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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Peak oil idea has gone up in flames

The truly global implications of the 2012 report lie in the warning that we must leave most of our fossil fuels in the ground
Given the bubbling cauldron of violence that the middle East so frequently and regrettably is, the prospect, stated in the latest International Energy Agency’s report, of the US outstripping Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer in the next decade is deeply striking. 

But the truly global implications of the report lie elsewhere, in the quietly devastating statement that no more than one-third of already proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burned by 2050 if the world is to prevent global warming exceeding the danger point of 2 degrees Celcius temperature rise. This means nothing less than leaving most of the world’s coal, oil and gas in the ground or facing a destabilised climate, with its supercharged heatwaves, floods and storms.

We do not have too little fossil fuel, we have far too much. The simple reason is because the cost of the damage caused by carbon emissions is still not paid by the polluter. 

But the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2012 also highlights another huge problem which is throwing fuel on the fire: titanic subsidies for fossil fuels. The IEA estimates that $523 billion was spent cutting fossil fuel prices in 2011. Coal, oil and gas are mature industries and should be more than able to stand on their own two feet by now. 

Renewable energy, in contrast, is relatively new and needs support to drive its costs down - which it is doing, fast - and to compensate for the market failures which mean greenhouse gases continue to be pumped into the atmosphere in ever greater quantities. Yet, in 2011, subsidies for renewables totalled only $88 billion around the world, meaning fossil fuels received six times more. The dirty fuels also got a bigger increase in subsidies in 2011: 30%, compared to the 24% for renewables.

Read the entire article at The Guardian.
Thanks to the Environmental News Network for bringing this article to our attention.