Most people believe oil will some day run out. It’s less a question of “if,” and more one of “when” it will be before western society and its cultures will be made to fully adopt to its realities.
According to a televised report from the UK last week, a senior global economist for HSBC bank has pinned a round number on it: 49 years remaining, assuming no increased demand – which given that is not happening, could mean a shorter time frame than that.
“Energy resources are scarce,” said Karen Ward. “Even if demand doesn’t increase, there could be as little as 49 years of oil left.”
Ward’s comments came on behalf of an international, London-based, multi-billion dollar financial institution with a dedicated Web page describing its expertise on the topics of which she spoke.
“As a leading international and emerging markets bank,” says its Web site, “sustainability for HSBC means managing our business across the world for the long term.”
But the predictions HSBC’s representative gave in congenial and benign terms spoke of a relatively short term before the upheaval of life as we know it – as Ward has done before.
While in the video (not above url, but see below) she alternated to the round number “50” years, she also conceded estimates allow for more time or less.
A “confident” estimate, she said, is right around that number, assuming the world stays busy looking for ways to curtail consumption.
The picture for natural gas availability is not as severe, she said, “but transporting it and using it to meet transport demand is a major issue.”
Time left for coal could be a rather-lengthy 176 years, she said, but it is the “worst carbon culprit.”
Thus, worldwide energy security “will be an increasing concern,” she said. “Diversifying to natural gas to ease the pressure on the oil market won’t overcome it since its supply is as geographically dense as oil.”
As things are, some individuals, corporations and government bodies are adapting in various regions, but in others too little is being done, as demand for more oil still surges.
Over the next 40 years, she said, if supplies are not restricted, demand in emerging markets could surge to 190 million barrels per day.
China alone could account for the majority of new fuel-requiring vehicles by 2050.
“We’ve got another one billion cars coming on the road from 700 million today,” she said, “half of which are going to be in China.”
The present demand for fuel, in that and other economically growing nations, will be impossible to fill in the absence of major new oil reserve discoveries, Ward said.
Ward said the more energy insecure regions are Europe, Latin America and India, with Europe looking the most dire.
“Europe is the big loser with many countries falling down or out of the league table of economic size,” she said. “They could be losing their influence on the world stage just at the time when they are most vulnerable.”
Actually, the scenario Ward portrayed falls neatly into justifying a recent EU initiative attempting to make all gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles illegal in city centers by 2050.
Those proposed “draconian” measures, as opponents have described them, quickly caught criticism from some in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere, however, with the UK being particularly outspoken.
This not being the first time it has stood up to the EU, British Transport Minister Norman Baker said these kinds of decisions should not over-ride local autonomy, nor be thrust upon a whole society as a collective mandate.
“We will not be banning cars from city centers anymore than we will be having rectangular bananas,” Baker said.
As for Ward’s predictions about the world’s energy future, her outlook also falls generally in line with some here at GM-Volt.com. Of the transportation sector, she said it is actually the “lowest hanging fruit” to find solutions for.
From where she sits, the answer for the escalating pressure to find energy solutions requires increased energy efficiency from a mixture of sources.
Natural candidates that can now supplement oil include the usual assortment of wind, solar, hydro-electric, new-generation biofuels from waste oil, and other perceptibly less harmful and sustainable alternatives.
In the “interim” period where oil is getting painfully expensive, but not costly enough to fully justify wider-spread use of alternatives, she said it will be awkward and difficult. As oil prices rise higher still, she predicted the alternatives will start to look more cost effective.
And whether it is potentially “safe” or not, the court of public opinion says the jury is out on nuclear power at the moment in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima plant crisis.
Ward also touched on Global Warming, and said “carbon capture” technology should be used for damage control on the world’s still-dominant energy source: fossil fuels.
Assuming fossil fuels used for transportation needs, Ward advocated “smaller, more efficient cars will get you from A to B, just not as quickly.”
Aside from one brief joke by the male moderator about the tiny G-Wiz cars in London, electric-powered cars and trucks were not even mentioned in the UK news interview.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 at 5:55 am and is filed under Financial, General, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.