Piekolie: Fatih Birol verandert van kamp
Een van de grote non-believers van piekolie is recent van kamp veranderd. De piekolietheorie in haar sterke variant gaat ervan uit dat de productie van olie op een zeker moment (het piekoliemoment) niet langerzal groeien, maar ombuigen. Het wordt dan elk jaar moeilijker om het productieniveau in stand te houden, en de productie daalt vanaf dan jaarlijks. Dat heeft te maken met de uitputting van de grote oliebronnen en de kleinere omvang van de nieuwe bronnen.
Fatih Birol is de hoofdeconoom van het IEA, het Internationaal Energie Agentschap in Parijs, en is belast met het verzamelen van de gegevens over de energiemarkten van de OESO-landen.
Hij waarschuwt nu dat de olievoorraden sneller opdrogen, en dat dit kan leiden tot catastrofale gevolgen voor de economie:
Dr Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.
"One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day," Dr Birol said. "The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money and we should take this issue very seriously," he said.
Het cruciale punt in zijn betoog zijn de genaamde dalingsvoeten van de productie:
The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it had estimated in 2007, which it now acknowledges to be wrong.
Dit betekent dat de nieuwe productie door exploratie en nieuwe installaties met ongeveer 8% moet stijgen per jaar om de daling van de bestaande velden met bijna 7% te counteren.
Vandaag daalt ook de vraag in de westerse wereld door de zware economische crisis. Dit helpt om de druk op de oliemarkten te verlichten.
Fatih Birol bevestigt hiermee de stelling die we verdedigden in het boek 'Econoshock'.
*Why is oil so important as an energy source?
Crude oil has been critical for economic development and the smooth functioning of almost every aspect of society. Agriculture and food production is heavily dependent on oil for fuel and fertilisers. In the US, for instance, it takes the direct and indirect use of about six barrels of oil to raise one beef steer. It is the basis of most transport systems. Oil is also crucial to the drugs and chemicals industries and is a strategic asset for the military.
*How are oil reserves estimated?
The amount of oil recoverable is always going to be an assessment subject to the vagaries of economics – which determines the price of the oil and whether it is worth the costs of pumping it out –and technology, which determines how easy it is to discover and recover. Probable reserves have a better than 50 per cent chance of getting oil out. Possible reserves have less than 50 per cent chance.
*Why is there such disagreement over oil reserves?
All numbers tend to be informed estimates. Different experts make different assumptions so it is under- standable that they can come to different conclusions. Some countries see the size of their oilfields as a national security issue and do not want to provide accurate information. Another problem concerns how fast oil production is declining in fields that are past their peak production. The rate of decline can vary from field to field and this affects calculations on the size of the reserves. A further factor is the expected size of future demand for oil.
*What is "peak oil" and when will it be reached?
This is the point when the maximum rate at which oil is extracted reaches a peak because of technical and geological constraints, with global production going into decline from then on. The UK Government, along with many other governments, has believed that peak oil will not occur until well into the 21st Century, at least not until after 2030. The International Energy Agency believes peak oil will come perhaps by 2020. But it also believes that we are heading for an even earlier "oil crunch" because demand after 2010 is likely to exceed dwindling supplies.
*With global warming, why should we be worried about peak oil?
There are large reserves of non-conventional oil, such as the tar sands of Canada. But this oil is dirty and will produce vast amounts of carbon dioxide which will make a nonsense of any climate change agreement. Another problem concerns how fast oil production is declining in fields that are past their peak production. The rate of decline can vary from field to field and this affects calculations on the size of the reserves. If we are not adequately prepared for peak oil, global warming could become far worse than expected.
Steve Connor, Science Editor