22 April 2010

In a 2006 speech, Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry, S.Iswaran, readily accepted the EIA's projections that oil will not peak before 2030.

The EIA estimates that oil production will not peak before 2030. World reserves-to-production ratio for natural gas is 67 years, and 180 years for coal. Rising energy prices will also spur more oil and gas exploration and increasingly render unconventional oil, such as tar sands, economically viable. In essence, actual physical reserves of fossil fuels do not appear to be the limiting factor in meeting increasing energy demand in the next few decades. Speech Link
Even as late as Nov 2007, MTI's Energy Report debunked the notion of an early peak oil date:
For oil and gas, proven reserves are estimated to be sufficient for only around 40 and 63 years of 2006 levels of consumption respectively. Nevertheless, oil and gas production is not expected to peak within the next two to three decades. With more exploration and improvements in extraction technologies, substantial new reserves will be added. Since 1980, globally proven oil reserves have expanded by 81 per cent, while proven gas reserves have more than doubled (p.13)
Fast forward to today, it appears that S.Iswaran and the Singapore government have acknowledged that peak oil might have arrived much sooner than expected as evident in the 2010 Economic Strategies Committee's report on "Ensuring Energy Resilience and Sustainable Growth":
There is a growing thirst for energy – driven primarily by Asia’s urbanisation and economic development – and the cost of energy production is rising as traditional sources of energy are depleted and the world turns to unconventional fuels that are more difficult to extract. (p.84) Report Link.
The report does not mention the term "Peak Oil", almost as if it were taboo, but it conveys essentially the same message with the words "traditional sources of energy are depleted and the world turns to unconventional fuels that are more difficult to extract." How euphemistic, isn't it?

Unfortunately, whatever measures that we take now to mitigate the effects of peak oil will probably be too little, too late (See the 2005 Hirsch Report which calls for a mitigation program 20 years before the peak). There will be painful social, cultural, economic and political readjustments in a post-peak world.

The Singapore government's continued insistence on senseless economic and population growth only reinforces my pessimism about our future survival in a world that is deep into overshoot, and my pessimism will only increase unless they begin to see the fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental conservation and the need to abandon the fraudulent GDP as a measure of human progress, welfare and happiness.

Years from now, Singaporeans will quote a Cree proverb to educate their children and grandchildren on the folly of relentless economic growth at the expense of true environmental sustainability.

Only after the last tree has been cut down,

Only after the last river has been poisoned,

Only after the last fish has been caught,

Only then you will find out that money cannot be eaten.

-Cree Indian Proverb
Related Links:

Singapore Government's (MINDEF) Policies To Tackle Peak Oil
Peak Oil for Policymakers


alvin said...

Hello, TM, very interesting blog here. I learnt a lot from your engaging arguments and in fact share your view that economic "growth"=progress is like religious dogma of our age. I do hope to see more posts coming from you, but in the meantime, instead of outsourcing everything to the government, do you think there are any steps that citizens can take up at the local level to incite social change?

TM said...

Hi Alvin, thank you for your comments. What can Singapore citizens do? That's a tough question. Informed citizens in other countries have started "Relocalization" initiatives and established "Transition Towns" and "Ecovillages" where they adopt "Appropriate Technology" to adapt to a post-peak, post-industrial world where self-sufficiency and community resilience will be more important than monetary profits or corporate growth. I think it's difficult to do that in Singapore because of our high degree of urbanisation and immense population density which are made possible only because of concentrated energy sources in the form of fossil fuels which, as we all know, are finite in quantity.

I started this blog because I wanted to create awareness of the root cause of our current environmental and economic problems: excessive growth. I suppose the least Singapore citizens could do now is to write to their grassroot leaders and Members of Parliament and voice their concerns about peak oil and UN-economic growth. I also share related articles and blog posts with my family and friends, but be warned: most will likely reactly badly when you tell them that the heydays of economic growth and prosperity are over. I won't be blogging much these days, but I highly recommend the following for commentary on current events:


Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing the link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at sgentropy.blogspot.com have a mirror or another source?


TM said...

Hi Charlie, I have updated the link to the ESC report.