September 11, 2010 at 12:20AM
by Jim Motavalli
I understand why people don't listen to wild-eyed conspiracy theorists about the coming calamity of peak oil. Instead, they go to recognized experts like Daniel Yergin (author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power), who tells them that everything is OK and the black gold will keep pumping for many decades to come.
But it ain't necessarily so. And would you believe Lloyd's of London? Lloyd's has joined with the well-respected Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, to say that Britain (and presumably the rest of the world) needs to be ready for peak oil and erratic energy supplies.
"Companies which are able to take advantage of this new energy reality will increase both their resilience and their competitiveness," according to the report, Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business. The report, says Lloyd's chief executive officer, Dr. Richard Ward, "should cause all risk managers to pause." I guess so!
According to the report:
- Businesses that prepare for the new scarcity will prosper, and failure to act could be catastrophic.
- Access to relatively cheap, combustible, carbon-based energy is an outmoded expectation, caused by surging energy consumption in the Third World, a range of factors affecting conventional fuel production, and "international recognition that continuing to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will cause climate chaos."
- The importance of China and emerging Asian economies in energy markets will grow. Chinese oil consumption is rising rapidly, as is Chinese coal production. "Third, their energy security policies are driving investment in clean energy technologies on an unprecedented scale."
- We are heading towards a global oil supply crunch and price spike on international markets. Said spike would prompt "drastic national measures to cut oil dependency."
- Climate change will make energy infrastructure increasingly vulnerable. Global warming itself imperils oil production and delivery due to "severe weather events." For investors, this means betting on instability makes sense.
- Businesses have to address energy risks by reducing oil consumption. In addition to natural scarcity, companies will face regulation such as carbon pricing and cap and trade.
- Investment in renewable energy and "intelligent infrastructure" presents "huge opportunities for new business partnerships." The smart grid is the wave of the future, but in clean energy too there will be scarcities and higher costs. Plus vulnerabilities in a system increasingly dependent on IT.
I don't know about you, but I'm not sensing ungrounded theorizing here. This is sober analysis, and we need to pay close attention.
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