A rash of papers, comments and interviews have made us think this recently. It’s not as simple as ‘policymakers are waking up to peak oil’, but that all those groups — and indeed, industry — are increasingly talking about the same issues looming in fossil fuel production, even if they’re using different terminology.
It’s still the rare politician or industry executive who would use the phrase ‘peak oil’. But in the UK, a country for whom domestic oil production decline is very much a concern, the issue has become almost mainstream.
Brazil’s planned new 11-GW hydroelectricity station, to be located in the Amazon jungle, has attracted protests from celebrities from Sting, Sigourney Weaver, and James Cameron, who said it was a “real-life Avatar” situation. It looks like going ahead anyway now that Brazil has sold a contract to build the station, despite protesters arguing that the project will destroy the homes and livelihoods of thousands of people living beside the Xingu River, when 516 square kilometres of land is flooded for the project.
It’s a familiar story for hydropower and one that is increasingly heard with other sources of renewable energy. The impact on local residents (whether by destroying their homes or just their views) and on local flora and fauna is a big issue for many large wind and solar plants, not to mention CCS.
Gas storage has, unsurprisingly, not featured as a prominent issue in the UK general election campaign. The public only notices its gas supply if it fails to arrive at the turn of a knob, and when the bill comes. There is also, as discussed in an earlier post, a remarkable degree of consensus between Labour and Conservative parties about the right way forward. (The Liberal Democrats are also broadly in agreement, although on this as on many issues there is rather more difference between them and the other two parties than there is between Labour and Conservatives.)
However, while the politicians may be all of one mind, and looking for second-order points of difference so they can attack each other, there is a much greater gulf between them and some of Britain’s leading energy experts.
With the right equipment, utilities can remotely switch off a customer’s energy supply during peak demand periods — even a brief cessation can make a big difference when peak power plants are considered.
This is already an established practice in the US for big commercial electricity users, where it’s known as “demand response” and the saved energy is sold on a secondary market.
But are householders willing to let utilities control their energy consumption and their devices like this?
Only, it seems, if they save enough money.
- Grounding of Europe’s jets cancels out volcano CO2 emissions
- Another study finds biofuels are inefficient
- Are Shengen-style agreements for European nuclear and gas feasible?
- A contrarian call: US nat gas shortages could be ‘alarming’ by summer
- How would gasoline tax money be spent?
- Nissan’s Leaf is a multi-billion-dollar gamble
- Oil companies tops for corporate websites