The End of Oil - Conference Report
This one day conference took place on the 11th of October 2005. It was sponsored
by three organisations; East Anglia Food Link, Power Switch and CRed the
Low Carbon Innovation Centre based at the University of East Anglia. The
conference was very useful, well attended (100s) and broad in scope with
speakers on the development theme (Simms), food (Lang), carbon reduction
(Tovey), sustainable economic systems (Douthwaite) and so on. I couldn't
help noticing that the first contributor from the floor was Mayer Hillman
who said "end of oil ...bloody good thing too" or words to that effect!
John Vidal has reported on the conference in the Guardian
And there is a very comprehensive conference report at
You'll find audio files of the speakers, power point presentations and forum
For in depth information please explore the above. For a brief summary and
a few pointers for GP members read on.
The End of Oil (EoO) theme is getting increasing coverage. We passed Peak
Oil in terms of discovery some time in the 1960s. Peak Oil in terms of
consumption is reckoned by some to have just passed, by others to be imminent
(end of this decade) and by big oil corporates some decades away. In the
meantime demand rises relentlessly. Whatever the actual time scale turns
out to be we have a problem even if the cloud has a silver lining.
Oil depletion and the inevitable price rises which will follow will bring
potentially disastrous destabilising forces to bear across world markets.
Tim Lang's comments on the potential for disruption to the food supply chain
were particularly chilling. Empty supermarket shelves ...doesn't bear thinking
However an impending disaster has prompted a number of encouraging avenues
of exploration by thinkers in the field. So Simms from the development
perspective challenges the conventional understanding of economic growth
and argues for a more meaningful measure of "wellbeing". Meacher talked of
a "transitional economy" which would allow and encourage development of
alternative sources of energy. Keith Tovey on the back of work done by CRed
took us through various alternative energy options and was keen to emphasise
the need to see energy security as an imperative. Richard Douthwaite was
also an advocate of a dramatically different economic system not based on
the assumptions of classical economics.
And the silver lining...
If you consider the EoO alongside GW/CC from a GP perspective then we have
2 problems which in part at least will be solved or ameliorated by the same
solution. The oil is running out and atmospheric CO2 is increasing. Therefore
developing alternative, sustainable energy sources is doubly imperative.
But in our attempt to persuade we now have two strands to the argument. Banging
on about CO2 and the greenhouse effect has so far had limited impact. Let's
monitor the reaction when we present the prospect of rising utility bills,
rising fuel prices, diminishing energy security, empty supermarket shelves
and resource wars. Maybe this will prompt more demand for alternative,
sustainable energy resources and bring on a dramatic energy conservation
programme. I think we need to get used to referring to the End of Oil and
GW/CC in the same breath. It might help the selling/framing problem as well.
A change in trajectory is not only necessary but can also be beneficial.
The speakers were:
Michael Meacher MP
Chris Skrebowski, Editor Petroleum Review
Dr Keith Tovey, CRed Energy Science Director
Richard Douthwaite, Author of When the Wells Run Dry and founder of Feasta
Andrew Simms Policy, Director New Economics Foundation
Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University
The End of Oil - Paul Roberts
The Party's Over - Richard Heinberg
Blood and Oil - Michael Klare
Food Wars - Tim Lang and Michael Heasman