Bookmark and Share

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Australian government tries to hide its own peak oil report

Follow denistegg on Twitter

The Daily Telegraph has revealed how the Australian government has attempted to suppress its own report on peak oil. The response from the New Zealand government had been equally secretive and obfuscating.

The Report by the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) is called “Transport Energy Futures; long-term oil supply trends and predictions” and can be downloaded as a pdf here

The 470 page report concludes that world oil production will peak in approximately 2016 and then begin to decline for the rest of the century and beyond.

"Given the growth in deep and non-conventional oil balancing the shallow decline in conventional production, it is predicted that we have entered about 2006 onto a slightly upward slanting plateau in potential oil production that will last only to about 2016-eight years from now (2008).

After that, the modelling is forecasting what can be termed ‘the 2017 drop-off’. The outlook under a base case scenario is for a long decline in oil production to begin in 2017, which will stretch to the end of the century and beyond. Projected increases in deep water and non-conventional oil, which are ‘rate-constrained’ in ways that conventional oil is not, will not change this pattern."

The report has never been published on an Australian Government website (unlike all other BITRE reports), but has now mysteriously appeared on a French website (leaked?) and from there has now gone mainstream.

The New Zealand government approach to peak oil has been equally secretive but much more cunning.

Although the National government received very strong advice from officials in 2009 confirming New Zealand's high vulnerability to oil shocks, it has decided that the peak oil issue is altogether too sensitive to risk obtaining further advice on. NZ Report here

Better not to ask any questions when you don't have any answers.

This ostrich approach was confirmed from my official information request in late 2011. The response I received was that no specific advice on the risks and impacts to New Zealand of a potential decline in world oil production had been requested or received since 2008.

What I would now like to know now is, given the high degree of co-operation between officials trans-Tasman, whether New Zealand officials or Ministers received copies of the BITRE report, and if so what was their response to it?


Alan Preston said...

Back in June 2011 I asked the (acting) Minister of Energy whether they were are aware of the IEA's warnings re-peak oil and asked what plans they had to respond accordingly.

Although the Minister didn't admit it , her letter shows that she was oblivious.

Nigel Williams said...

Alan. Dont feel left out! A letter I received from Jerry Brownlee in 2009 had a similarly myopic tone.

Firstly I asked about Big Oil's pull out from the retail market in NZ then about our oil security. His reply was:

Office of Hon Gerry Brownlee
MP for Ilam
Minister for Economic Development Leader of the House
Minister of Energy and Resources Associate Minister for the Rugby World Cup

ERGB 09-10/0205

14 SEP 2009

Dear Mr Williams

Thank you for your email of 28 July

(1) Firstly, I would like to note that only Shell has publicly announced that they are looking for buyers for their downstream assets (including their stake in New Zealand Refining Company (NZRC)). There have been persistent press reports that ExxonMobil (Mobil) has also sought buyers for all its New Zealand downstream assets but no public announcement that I am aware of. The two other big oil companies in New Zealand BP and Chevron (Caltex) have not made any announcements that they plan to sell their downstream assets in new Zealand.

(2) While press reports have put forward a number of companies as potentially interested buyers, I am unwilling to speculate on what effect (if any) this may have on the market until a sale has been confirmed.

(3) I can however comment on the operations of new Zealand’s sole refinery at Marsden Point refinery. Your letter refers to the risks that oil produced from the refinery could be used for export, rather than to supply New Zealand. I consider this a relatively small risk as the Marsden Point Refinery only supplies a portion (over 80%) of New Zealand’s total oil product demand. Given New Zealand’s distance from other markets, it will be more economic o use the refinery to supply domestic demand rather than to export.

(4) Secondly, it is worth noting that the government is very interested in the security of New Zealand’s fuel supply.

(5) New Zealand has a number of short-term measures in place if an oil-related emergency happened. As you are probably aware New Zealand is a member of the International Energy Agency (IEA). As a member of the IEA, New Zealand is required to hold at least 90 days of net imports. New Zealand meets this obligation in part by holding “ticket” contracts, which provide the Government with an option to purchase petroleum (at market prices) in the event of an IEA-declared emergency. The Ministry of Economic Development (MED) has also prepared and implemented an Oil Emergency Response Strategy for New Zealand. The can be found at

(6) The government has also developed a number of national policy initiatives to reduce our reliance on international oil product. These include $25 million over three years being allocated to the renewed seismic data acquisition programme to encourage oil and gas exploration in New Zealand, $36 million over three years being allocated to a biodiesel grant scheme and electric vehicles being exempt from road user charges until 2013.

Thank you for your interest in this topic.

Yours sincerely

Hon Gerry Brownlee
Minister of Energy and Resources.

Hardly enough to save the day eh!?

Georgecom said...

Looking on the bright side, NZ holds 'at least 90 days of net imports' worth of oil. Phew! Peak oil panic over, the Governments got it all in hand. What with 5% of our vehicle fleet expected to be electric powered by 2020 we may not even need the 90 days oil reserve.

By the way, what proportion of the $1.6 billion 0.6 BCR Puhoi Highway spend does either a $36 million biodiesel fund or $25 million seismic mapping spend amount to? Probably about the annual GDP growth rate the Government is achieving.

Nigel Williams said...

Not so bright, George! The 90-days worth is held in tanks far offshore as part of the IEA's strategic reserve. The strategic reserve is then released to ease temporary shortfalls between global supply and demand. Last time was when they were getting rid of Colonel G, and the reserve has not been replenished.

In a real collapse of our supply we would not see any of it, as its sold onto the market in the same way as any other oil. At the time we arent getting any of the global production we sure wont get a few trawler-loads of drums from 'our' tanks in Holland!

Georgecom said...

Nigel, did my post accidently convey the impression that I believe the Government has a solution? If so, sorry about that. Next time I will try to make my sarcasm more apparent.


Nigel Williams said...

(Sorry Rob - my response was a Grey Moment!)

Post a Comment