January 22, 2012 | Ronda Jambe

The unctuous business of peak oil

Governments hiding information that we taxpayers have paid to produce is nothing new.  It is practiced by both sides of politics, and was one of the issues that sometimes brought me to grief as a public affairs officer in Canberra. The other side of the coin, throwing publications at people who haven’t asked for them, was another all too frequent waste of money.

But the expose by Piers Akerman in the Daily Telegraph (January 20) on the disappearance of a report documenting the coming shortage of oil in Australia reveals that the government has gone beyond peccadillo and is operating in the realm of serious public disempowerment.


I will leave it to readers to query why the government report from 2009 is no longer publicly available, and to thank Akerman for this service to journalism. The paper shos how oil production will decline, with little time to prepare, with obvious implications for our economy and security.

For the sceptical, and thanks to our active and vigilent civil society, the report can be found on the Australian Institute of Energy website: http://aie.org.au/StaticContent/Images/Report_120106.pdf

Not good enough in a democracy.

Other government reports that are still publicly available soft pedal peak oil and the coming tipping point towards expensive liquid fuels. For example, an urban planning discussion paper last year only gently referred to the need to insulate our cities from óil shocks’, without acknowledging the tremendous impact this will have on urban jobs and viability, or the need to urgently improve public transport. I know, because I helped draft a submission for the peak oil group in Canberra on this.

Even more disturbing is the government’s Draft Energy White Paper. Because it is a long document, 325 pages, and I would rather pull weeds in the local community garden than read through that guff, I used my standard lazy approach:  search the pdf file for all instances of the term ‘peak oil’. There was only one mention on page 65, and that was in brackets with quotes around it, as if to emphasise that this is fringe dweller’s terminology.

I found this absence rather bizarre, so I skimmed through the exec summary. No mention that oil production anywhere has peaked, only a few polite phrases about Australia’s production capacity possibly being constrained in the future, and other oblique hints that they know full well what the score is, but prefer to head off in another direction that will bring in good revenue perhaps.

Then I looked at the list of energy publications in the Energy White Paper, Appendix F. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, who produced the 2009 report, is not listed, even under a previous name. Others departments and organisations are listed, where one might find the Truth. But for clarity, consistency, evidence based policy making and accountability, surely citizens need to know what the government knows but wants to keep quiet. There is no divine right of government.

It  is hard to understand such a blinkered and stubborn persistence to delay reality, as the rest of the world is awash not in oil, but in reports confirming that supplies will not be able to meet demand. The reference to peak oil on page 65 of the energy white paper said supplies aren’t expected to peak before 2035, whereas Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency, has been quoted saying crude oil production probably happened in 2006.

It is like paramedics chatting about what size bandaid to use while a patient is bleeding to death.

But there are other sources of information, and I recommend to you the upcoming Australian tour by Nicole Foss, energy and finance expert. She is not in denial of peak oil and has some plausible observations on what it might mean. It ain’t pretty, but avoiding action to deal with the inevitable, as our government seems to be doing, is not a good plan.

The Facebook page for her Australian tour can be found at

I would prefer to receive realistic information from the people I pay to plan for our country’s future, rather than read unctuous platitudes based on wishful thinking. Sometimes you just want to get the grease off your hands to rid yourself of the feeling of being played for a patsy.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 3:52 pm | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. It is interesting that our own government seems to be using the Orwellian tactic of changing the facts to suit a distorted political agenda. The energy landscape where the declining avilability of easily accessable cheap oil is uncontestable and the science is well known. I expect better from our politicians and bureaucrats. Thank you for pointing out this issue.

    Perhaps the European’s promise to impose a sanction on the purchase of Iran’s oil supply from July 2012 will shortcut Iran’s threat to close the Straight of Hormuz. Maybe this is a red flag the world that the oil supply is more fragile than is being admitted(particularly by the Australian Government). We need to stay informed and alert to the rubbish sometimes contained in government policy papers.

    I want cheap sustainable energy to power my car,my home and to deliver my food and other goodies. Maybe that is naieve. We will soon see.

    Comment by George — January 24, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  2. Why all this focus on oil.We have abundant gas and coal that we flog off cheaply to the rest of the world.They used coal burners on cars here during WW2 when there was an oil shortage.Cars are easily converted to gas.

    There is no energy shortage just a lack of will to explore alternatives.The elites have two major ways of controlling us:
    1/ Creating and controlling the money supply.
    2/ Owning & controlling the major energy sources.
    You can be rest assured that the world oil reserves are under stated to keep the price high.

    Japan is just starting to explore a combination of hydrogen power and fossil fuels.Water via electrolysis can produce the cleaness energy available.( ie H2 + O) This has the capacity of doubling our present fuel reserves while halving the amount of pollution.

    What the elites really fear is a cheap abundant source of enegy that they cannot control.Hydrogen energy from water is one of those energy sources.

    Rule No 1 by George Carlin is,” Believe nothing your Govt tells you.”

    Comment by Ross — January 26, 2012 @ 8:49 am

  3. George Carlin was (is?) a comic genius.

    Gas is a fossil fuel, thorium is a possibility. Coal is now morally and physically inadvisable, but the money it brings blinkers our gov’s eyes.

    Problem is our pollies aren’t planning for the urban and transport and food supply solutions, much less the renewable energy sources, that would make the transition to non-fossil fuels bearable, much less adapting to the climate change that is already upon us.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — January 28, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  4. this article says economics of diminishing supply, not the environment, will push the world away from oil:


    Comment by Ronda Jambe — January 28, 2012 @ 8:29 am

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