Q&A

Why is loss of access to oil such a threat?

This is from Louis Arnoux Looking down the barrel … He says, “Indeed, why be concerned with oil specifically; don’t we have an oil glut and aren’t reserves big enough to last for decades? Or are we talking here about global warming, climate change and “stranded oil assets”? Well no, as we will soon see, the loss of access to energy from oil is taking place independently from any climate change policies and it is also taking place much sooner and more rapidly than global warming impacts. So the immediate key point is that presently access to all other forms of energy depends on transport fuels and that access to transport fuels is about 95% dependent on oil. Let’s stress this further. The loss of access to bioenergy and to oil-derived transport fuels translates into loss of access to all other fossil fuels and also to all the so-called “alternative” energies (photovoltaic, wind, etc.) as well as access to nuclear power. This is why achieving a thorough understanding of oil depletion has become vital. Without understanding the loss of access to oil, we cannot figure out how best to address the global demand for something else.”

I don’t understand the relationship between oil prices and debt. Why can’t we just borrow more?

This is from Nafeez Ahmed, Government Agency Warns Global Oil Industry Is on the Brink of a Meltdown summarizing the Finnish Government Report. He says, “The current economic system cannot sustain oil prices above $100 a barrel and keep growing, while producers for most new fields cannot sustain profits at prices as low as $45 a barrel without more borrowing.

According to Dr. Michaux, the global economy is therefore caught between a rock and a hard place. “Oil prices will be held low for a time,” he explained. “The problem is all consumers at all scales in all sectors are saturated with debt. Costs are going up, while the ability to generate wealth is contracting.”

This means that although the oil industry can’t cope with the lower prices, the global economy can’t cope with high prices.”

Why the focus on fossil fuels? Why not on climate change or biodiversity?

Reducing our use and our dependence on fossil fuels would immediately help address these other issues. The focus on climate change and renewables over the last 30+ years has only increased our use and dependence of fossil fuels. Much better to make time for working out how to transition to a post-fossil fuel world while we still have time.

Why do you want the government to support a 4 day week and give more money to people to help reduce their use of fossil fuels? Don’t you think the timing is bad now the government has to help kick-start the economy after Covid 19?

First of all, there is impressive evidence that four day weeks can be more productive than five day ones. See Andrew Barnes on the 4 day week.

Secondly, it has become a major post-covid strategy to promote local and national spending, as the Covid crisis disrupts much global trade and travel.

Thirdly, it provides an opportunity to transition more effectively from dependence on more fossil-fuel intensive global transport systems to less fuel-dependent, more localised ones.

So we feel the very best use of government funding is to begin in the first instance, with the principle of ‘subsidiarity’, where it is more effective – and certainly also more cost-effective – to support innovation at the local level, which is the base from which any form of transition off fossil fuels has to take place.

Why Monday? Why not leave individuals to choose whatever day they want?

A particular day of the week is chosen so people can together have undistracted time to determine priorities for transitioning to a post-fossil fuel future.

Monday is chosen because it follows the weekend and is, symbolically, the beginning of a new week.

We think this all helps to make Monday the best day for people to come together to talk about, learn and plan how to create transition agendas for the days, and then the weeks, months and years ahead.

There’s so much oil around. I think you should support politicians who commit to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

We recommend having a look at the resource section. There’s still plenty of oil available, but it is taking more and more energy to get the energy we want and need. Debt levels, including those needed to finance oil production, are becoming dangerously unsustainable. 

Plans to substitute fossil fuel with renewables like electric vehicles and renewable energy systems is a much larger and more complicated task than currently understood (and also requires fossil fuel to make and manufacture). In the meantime, most modern humans rely on fossil fuels to help meet most of their energy needs (e.g. Industrial food production system now uses more than 10 units of fossil energy to plough, plant, fertilise, harvest, transport, refine, package, store/refrigerate, and deliver 1 unit of food energy to be eaten by humans. Producing 1 calorie food in USA uses 21 calories of fossil energy.) Whether or not oil is left in the ground, we still need to figure out how to meet needs, such as for food, without fossil fuels.

Send us your questions.