Anyone who has heard Jeremy Leggett speak before will know that he has just the right combination of anger and passion to hold an audience's rapt attention on the subject of the looming energy crisis. His fiery rhetoric combined with Guardian journalist Ashley Seager's incisive questions and witty repartee made for a dynamic discussion last week about what is inherently a very depressing subject. What is the UK Government doing to prepare itself for the reality of the peak oil? The answer, according to Leggett, is worryingly and frustratingly little. This second event in The Glasshouse's Green Shoots series showed how educational and motivating these networking events can be."There is no conspiracy here, it's a human thing, a set of cultures that are programmed to be overly optimistic." This was Jeremy Leggett's generous opener on why governments and industry refuse to accept that Peak Oil is nearly upon us. From then on in his views became a lot sharper and more pointed. In answer to Ashley Seager's question "Has Peak Oil Arrived?" Leggett responded that while we can't be sure today "We're going to find out, on our watch, who is right in the next few years."
Leggett went on to talk about the futility of drilling in tar sands, the drying up of the North Sea oil fields and how "nuclear is a vampire". He definitely wasn't painting a pretty picture, using the now well known analogy of the world as a drug addict. Most frustrating to him is the UK government's lack of motivation to plan a pro-active strategy for an energy crisis. A chief economist for the Government told Leggett that "There's no threat, we believe BP and OPEC". This is the belief, consistently printed in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, that we have 40 years supply of oil left. Ashley Seager responded to this news with a succinct "But still, 40 years isn't very long!"
On the more motivational side Jeremy Leggett said that while it's too late to avoid the energy crisis he does believe that we will see a "broad, deep survival family of technologies" working to provide us with energy. Even though the renewables sector is growing fast Leggett thinks that "survival technologies have been held back for too long," and that this will have to become a "renaissance story" with a movement of critical mass akin to the preparation of the war effort in 1939 and the building of the Lancaster Bombers. He asked the Green Shoots audience, made up of high flying entrepreneurs and investors, to be "proactive in any which way you can."
Encouraged by multi-national companies such as Wal-Mart taking a proactive approach to sustainability and Sweden's plan to get out of oil in less than 15 years, Leggett hopes that the UK Government "will discover that they have a mandate for leadership," and stop doing "stupid things like investing in white elephants that can't turn up to the part in time." Given the fact that the UK only generates 2% of its energy from renewable sources, coming in third from bottom in Europe's renewables league table, with only Malta and Luxembourg below them, it looks like there's a lot of work to be done before the party starts.