Did UK Government Ignore Peak Oil Warnings, Or Did It Lie?

peak oil government lie photo

Image credit: Bart Everson, used under Creative Commons license.

Yesterday I posted about evidence that UK government ministers dismissed peak oil warnings from their own staff as "alarmist and irrelevant", but evidence is mounting that this was more than just ignoring a particular viewpoint. George Monbiot writes over at The Guardian that it looks increasingly like the government deliberately lied to keep the public in the dark. We already know that the UK government has been holding secret talks on peak oil, and what it means for the country's economy—which was seen by some as a hopeful sign that the problem was finally being taken seriously. Nevertheless, Monbiot asserts that while officials stated that "peak oil was nothing to worry about", they were being presented with very real, very damning evidence to the contrary. Evidence that they were refusing to share.

Noting that Ministers based their keep-calm-and-carry-on response to peak oil on statistics from the International Energy Agency that peak oil was decades away, but that many other indicators suggested it was a more immediate problem, Monbiot asks why they chose to focus on an outlier, not the broader trend. And when Monbiot then interviewed IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, and he revealed that the peak would come by 2020 (Birol has since gone on record stating that no government is prepared for peak oil, and that conventional production may have already peaked in 2006), he repeated a previous Freedom of Information Act request to find out what preparations the government had made for peak oil:

So I sent the government another request: in the light of what the IEA has revealed, what contingency plans has the UK now made? The response amazed me: "With sufficient investment, the government does not believe that global oil production will peak between now and 2020 and consequently we do not have any contingency plans specific to a peak in oil production."

What on Earth, asks Mr Monbiot, was going on?

More on Peak Oil and Politics
No Government is Prepared for Peak Oil, Says IEA Chief Economist (Again)
Peak Oil Alarm Raised By Secret Government Talks
UK Government Ministers Dismissed Peak Oil Warnings

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