08 July 2007

A Whiff of Apocalypse in the Air


Inside the front cover of the July/August issue of the Atlantic is a two page advertisement from Chevron. The crux of the message is that global energy security is everyone's responsibility, and the ad invites us to visit a website that they have setup at willyoujoinus.com. Right there on the front page it says, "One thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over." Explore the site and you find a few other remarkable gems, including a section with e-cards that you can send to your friends to encourage them to conserve energy. That's right, Chevron is encouraging us to become conservationists.

Then there is the recent piece in the Times by Jeroen van der Veer, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, in which he tells us about three hard truths:
Global demand for energy is growing, but the reality of how fast hasn’t really sunk in.

The growth rate of supplies of “easy oil”, conventional oil and natural gas that are relatively easy to extract, will struggle to keep up with accelerating demand.

Increased coal use will cause higher CO2 emissions, possibly to levels we deem unacceptable.
He concludes his article by suggesting that,
we should aim to become twice as efficient in our use of energy by the middle of the century. That is entirely feasible, provided that the will is there.
So the oil companies are telling us, both in expensive advertisements and in opinion pieces written by their chief executives, that we need to use less energy. I believe that this situation is unprecedented: I can think of no other example of an industry that recommends that consumers use less of their product. Why would they do such a thing?

It would appear that the oil industry has concluded that peak oil is real and that unless demand is reduced, there is a very real risk to the entire infrastructure upon which they rely for their business. CEO van der Veer concludes his piece on this decidedly unreassuring note:
The world’s energy system is entering a turbulent phase, and the only question is: how turbulent? A cooperative world will respond more effectively than a fragmented one. Provided governments create the right rules and incentives, and don’t throw up barriers, the global market will direct money and brainpower to the best solutions. The alternative is a global market failure, and future generations would pay the price.
I don't mean to be alarmist, but when these guys become conservationists, the whiff of apocalypse in the air becomes quite pungent indeed.

1 comment:

alvinwriter said...

The Earth's fossil fuels will run out no matter how much we try to save energy. Look at the bright side. Global warming issues will finally come to an end when all the oil, coal and natural gas reserves run out. But then, what kind of life will we have?

The link that follows is something form TheNewsRoom on how Cuba solves its energy crisis without polluting the environment: http://www.thenewsroom.com/details/469744?c_id=wom-bc-ar

- Alvin from TheScienceDesk at TheNewsRoom.com