June 11th, 2010
Yesterday on the BBC’s flagship news analysis programme Newsnight Britain’s gravest, most distinguished and hard-hitting political interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked the vital questions an eager world most wants to hear: Cthulu – Are we worshipping him enough? Will it be necessary to sacrifice our children to appease him? Or will he be content if we just all erect a shrine to him, perhaps involving candles and teddy bears and Jo Malone scented oils?
No, it wasn’t really Cthulu that Britain’s gravest, most distinguished and hard-hitting political interviewer was addressing but something just as warped and obsessive – and undoubtedly a lot more dangerous: the cult of Peak Oil.
Peak Oil is a scare story talked up by greenie catastrophists on every possible occasion to justify higher taxation, greater government intervention, global rule by people like the Hon Sir Jonathon Porritt and Al Gore and massive bonanzas for anyone involved in the wind farming or solar power industry.
Somehow, Newsnight had managed to twist the arm of Jeremy Leggett – who runs Britain’s largest solar power company – to come on the programme and crossly, passionately declare that Peak Oil represents a real threat. (Wot? Even bigger a threat than the one we’d suffer if we all relied for our energy on solar power in a country like Britain not known for its sun? Pull the other one, Jezza!)
The real problem with peak oil has been identified by Peter Foster in Canada’s National Post:
The problem with Peak Oil the theory isn’t that it’s wrong in noting that industry depletes resources, and that oil may, sooner or later, reach a production plateau, it’s that it sees those facts through a moralistically-charged and economically-challenged lens. It also embodies extraordinary faith in Big Government and grass roots activism.
PO Theorists fail — or more precisely refuse — to grasp that the best method of dealing with any form of commercial scarcity is market-based ingenuity, not some weird combination of Big Brother and Hippie co-ops.
Luckily, speaking opposite the would-be solar billionaire was a quite incredibly sensible, balanced, reasonable-sounding fellow from the oil industry. His name – and he is definitely this blog’s Hero of the Week – is Erik Haugane. He’s CEO of a Norwegian oil company called Det Norske, and if he’s anything like as unruffled and intelligent as he seemed on Newsnight, I’d suggest that BP should be headhunting him as their new boss.
Check out his performance on Newsnight here. (His discussion with Leggett is about 8 minutes in. Note how Haugane just won’t bother to engage with the needling and hysteria of the two Jezzas sitting with him. He just calmly tells it like it is).
Yes, oil will run out eventually, conceded Haugane, but added:
“I think we will stop using oil as an energy form long before we stop finding oil.”
“Like the stone age did not end because we ran out of stone, the oil age will not end because we ran out of oil.”
Yes, but what about Deepwater-Horizon-style disasters, Paxman wanted to know, as oil becomes harder to extract?
Ah but as technology develops, so the methods will become available to make it less hard to extract, said Haugane. By far the worst oil disasters in history – such as the spills at Baku in the early 20th century – occurred when the oil industry was in its infancy.
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