Peak oil fails to register with Gordon Campbell and Carole James

The two main provincial political parties, the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP, don't like talking about peak oil. They both seem to think it's good public policy to build a new multibillion-dollar bridge across the Fraser River.

Today, I've been reading Jeff Rubin's startling new book, Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and The End of Globalization (Random House Canada, $29.95). And I've got to say, it's pretty depressing to think that the two people with a shot at becoming premier both seem completely oblivious about international oil markets.

Rubin is not some left-wing flake who can easily be dismissed by B.C. Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell and NDP Leader Carole James. He's the former chief economist at CIBC World Markets, and he presents a compelling case that the future is not going to be a continuation of the past.

Sky-high oil prices caused the global recession. And as soon as the economy starts to recover, it will likely be hobbled again by rapidly rising oil prices.

This requires some innovative thinking on the part of our provincial leaders. The Greens seem to be the only ones with a clue about the whole nature of peak oil—which suggests that once global oil production peaks (or has peaked), it will result in an inevitable decline in supplies. The mismatch between demand and supply will cause wild price gyrations, crippling economies around the world.

Rubin's analysis of demand for oil in oil-producing countries is particularly riveting. He notes that demand has declined in areas where it was traditionally the strongest—i.e. North America and Western Europe.

However, demand for oil has  risen sharply in oil-producing countries, such as Venezuela, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. That's because governments in those countries have suppressed the price of oil for their own citizens.

"So great is the popular demand for fuel subsidies that in many OPEC countries higher world oil prices actually raise oil consumption, in total defiance of conventional economic logic," Rubin writes. "Subsidies turn what otherwise is rational economic behaviour on its head."

So as supplies decline, overall demand can continue increasing, benefiting OPEC producers. "If you are Hugo Chavez, the oil market is a virtuous cycle where self-indulgence leads to self-enrichment," Rubin writes.

It's too bad that Campbell and James are too busy to read Rubin's book. Because if they did, they would both overhaul their platforms, kill the Gateway Program, and place a lot more emphasis on generating alternative energy.



Stephen Kronstein, BC greens candidate

May 10, 2009 at 1:56am

Let's get prepared then in spite of these two failing politicians and their parties.

The above link will help people understand what peak oil farming will be all about, as food security will be the major challenge in the next decade. Consider that the food on our dinner tables has travelled an average of 5000km by means of cheap oil. This supply line will not last much longer.

According to Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., each mouth will need over half a hectare (or about 1.3 acres) of farmable land to feed it, to provide enough calories over the year, which means land with sufficient levels of essential growing elements like phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen, which is to say not just any old plot of land. We'll need to take the soil to a lab to be sure it can produce food. And lots and lots of humans, not gas powered tractors, will need to work the land.

The Vancouver Lower Mainland is a 4.2 million hectare region, be it paved, residential, commercial, industrial, farm, park or whatever. With 2 million people, that means roughly 2 hectare's per person, while population density on the downtown peninsula is 121 people per hectare. The reality is that there just isn't enough land in the area capable of being farmed, even if every hand were working it.

There's hope. Some insightful few were able to create the Agricultural Land Reserve in 1974, today including 4,716,516 hectares in all of BC, a province of over 4 million people. We'll need to relocate mass amounts of population to make it work, and the government will somehow need to make the ALR available for meaningful production, and soon.

A few of the challenges are that the ALR isn't all class 1 agricultural land, it isn't all within a reasonable distance of the population, and it's currently being farmed with conventional methods, meaning intensive oil-based farming practices, if it's being farmed at all.

What we'll need is traditional farming, breaking the ground with hand and hoe, if we're to expect it to provide more than a season of meaningful production, as the essential growing elements will deplete without oil-based fertilizers and other enrichment materials being trucked in from hundreds of kilometres away. We'll need train lines to bring the food in from the far away BC fields into the cities. We'll need wind, geothermal, tidal and solar in a major way.

A wind turbine, for example, can provide a neighbourhood of 500 homes with meaningful, yet intermittent, power. A big rebuilt model with a 25-year life span costs a bit less than $1million, about $20,000/yr to service, and could pay itself off with energy savings in just a few years.

