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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 here. And there is a very comprehensive conference report at here. You'll find audio files of the speakers, power point presentations and forum threads.

For in depth information please explore the above. For a brief summary and a few pointers for GP members read on.

The Problem

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 about.


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

Douglas Coker

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