Letter to The Economist magazine

Your leader (‘Yesterday’s fuel’ August 3rd2013) is correct in asserting that advances in automotive efficiency and certain environmental (essentially energy efficiency) policies will ceteris paribus reduce global demand for oil. This is precisely why so many peak oil organisations are lobbying explicitly for incentives for energy efficiency, such as replacing or reducing income taxes with the introduction or increase of oil and gas taxes. 


The critical question though is whether these policies can be implemented quickly enough to keep demand for oil close enough to current production levels to avoid socially catastrophic increases in petrol prices, and therefore food prices, like those seen in 2008.   Steady, incremental increases in oil prices will usefully stimulate research and development in automotive efficiency.  However, increases that occur too rapidly could trigger riots and wars that stop researchers even reaching their labs.   While we have better technology in 2013 than 2008, we have less oil and more people driving more cars and eating more food. Moreover, the 'few million barrels a day unconventional oil will displace by 2020' is cold comfort on sight of any graph of annual oil discoveries and its unrecovered collapse since 1965.


Politicians who bridle at raising petrol taxes should reflect on how their careers could be affected by dramatic increases in food prices amidst revelations that they were advised of a crisis they could have averted.

Edward Smith


ACT Peak Oil Inc.