Mobilizing society in the face of peak oil

After more than a century of ever increasing production and consumption of oil, the Earth is being depleted, and the concept of “peak oil”, hitherto ignored, has become a pressing reality. This strain is already becoming evident through the use of extraction methods that require ever greater amounts of energy, resources and investment.

The fact that a resource is finite means that its extraction rate will grow, reach a maximum, plateau, and finally decline. Inexpensive and easy-to-access oil follows this pattern. Most experts, including the International Energy Agency, admit that it reached its global production peak a few years ago.

Despite the recent discoveries of new oil fields reported in the media, the world keeps consuming each year more oil than is discovered through exploration. The extraction of hard-to-access oil – so-called non-conventional oil (tar sands, shale oil, deep-water offshore fields…) – will be much more expensive and, more importantly, much slower. It will therefore be unable to prevent the decrease in global oil production, following a plateau that is expected to last only until 2015-2020. Alternative energies, even if they are vigorously developed, cannot compensate for the reduction in oil production, either in quantity or in cost of production. No substitute for liquid fuels is available today at the scale of current or future demand.

It is inevitable that less energy and fewer resources will be available to us in the future, the more so as the world’s population is increasing and developing countries are industrializing rapidly. Furthermore, oil-exporting countries are using an ever-increasing share of their production to fuel their own development.

The fact is that the functioning of modern societies depends upon sustained economic growth, which goes hand in hand with escalating consumption of energy and resources.

It is therefore urgent that we anticipate the inexorable descent of energy availability. The physical limits should trigger a real transition of society toward a major decrease of our dependence on non-renewable resources through a profound change in our behavior, in the organization of our nation (land use, infrastructure) and of our economy. If this transition is not anticipated and planned for, it will take place in a chaotic manner, with disastrous economic consequences, such as occurred in the subprime crisis. The foundations of democracy and peace could thus be threatened.

In this context, it is essential that policy makers, but also all social and economic actors as well as citizens become aware of this issue and demonstrate foresight, in order to forestall the very real risk to social cohesion and the functioning of all vital sectors of our community.

The signatories invite all candidates for future elections to take into account this urgent situation. They call on the candidates to take a stand on this issue through debates and concrete policy proposals. These proposals need to be consistent with the physical reality of resource extraction and must enable us to cope with the upcoming decrease in energy available to our society.

Signatories :

  • Pierre René Bauquis -    Former Director of Strategy and Planning at Total
  • Jean-Marie Bourdaire -    Former  Director of Economic Studies at Total, former Director of Studies at WEC
  • Yves Cochet -    European Deputy, former Environment Minister.
  • Jean-Marc Jancovici –     Consultant, energy and CO2 issues, ASPO France
  • Jean Laherrère -    Former Chief of Exploration Technologies at Total
  • Yves Mathieu -    Former Hydrocarbon Reserves Project Manager at the Institut Francais du Petrole (French Petroleum Institute)
  • Philippe Labat -    Oil Consultant
  • Jean-Luc Wingert -    Consultant, ASPO France
  • Bernard Durand -    Former Director of the Geology Division at the Institut Francais du Petrole
  • Jacques Varet -    Former Director of Prospecting at BRGM, former President of Eurogeosurveys

Note : Translation also published on Energy Bulletin