Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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28 Nov 2007

Transition Initiatives Grace the Pages of the Sunday Mirror…

mirrorYou may not be regular readers of the Sunday Mirror, but last Sunday, BBC presenter and author John Humphreys wrote, in what I presume is a regular column, a piece about peak oil and Transition Initiatives. It actually came out rather well I thought… anyway, here it is.

**Don’t Be Fuelled. Sunday Mirror. 25th November 2007.**
“A few days ago I had the unpleasant experience of filling my car with petrol.

I don’t do it very often. You’d be a mug to use your car in Central London, which is where I live. If the Congestion Charge doesn’t get you, the clampers will.

So it’s months since I stood with a nozzle in one hand watching the numbers whirring and clicking on the petrol pump. Afraid of wasting any of the precious liquid, I eased off the pressure when they hit £45.

But I needn’t have bothered. The numbers just kept clicking away.

If the price of petrol keeps going up at this rate we’ll need to take out a second mortgage every time we stop on the motorway. But maybe it’s a good thing. For the last 40 years we’ve been told oil is running out and we’ll soon have to get used to living without it.

No more holidays on the Costas – it’s Skegness or Blackpool from now on, they said. And it’ll take a week to get there and back by bullock cart.

But it never happened. They’ve just kept finding more of the stuff. Not for much longer though. What’s left is increasingly difficult – and gobsmackingly expensive – to pump out of the ground, usually deep beneath the ocean floor. Which is one of the reasons the price has just hit Û100 a barrel – or probably will have by the time you read these words.

Remember when we were told by some wise observers that the Iraq war might be justified because it would help stabilise oil at about Û20 a barrel? Most of the experts now agree we have passed the “peak oil point” and it’s all downhill from now on – or, rather, uphill as far as the price is concerned. And remember, it’s not just filling a petrol tank where we shall feel the pain… it’s everywhere.

The world runs on oil – whether it’s manufacturing fertiliser to grow our food or generating electricity to heat our homes. So what can we do – apart from getting the needles out and start knitting night caps to keep us warm in our icy bedrooms?

Well, one part of the answer may be something called “transition towns”. They’re springing up all over the country. The idea is that local people get together and arrange, for instance, to do a deal with farms in the area to buy their produce. So instead of buying carrots that have travelled halfway around the country to be packed and then sent back to your town, you buy them direct. And you don’t pay the supermarkets’ mark-up either.

Schemes to generate electricity locally are being set up too. By the time the juice from a big power station comes out of the socket in your wall half of it has already leaked out of the cables carrying it through the grid.

So it makes sense to do what Woking in Berkshire has done and develop ways of generating electricity locally. And they’re not just saving the planet, they’re saving a fortune in cash as well. It makes good economic sense.

Maybe all this sounds a bit goody-two-shoes to you – a bit ecofreaky – but what’s wrong with that? We’ve been here before. When our food supplies were threatened in the last war the Government urged us to dig for victory… and we did. Never in our history have we had a more healthy diet.

And the fact is people are responding to transition schemes. They’re packing town and village halls around the country to support them.

You don’t believe there’s any need even to think about this sort of thing? You reckon this latest oil crisis is just another scare and the danger of global warming is being exaggerated?

Well maybe you’re right. I hope you are. But if you’re wrong, doesn’t it make sense to think local rather than rely on politicians at national and world level to get us out of the mess they’ve helped create?

Even if it doesn’t save the planet, the carrots will taste better”.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Jason Cole
28 Nov 6:36pm

Beautifully put. The only real omission for me is not mentioning support for Organic farming / Soil Association.

pete rout
29 Nov 9:33am

I hope that when he and other journalists interview people about future plans, they will ask the question “With the oncoming depletion of oil flow are your plans sustainable?”

29 Nov 6:14pm

It’s a good article, although the energy loss he refers to isn’t lost primarily in electricity distribution; it’s in generation. Also, Woking is in Surrey, not Berkshire.

Ok, ok, so I’m being a tad pedantic. 🙂

Robin P Clarke
1 Dec 10:20am

So certain small towns in the uk are doing this transition stuff. Meanwhile Birmingham is building a second runway and London a third. Etc, etc, etccccc.

So when the crash comes, presumably you transitioners will kindly share your farmers-market food with the millions of starving Brummies and Londoners who call round your way?

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[…] Fuel prices – Can we do something? This is John Humphrey’s article, prompted by a trip to the petrol pumps, in the same Transition Towns […]

Darren Woodiwiss
3 Dec 10:32am

The statistics that I had read was that 43% of electricity is wasted through transmission. I suppose adding that to the 40% efficiency of the power stations it would appear that we are just throwing away our resources.

A nice article and I look forward to filling some halls here in Harborough.

Jason Cole
5 Dec 1:20am

43% ??**!!!*!!

More like 7% in transmission

Darren Woodiwiss
5 Dec 9:08am

I stand corrected

5 Dec 9:18am

I think the figure in the FOE report on decentralised energy is more like 3%…

Jason Cole
5 Dec 3:14pm

Losses in transformer primaries alone will be around 3%, try this as a reference:

“Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 7.2% in 1995 [2], and in the UK at 7.4% in 1998. [3]”

Ian R. Crane
10 Dec 10:19am

While I do not dispute the validity of some of the Transition Town initiatives, it is very concerning that the TT leadership refuse to participate in any debate regarding their mantra of ‘Peak Oil’. The premise of oil supplies having ‘peaked’ is not universally accepted but is serving the oil industry very well by creating the perception of scarcity, when the opposite is actually the case! Oil is not pushing $100 per barrel because of real scarcity … but because of perceived scarcity. The oil industry remains strangely silent on the issue, whilst taking advantage of the phenomenal increase in stock price.

Meanwhile, the ‘peakist’ champions Matthew Simmons & John Schlesinger are both Harvard educated economists who are doing very nicely out of the ‘Peak Oil’ scam!