As consecuencias do teito do petróleo segundo un informe do congreso estadounidense

Government Accountability Office…E non nos referimos ao coñecido Informe Hirsch (Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management (PDF), commission by the U.S. Department of Energy, Hirsch, Bezdek, Wendling, 2005) senón a outro máis recente, de 2007, e titulado Crude Oil: Uncertainty about Future Oil Supply Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production (PDF) (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2007). A Government Accountability Office é un órgano do Congreso que se encarga de auditar o gasto público do Goberno dos EE.UU.

Copiamos aquí un extracto (p. 33-35) do mesmo que describe resumidamente a situación á que nos expón o cénit. Non perdamos de vista, para o poñermos no seu contexto axeitado, que este informe está elaborado en 2007, é dicir, xusto un ano antes das que moitos ven como data do cénit: verán de 2008; e tamén antes do comezo da Recesión Económica mundial, provocada en boa medida pola chegada dese cénit.

Consequences Could Be Severe If Alternative Technologies Are Not Available

Because development and widespread adoption of technologies to displace oil will take time and effort, an imminent peak and sharp decline in oil production could have severe consequences. The technologies we examined currently supply the equivalent of only about 1 percent of U.S. annual consumption of petroleum products, and DOE projects that even under optimistic scenarios, these technologies could displace only the equivalent of about 4 percent of annual projected U.S. consumption by around 2015. If the decline in oil production exceeded the ability of alternative technologies to displace oil, energy consumption would be constricted, and as consumers competed for increasingly scarce oil resources, oil prices would sharply increase. In this respect, the consequences could initially resemble those of past oil supply shocks, which have been associated with significant economic damage. For example, disruptions in oil supply associated with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74 and the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 caused unprecedented increases in oil prices and were associated with worldwide recessions. In addition, a number of studies we reviewed indicate that most of the U.S. recessions in the post-World War II era were preceded by oil supply shocks and the associated sudden rise in oil prices.

Ultimately, however, the consequences of a peak and permanent decline in oil production could be even more prolonged and severe than those of past oil supply shocks. Because the decline would be neither temporary nor reversible, the effects would continue until alternative transportation technologies to displace oil became available in sufficient quantities at comparable costs. Furthermore, because oil production could decline even more each year following a peak, the amount that would have to be replaced by alternatives could also increase year by year. Consumer actions could help mitigate the consequences of a near-term peak and decline in oil production through demand-reducing behaviors such as carpooling; teleworking; and “eco-driving” measures, such as proper tire inflation and slower driving speeds. Clearly these energy savings come at some cost of convenience and productivity, and limited research has been done to estimate potential fuel savings associated with such efforts. However, DOE estimates that drivers could improve fuel economy between 7 and 23 percent by not exceeding speeds of 60 miles per hour, and IEA estimates that teleworking could reduce total fuel consumption in the U.S. and Canadian transportation sectors combined by between 1 and 4 percent, depending on whether teleworking is undertaken for 2 days per week or the full 5-day week, respectively.

If the peak occurs in the more distant future or the decline following a peak is less severe, alternative technologies have a greater potential to mitigate the consequences. DOE projects that the alternative technologies we examined have the potential to displace up to the equivalent of 34 percent of annual U.S. consumption of petroleum products in the 2025 through 2030 time frame. However, DOE also considers these projections optimistic—it assumes that sufficient time and effort are dedicated to the development of these technologies to overcome the challenges they face. More specifically, DOE assumes sustained high oil prices above $50 per barrel as a driving force. The level of effort dedicated to overcoming challenges to alternative technologies will depend in part on the price of oil, with higher oil prices creating incentives to develop alternatives. High oil prices also can spark consumer interest in alternatives that consume less oil. For example, new purchases of light trucks, SUVs, and minivans declined in 2005 and 2006, corresponding to a period of increasing gasoline prices. Gasoline demand has also grown slower in 2005 and 2006—0.95 and 1.43 percent, respectively—compared with the preceding decade, during which gasoline demand grew at an average rate of 1.81 percent. In the past, high oil prices have significantly affected oil consumption: U.S. consumption of oil fell by about 18 percent from 1979 to 1983, in part because U.S. consumers purchased more fuel-efficient vehicles in response to high oil prices.

While current high oil prices may encourage development and adoption of alternatives to oil, if high oil prices are not sustained, efforts to develop and adopt alternatives may fall by the wayside. The high oil prices and fears of running out of oil in the 1970s and early 1980s encouraged investments in alternative energy sources, including synthetic fuels made from coal, but when oil prices fell, investments in these alternatives became uneconomic. More recently, private sector interest in alternative fuels has increased, corresponding to the increase in oil prices, but uncertainty about future oil prices can be a barrier to investment in risky alternative fuels projects. Recent polling data also indicate that consumers’ interest in fuel efficiency tends to increase as gasoline prices rise and decrease when gasoline prices fall.

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