It has long been suspected that Western governments have been investigating peak oil and its impacts on the economy, but keeping the information hidden from the public. In the case of the UK government we now have definitive proof that this has been happening. The Guardian has reported (15 June) that UK ministers have ignored peak oil warnings.
The UK government commissioned a report five years ago in 2007 -- "Report on the risks and impacts of a potential future decline in oil production" (PowerPoint). The report was finished in June 2009 but has only been made public in the last week, and only after protracted official information appeals due to the UK government trying to keep the report secret.
The first part of the report written in 2007 begins with a generally dismissive approach to peak oil, but the updated sections written in 2009 contain many stark warnings should peak oil happened before 2015.
"if peak oil happened before 2015, this would have significant negative economic consequences for some of the main importers of UK goods and services resulting in a negative impact on the UK economy in the longer term."
A report also examined the direct and indirect impact on the UK economy -- as you can see from the extract below the impacts are many and profound.
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And the report has a bleak outlook for those cornucopians who suggest that there will be a smooth transition to alternatives –
“In the event of peak oil, the ability to substitute away from oil consumption will be crucial to the economy’s resilience. However, few viable alternative energy sources exist for road and air transport and demand remains fairly unresponsive to rising prices.” and
“Alternative fuels are available, however few are yet commercially viable and there are still concerns around sustainability and wider deployment. Mass deployment of alternative fuels will take time and it will take time before it will have a significant impact upon fossil fuel consumption in the transport sector. Government may have a role to play in increasing the speed with which these alternatives are brought to market.”To its credit, the UK government has recently had a major rethink and has agreed to engage with, and consult peak oil experts. It has also released other papers on peak oil on its Department of Energy and Climate change website.
Meanwhile the response from the New Zealand government is to continue to pretend that peak oil is not a problem. Either no NZ reports on peak oil have been obtained, or if they have they have been kept secret. There is certainly no engagement with peak oil experts or the public here.
This in spite of the fact that New Zealand has a much higher net oil import dependency than the UK, (UK close to zero - NZ 70%) and New Zealand is one of the most oil intensive nations in the OECD, while UK is one of the least intensive.