We spent some of our Christmas vacation travelling around England by train. The weather was pretty horrid and snow storms closed down much of the country’s transportation for days at a time. Some of our transit days were spent crammed into carriages which were available in insufficient numbers to cater for the amount of people travelling over the Christmas period.
The one leg we really did enjoy was from Wales to London on a Virgin express train. It was new, clean, stylish and fast. From the Irish Sea to London in about 4 hours. That is how train travel is supposed to be.
Anyway, as I stared out the window and watched towns flit by, I started wondering whether Richard Branson was aware of Peak Oil. After all, he seems like a really smart guy and his business empire is so reliant on the availability of cheap oil. I wondered whether this was the reason he was moving towards train travel rather than sticking to airlines. Well, my question was answered yesterday when I saw the following article in The Guardian.
This is what the Peak Oil movement needs. A smart, well-respected entrepreneur to bring this subject into mainstream dialogue. Let’s hope this gains some momentum.
Sir Richard Branson and fellow leading businessmen will warn ministers this week that the world is running out of oil and faces an oil crunch within five years.
The founder of the Virgin group, whose rail, airline and travel companies are sensitive to energy prices, will say that the coming crisis could be even more serious than the credit crunch.
“The next five years will see us face another crunch – the oil crunch. This time, we do have the chance to prepare. The challenge is to use that time well,” Branson will say.
“Our message to government and businesses is clear: act,” he says in a foreword to a new report on the crisis. “Don’t let the oil crunch catch us out in the way that the credit crunch did.”
Their call for urgent government action comes amid a wider debate on the issue and follows allegations by insiders at the International Energy Agency that the organisation had deliberately underplayed the threat of so-called “peak oil” to avoid panic on the stock markets.
Ministers have until now refused to take predictions of oil droughts seriously, preferring to side with oil companies such as BP and ExxonMobil and crude producers such as the Saudis, who insist there is nothing to worry about.
But there are signs this is about to change, according to Jeremy Leggett, founder of the Solarcentury renewable power company and a member of a peak oil taskforce within the business community. “[We are] in regular contact with government; we have reason to believe their risk thinking on peak oil may be evolving away from BP et al’s and we await the results of further consultations with keen interest.”
The issue came up at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos where Thierry Desmarest, chief executive of the Total oil company in France, also broke ranks. The world could struggle to produce more than 95m barrels of oil a day in future, he said – 10% above present levels. “The problem of peak oil remains.”
Chris Skrebowski, an independent oil consultant who prepared parts of the peak oil report for Branson and others, said that only recession is holding back a crisis: “The next major supply constraint, along with spiking oil prices, will not occur until recession-hit demand grows to the point that it removes the current excess oil stocks and the large spare capacity held by Opec. However, once these are removed, possibly as early as 2012-13 and no later than 2014-15, oil prices are likely to spike, imperilling economic growth and causing economic dislocation.”