We don't need two hundred turbines in some far away location, we need one in every neighbourhood, solar panels on homes, solar water heating on roofs, geothermal grants to make it affordable. Private individuals need to be able to produce their own power, civic governments need to produce their own power, and BC Hydro needs to be given free reign to build up new public power generation facilities again, whereas the Liberals have stopped this.

A government in denial could cost many of us our lives, and this is why voting green and supporting STV is so important - the two lead parties just don't get it, or they don't care, because today's votes are the end all for them, rather than our future security.

I'm going to be working hard at this issue beyond the election, because it's obvious a first-past-the-post election is not going to produce anything but politics as usual. Change will need to come from the people governing the government.

Please contact me if you need some guidance, or if you have some ideas.

Stephen Kronstein
BC greens MLA candidate
Vancouver-Point Grey
green @ Kronstein . ca

Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D.

May 10, 2009 at 6:47am

Peak Oil is the most important issue facing the world.

Global crude oil production peaked in 2008 and oil production is now declining terminally.

Within a year or two, oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production is now declining from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

"By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."

With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, water supply, waste water treatment, and automated building systems.

Documented here:


May 10, 2009 at 11:44am

Natural gas reserves are huge and a viable alternative to oil. 80% of the gas wells on the prairies are and have been capped for decades. Oil reserves off the coast have yet to be fully explored. Although research and development should be vigorously pursued, the doom and gloom is tiring and getting old.

Charlie Smith

May 10, 2009 at 2:49pm

Stephen Kronstein has offered some thoughtful comments. The Vancouver Peak Oil Executive is a group of citizens that have also been trying to elevate awareness and start some planning. One of the members, Rick Balfour, has focused a great deal of attention on food security in Metro Vancouver. For more info:

Here's a book worth reading:
Strategic Sustainable Planning: A Civil Defense Manual for Cultural Survival, by Richard Balfour and Eileen McAdam Keenan (Old City Foundation Press)

Eric Chris

May 10, 2009 at 3:49pm

Charlie, being an economist doesn’t mean that you’re a prophet; it just means that you weren't smart enough to get accepted into law, engineering or medicine. Peak oil is irrelevant to building bridges, freeways and roads for vehicles.

Within a very short time, everyone is going to be driving electric cars with electricity derived from power plants which are at least twice as efficient as internal combustion engines in cars. You have your head in the sand and expect everyone to take transit because it suits you. Transit does not suit me and many other independent individuals who want the freedom to do as we please in our own vehicle.

Suggested reading are my article and comment on April 23, 2009 “Cut emissions with new electric cars, not buses” in the Georgia Straight. By the way, I voted Green already in the advance polling, even though I don’t agree completely with Stephen’s (Green candidate) views or your views.

Charlie Smith

May 10, 2009 at 3:54pm

Trust me, I don't have faith in economists as prophets. Economists have been denying what the petroleum geologists have been saying for years. Rubin, however, is one economist who pays attention to the petroleum geologists. Most of the others don't.


May 10, 2009 at 5:48pm

The Green Party's existence rides on the brand name of the European Green movement who with their MMP electoral systems can actually get elected. Greenies cannot ever elect a single person in the First Past the Post system and it appears that STV is a lost cause. All you will ever do is in every election is allow Neocon's like Harpo, Gordo, and George Bush to get elected just about every single time.

Your kind is despised in the US after your leader Ralph Nader elected George Bush and sent the greatest Green politician the world has known Al Gore to the sidelines. Your odious participation in that election gave us a million dead Iraqis', a fatal 10 year hiatus in the global warming war and the worst global recession in 80 years. Listen to progressive leaders like Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, and Dennis Kucinich describing their disgust for the now thankfully decimated American Green party.

You elected Gordon Campbell last time, Stephen Harper twice and put BC and Canada back years in the battle against global warning. You have caused enormous damage to my county, my province and my planet.

You are the spoiled little boy who because the other neighborhood kids wouldn't play by your rules, took your ball away and went home so nobody could play. Lots of Green politicians are running for the NDP and have made enormous progress in turning that party towards sustainable policies. Yes much more needs to be done. If you weren't such a bunch a silly destructive children you could have signed up Green supporters by the thousands to NDP memberships, taking over entire constituency associations, sending green delegates to policy conventions, nominating green candidates and making sure the party went in your direction. Stephen Harper even showed you how to do it with his Christian fundamentalist takeover of the Progressive Conservative party. In fact in the last several days Carole James has been inviting you to do just that.

