Peak Oil will cause Peak Food

January 29, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

We at have long been showing the relationship between oil supplies and food supplies. It is the use of cheap plentiful fossil energy that has enabled the world population to grow to its present level. Scarce, expensive oil will cause scarce, expensive food. For that reason we show this article from the “Guardian” by Terry Macalister.

Peak oil will lead to peak food - food shortages

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

 The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

 The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

 There’s suspicion the IEA has been influenced by the US.  In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.

 Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

 ”Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,” he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone. I think that the situation is really bad,” he added.

 The IEA acknowledges the importance of its own figures, boasting on its website: “The IEA governments and industry from all across the globe have come to rely on the World Energy Outlook to provide a consistent basis on which they can formulate policies and design business plans.”

 The British government, among others, always uses the IEA statistics rather than any of its own to argue that there is little threat to long-term oil supplies.

The IEA said tonight that peak oil critics had often wrongly questioned the accuracy of its figures. A spokesman said it was unable to comment ahead of the 2009 report being released tomorrow.

 John Hemming, the MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil and gas, said the revelations confirmed his suspicions that the IEA underplayed how quickly the world was running out and this had profound implications for British government energy policy.

 He said he had also been contacted by some IEA officials unhappy with its lack of independent scepticism over predictions. “Reliance on IEA reports has been used to justify claims that oil and gas supplies will not peak before 2030. It is clear now that this will not be the case and the IEA figures cannot be relied on,” said Hemming.

 ”This all gives an importance to the Copenhagen [climate change] talks and an urgent need for the UK to move faster towards a more sustainable [lower carbon] economy if it is to avoid severe economic dislocation,” he added.

 The IEA was established in 1974 after the oil crisis in an attempt to try to safeguard energy supplies to the west. The World Energy Outlook is produced annually under the control of the IEA’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, who has defended the projections from earlier outside attack. Peak oil critics have often questioned the IEA figures.

 But now IEA sources who have contacted the Guardian say that Birol has increasingly been facing questions about the figures inside the organisation.

 Matt Simmons, a respected oil industry expert, has long questioned the decline rates and oil statistics provided by Saudi Arabia on its own fields. He has raised questions about whether peak oil is much closer than many have accepted.

 A report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) last month said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could “peak” and go into terminal decline before 2020 – but that the government was not facing up to the risk. Steve Sorrell, chief author of the report, said forecasts suggesting oil production will not peak before 2030 were “at best optimistic and at worst implausible”.

 But as far back as 2004 there have been people making similar warnings. Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France told a conference: “If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one.”

Virtual Food from the Middle East

January 29, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

We at have tried hard in the last few years to raise awareness that the food industry has become totally dependent on fossil fuels. Some experts have now calculated that on average it takes 10 calories of fossil energy to deliver 1 calorie of food energy- clearly a situation that can only be temporary given the finite nature of fossil fuels.

We must therefore consider the implications for food supply in future years.  US oil production has been in decline for many years leaving them importing 5 million barrels a day from the Middle East.  Other big suppliers such as Mexico are themselves now in decline.

The North Sea is also outputing less making Europe increasingly dependent on imports.  Around 60% of the world’s reserves are in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia by far the biggest supplier.

Given the relationship already described between food calorie output and fossil calorie input in modern agriculture, this will make us dependent on the Middle East for our food just as surely as if it was grown there. We will, in effect, be importing millions of tonnes of virtual food from this volatile region.

If western governments aren’t worried about this they should be. Maybe they are, and that would explain why billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been spent in an attempt to keep the region functioning and under western influence so that oil, our virtual food, can keep flowing. If there were no large oil reserves in the Middle East, it would be a fairly insignificant region and would not warrant heavy intervention from the US and it’s allies.

Islamic extremists are dedicated to denying what they see as “Muslim oil” to the hated infidels and in the past have planned attacks on oil installations. These have been unsuccessful, but we should expect that they will be planning other ways to cut oil supplies. The dream is to establish Islamist control of the region.

Unless we find sustainable ways to produce our food using renewable energy, we run the risk of severe and sudden food shortages caused by the failure of our fossil dependent system.

New Apple Varieties to improve Food Security

January 25, 2010 · Filed Under news · 2 Comments 

New varieties of apple are set to extend the UK growing season by a month and so lessen the country’s dependence on exports. Varieties such as Jazz, Cameo and English Braeburn are also expected to taste better than their foreign competitors, improve the balance of payments and because there will be less transportation have a lower carbon footprint.

English Braeburn to improve food security

Food 2030 Government Strategy for Food Security

January 21, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

In the Food 2030 document setting out future food strategy, the government have said they want to happen:

Food 2030 Hillary Benn Defra

Food 2030 Hillary Benn Defra

Consumers are informed, can choose, and afford, healthy, sustainable food. This demand is met by profitable, competitive, highly skilled and resilient farming, fishing and food businesses, supported by first class research and development.

Food is produced, processed and distributed to feed a growing global population in ways which:

  1. use global natural resources sustainably,
  2. enable the continuing provision of the benefits and services that a healthy natural environment provides,
  3. promote high standards of animal health and welfare,
  4. protect food safety,
  5. make a significant contribution to rural communities, and
  6. allow us to show global leadership on food sustainability.

Our food security is ensured through strong British agriculture and international trade links with EU and global partners, which support developing economies. We have a low carbon food system which is efficient with resources – any waste is reused, recycled or used for energy generation.

This sounds good – but now the hard part. Will they make it happen?

FOOD 2030 Government Strategy for food security

January 21, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

For the first time in 60 years a UK government has produced a document setting out its strategy for the future of food production. Hilary Benn, DEFRA Secretary unveiled this at the start of the Oxford Farming Conference.

Mr Benn should be given credit for this because up until 2007 he appeared to have no concerns about food security and followed the usual government line that we would always be able to import any amount of food.

Government's Food Strategy

Government's Food Strategy

He now seems to want a strong but sustainable UK farming industry and we hope that his turnaround is partly due to him reading our book Famine in the West which he described in September 2007 as very interesting and which he passed to DEFRA policy officials for them to read.

Mr Benn said society had begun to take food supply for granted in the last few decades. “But the truth is now apparent. We cannot take it for granted anymore… We know we are at one of those moments in history where the future of our economy, our environment, and our society will be shaped by the choices we make now.”

Many people think that the 84 page document shows well what the government would like to see happen but says little about how to get there.

My opinion is that it is a very good start but they need to make specific plans to deal with major future problems such as sudden severe energy shortages brought on by geo-political events such as future conflict in the Middle East.

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