Presentations from WinACC's Science and Technology Panel at WinACC's open meeting on 4 June 2011 led to discussion about oil. Will oil supplies soon fall short of demand across the globe?  What's the relationship between oil and climate change? Where do rising oil prices fit in? Have we reached "peak oil" and what do we do if we have?

The meeting concluded that we need to plan the transition to a low carbon world now. See press release.

In the last century, world economic growth has run parallel with oil supply.  Now, we may be at or past the peak of global oil production from conventional sources.  Within a few years, the world is likely to face the reality of oil shortages and more rising prices. Unless society acts now, oil shortages will have a very serious effect on the global economy. 

Oil and its derivatives are our most important transport fuels. Just as important, oil is an essential ingredient of many things we use every day, from plastics to fertilisers to pharmaceuticals. 

We need to find a way to cut our dependence on oil. We mustn’t look for other fossil fuel alternatives such as oil from Canadian oil sands and other unconventional sources for three reasons. They are likely to be too expensive to help the economy. They may be impossible to produce in the quantities required. And, above all, they will seriously damage the environment, both in the manner of their production and by their emission of greenhouse gases when burnt.

We need to treat oil as a rare and precious resource. It really is liquid gold. We need to save it for uses where there is no alternative or where it can be re-cycled and use other sources of energy for electricity, transport and travel.

 This short cartoon conveys more than 1000 words.

Add your views to the WinACC discussion forum on this topic here.