Unfortunately instead of coming up with a policies and campaigns to save the world, Canadian progressives first have to spend our energy eliminating your odious presence from the Canadian electoral scene just as the Americans have eliminated you from theirs.

On this same page you have an opinion from Stephen Kronstein who seems to have studied photojournalism at Kwantlen. Yet he talks about things like hoeing fields, locating wind mills in suburbs, solar power on roofs. Not a clue does he have about baseload power, what happens when the wind hits 50 mph and the grid saturates, what happens when there is no wind for weeks on end, when the wind varies up and down thirty mph every thirty seconds, what happens at nighttime in the winter and early morning, late afternoon when there is no solar energy and the enormous cost of such a silly scheme. Has he ever had to spend days out in the field hoeing. I very much doubt it. And yet Charlie you call those thoughtful comments???

Why is it none of the parties have addressed the obvious telecommuting and 3 day work week methods which alone would eliminate half the vehicle traffic from our road. Why is it none of the parties have asked why so many of our goods travel by truck when far cheaper barge and rail transportation is already available.

Global warming is a serious issue and requires serious treatment not the nonsense that the Green party, the cons (80% who don't believe in global warming) , and yes the NDP have come with. It's much too late for pirate power, hydro dams, carbon Taxes/ Cap n'Trade. windmills, solar and geothermal power. As James Lovelock has shown only a massive mass produced nuclear power construction effort has any chance of getting us ahead of the curve and the cost of that process is far less than the solar/wind scenario.

I would agree with the Kevin Washbrook's proposal for a climate change citizens assembly as the only likely method of getting the resources necessary to attack the impending end of civilization.


May 10, 2009 at 6:10pm

Peak Oil can be mitigated with new exploration technology which provides a threefold increase in oil field discoveries.
Andrey Berg, Ph.D
San Jacinto, CA


May 10, 2009 at 6:25pm

I've been following Rubin for 6 years now, even before I actually heard about Hubberts "Peak Oil" and Charlie is right about him being one of the best informed Peak Oilers in the world today.

As for Stephen Kronstein's political endorsement of the "insightful few", meaning the BCNDP's ALR where he said,
<blockquote>"There's hope. Some insightful few were able to create the Agricultural Land Reserve in 1974, today including 4,716,516 hectares in all of BC, a province of over 4 million people.</blockquote>

How convenient for him to try and ride the coat tails of one of the most forward thinking policies of its time, the BCNDP's Agricultural Land Reserve truly shows that they were Green and sustainable before it was even considered stylish back in 1974. Back then the Greens didn't even exist. Now, they pretend they are the only party that ever thought a green thought just because they go by that same name. With such disingenuous commentary from a Green candidate, I would question their true motives and ability.

The BCNDP are the only party that can stop 8 years of Gordon Campbell's total neglect. Why else would environmentalists like Alexandra Morton, GreenPeace and others switch from the greens publicly to the <a href="">New Democratic Party of British Columbia</a>


May 10, 2009 at 10:11pm

seth and Shepsil's comments are absolutely correct. Thanks to both of you for posting them.

I was not aware of the NDP's agricultural land reserve, and I hadn't considered the fact that the North American Greens were inspired by the Europeans, yet they have proportional representation and we do not.

Voters, the NDP is a left party. Stop buying the BS put out there by Campbell, stop dividing the left. Unite, vote intelligently, prevent CampHarperbell from staying in power and selling even more of the province to corporations who will do much more harm than anything saved by the misled carbon tax, which targets consumers rather than producers, effectively leaving any change to the market, which will take years. The NDP will put in place a Cap n Trade system, targetting producers rather than consumers, and will save the province from being sold off. What the hell more could you want, realistically?

No mainstream politicians will place high priority on Peak Oil until awareness becomes as common as Climate Change has become. Put your energy into spreading awareness, the politicians will follow. In the meantime, resist voting Green and pray that STV passes.