Thu Jun 29th, 2006 at 04:54:30 AM EST
As you might know, due to the worries over peak oil the Swedish government created a "commission against the oil dependence" (chaired by the PM himself), which has held several televised hearings on oil and alternative energy. It has now released its report on these subjects.
From the diaries - whataboutbob
The target has been an elimination of the oil dependence in 2020. By this one has not meant that no oil should be used in Sweden in 2020 but that there should be adequate alternatives should the price of oil increase further.
The commission has been led by prime minister Göran Persson and has consisted of people from academia and executives of large corporations (like Volvo), a former boss of the powerful metalworker's union and powerful lobbies (especially the farmers and forestry lobbies). In my opinion this has coloured the findings of the commission quite a bit.
But before we look at their solutions, let's look at their opinion of peak oil.
- According to the international oil industry there were originally 6000-8000 billion barrels of oil in the ground, of which 3000-4000 billion should be exploitable, and of these 1000 barrels have been produced. On top of this comes maybe 1000 billion barrels of unconventional oil. At the current rate of consumption this should be adequate for 100 years.
- IEA says that oil will peak in 2020-2030 but BP says 2015-2020. The experts of ASPO (The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas) says oil will peak in 2010 and that production will decline fast after that.
- The commission agrees with the results of the study made by the Royal Academy of Science, which in short is that:
- For every barrel found three are consumed, global demand is increasing by 2 % per annum while most producing countries show decreasing production.
- Known reserves are 900-1200 billion barrels, maybe a total of 1300 billion barrels might yet be found.
- The Mideast is a key area with 60 % of the worlds oil reserves. These and some of the other big producing countries are characterised by political unrest.
- Oil prices will remain high due to increasing demand in industrialised countries and increasing demand in industrialising countries like India and China.
All in all, the commission believes in peak oil and seems to think it might happen pretty soon.
Then, what does the commission tell us we should do? First of all they tell us that what we do must not endanger the sustainable growth of the Swedish economy nor that the solutions sought by Sweden are optimal for all other countries. By this they mean that Sweden is a large forested country with a small population and hence has a very good potential for biofuels, which they call "the green gold of Sweden".
The prime minister hugs some gold
Then what concrete measures do they advocate?
- Energy consumption should be cut by 20 % through efficiency in 2020.
- Oil heating should be completely eliminated in 2020.
- Gasoline and diesel use by road transports, including the transports required by farming, forestry, fishing and construction should be cut by 40-50 % until 2020.
- Industry should cut its oil use by 25-40 % until 2020.
Reaching these "extraordinary ambitious" goals will require "very powerful investments" in the three sectors of heating, industry and transportation.
Giant push for biofuels
Due to the special Swedish situation with few people on lots of land (and the influence of the farm and forest lobby...) a special focus has been put on biofuels.
- Forest growth should be increased by 15-20 % by more efficient forestry and highly intensive production on a few percent of the forest area.
- Energy crops should be planted on 300.000-500.000 hectares of used and unused farm land.
- Pilot and demonstration plants for "second generation" biofuels like forest ethanol should be built.
The only conflict among the members of the report is that the professor of resource theory argue that import restrictions on foreign biofuels (Brazilian ethanol) should be eliminated while the forest and farm lobbies of course think that they should remain.
While Sweden use almost no oil (or other fossil fuel) for power generation, Sweden is a part of the European grid which is to a high degree powered by fossil fuels. Reducing electricity consumption in Sweden will mean exports of clean power to the Continent will increase and hence total CO2 emissions will decrease. The commission strenously focuses on that the power demands of industry must be met in a secure way.
The commission propose that state and industry cooperate to:
- Reduce power consumption by 40 % in the non energy intensive industry.
- Increase domestic renewable power generation. Wind power should be expanded to 10 TWh in 2015 (current power consumption is 150 TWh). Combined heat and power plants should generate 25 TWh of power in 2010. Already exploited rivers could be further exploited for hydroelectricity.
- Electrical heating of houses should be reduced.
The commission does not think there should be any large scale introduction of natural gas in the Swedish energy system. It would reduce security of supply, increase emissions of CO2 and (most importantly) become a threat to the biofuels industry (hmm, who wrote this report again?).
The current small system of natural gas on the western coast should be used in a rational way, and if industries want to use natural gas instead of oil they should use train, truck or ship transported LNG. No more pipelines should be built.
To reach the target of reducing the consumption of diesel and gasoline by 40-50 % there are two main plans. One is making lots of biofuels and is described above. The other is efficiency and new technology.
- More diesel vehicles as they are 25-30 % more efficient than their gasoline equivalents. Like in the US, in Sweden diesel vehicles are rare compared to the situation on the Continent.
- Hybrid vehicles in general and plug-in hybrids in particular.
- Swedish cars are old and inefficient. The Swedish car fleet should become younger.
- Cars should be lighter.
- More goods should be transported by ship and rail, less on truck.
- Make mass transit cheaper and more attractive.
- Build high speed rail.
- Reduce air travel.
- Increase telecommuting.
There are lots of other stuff in the report but I can't bother to write all the tax and regulations changes. Sadly the report has not been translated into English.
Criticism of the report
While the report is very welcome as it puts more light on the vitally important energy issues, it's not in any way perfect.
The focus on biofuels is understandable as Sweden is a large forested country, but it is also heavily influenced by the farm and forestry lobbies. The report does nothing to help say, Belgium, to get out of the oil trap. This focus on Sweden as an isolated island is another important problem with this report. What will happen with the global economy when we hit peak oil? How will it affect the regional security or Sweden's extremely export oriented economy? Questions like these are not even touched.
Issues I find very important like trains, trams and plug-in hybrids are only superficially mentioned, at best. There is nothing about changing the layout of cities so cars are less needed ("new urbanism"). There are no risk analyses of any kind. There are very few concrete ideas. "Build more railroads", yeah, but where and when?
Another issue is the focus on reducing electricity consumption. That might be good on its own merits, but it has nothing to do with using less oil. An especially glaring omission of the report is nuclear power, which generate more than half of all power in Sweden. It is only named one(1) time in the entire report, namely when they say that the hydrogen economy would require as much power as the Swedish nuclear power plants generate.
So, all in all it was a necessary but rambling report (hence my rambling review of it) that the members of the ET would have done much better.