current policy is unchanged there will be a dramatic gap on our targets to reduce CO2 emissions, we will become heavily dependent on gas and at the same time move from being 80-90% self-reliant in gas to 80-90% dependent on foreign imports, mostly from the Middle East, and Africa and Russia.
>These facts put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables and a step change on energy efficiency, engaging both business and consumers, back on the agenda with a vengeance. If we don’t take these long-term decisions now we will be committing a serious dereliction of our duty to the future of this country.”
“Serious dereliction of duty?”. “Serious dereliction of duty?”. So leading the world into an unwinnable war in Iraq and leaving the world deeply insecure and unstable is not a ‘serious dereliciton of duty?’ To try and convince people that nuclear power stations, now apparently ‘back on the agenda with a vengence’ are in any sense a response to peak oil is not a ‘serious dereliciton of duty?’. To deny the reality of oil peak and how it will actually effect society while at the same time proposing a ‘solution’ that actually does nothing to address the crisis is not a “serious dereliction of duty?”.
How does he propose that nuclear power will keep 75 million cars on the road, and our lorry transportation infrastructure going? Has he thought beyond the inevitable disruptions to and contraction of our transport base? As I have written before at **Transition Culture**, this is a decision that of course most people in his position would have made. Politicians are now renowned for visionary thinking. Even our greener-than-green Tory leader David Cameron is expected to back some kind of nuclear capacity.
As well as looking back to May 16th as the day the Government finally acknowledged Peak Oil, it will also see Blair’s announcement as being the day that the UK officially cancelled permanently any hope of a co-ordinated and Government initiated Powerdown. The Government lost its bottle. That’s it. Millions can now roll over and go back to sleep in the belief that the energy chasm that lies before them has been bridged. It has not. A very thin carpet has been rolled over it, with a very attractive floral motif, but as soon as we step on it we will find it will not carry our weight.
This is no leadership, this is a loss of nerve, and a dreadful deception. This was an historic decision. Yet another major stain on Blair’s leadership, another thing history will judge him badly on. In much the same way that in the US, people have given up on the Government ever doing anything about climate change, and instead local authorities have developed far more stringent, locally implementable policies and programmes, we have now had a very clear sign that we need to do this on our own, without Government. This is down to us. A combination of resistance towards any new stations and working at the local level to develop economic relocalisation is the only way forward left to us. Luckily, apart from the ‘resistance towards any new stations’ bit, its what we were planning to do anyway. How will you commemorate “UK Peak Oil Day”‘s first anniversary next May?