The UK Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, has committed to establish an "Oil Shock Response Plan" to cope with some of the consequences of peak oil (http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2072738/exclusive-government-develop-oil-shock-response-plan). While there remains dissent as to the facts of peak oil, a growing body of experts think that the phenomenon will occur at some point during the next five years. On a recent BBC radio 4 broadcast (March 27th) a former president of Shell, John Hofmeister, reckoned that there was no problem with the production of oil meeting demand for it until 2050/2060. This kind of estimate includes various kinds of unconventional oil for which the EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) is far lower than for the cheap readily available conventional oil on which the modern global world depends.
Specifically, there are reckoned to be 1.2 trillion barrels of conventional oil and another 3.7 trillion barrels of unconventional oil, which includes oil-shale and tar-sands. Neither of these resources contain "oil" as such, but kerogen and bitumen, respectively, which need to be processed into fuel using substantial amounts of energy and water. By way of comparison, the EROEI for conventional oil is reckoned at somewhere between 11 and 18 (it was 100 for the original Texan "gushers") while it is around 3 for these unconventional sources. The Hirsch report, published in 2005, concluded that to avoid major disruptions, we need to plan 20 years before the arrival of the oil peak, and that we just don't have.
While details of the British plan are yet to be disclosed, it is said that consideration would be made of how to protect the UK economy "if we knew that the oil price would soar to $250 in 2014." This follows Huhne's previous mandate to "wean Britain off oil" by introducing thousands of electric car charging points. It remains less clear where the electricity will come from, other than from fossil fuels (http://blogs.forbes.com/energysource/2011/04/07/the-heretic-electric-cars-should-be-called-coal-cars/), or how long it will take and what material resource challenges will be manifested in the manufacture of sufficient electric cars to substantially supplant the 30 million cars on British roads.
By. Professor Chris Rhodes
Professor Chris Rhodes is a writer and researcher. He studied chemistry at Sussex University, earning both a B.Sc and a Doctoral degree (D.Phil.); rising to become the youngest professor of physical chemistry in the U.K. at the age of 34.
A prolific author, Chris has published more than 400 research and popular science articles (some in national newspapers: The Independent and The Daily Telegraph)
He has recently published his first novel, "University Shambles" was published in April 2009 (Melrose Books). http://universityshambles.com