No Oil

I’ve posted here previously about our dependence on oil, and how to start addressing it. There’s a story in Transported, “Homestay”, which touches on the same theme — though, being fiction, it also includes people with wings flying around rural Southland, which I don’t actually expect to be a prominent feature of post-Peak Oil scenarios.

Here’s my one attempt, so far, to tackle the topic in poetry. “No Oil” was first published in Southern Ocean Review (together with “Replicant”), and is included in All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens.

No Oil

Bad news from the north
and the queues growing longer.
Late winter, I remember,
when the shipments ceased.

There was still oil for some
which showed
where power intersected with need:
The rich.
Ministerial limousines.

The rest of us walking,
riding bikes, taking trains,
as our grandparents had:
valuing land
for what it can grow.

A Great Leap Forwards
in reverse
our faith now
in the wisdom of the old.

The world to the north
turns to poison
a battle
of each against all.

Here we cling on
in the ruins of a false economy
doing to others
being done unto
looking back with angry eyes
on a century of waste.

(If the “shipments from the north” ceased right now, we could meet about 2/3 of New Zealand’s present oil demand from domestic production — but that’s unusually high at the moment because of the exploitation of the Tui field, and there’s no guarantee that production levels will stay this high for long.)

The Future of Oil

Spurred on by the international oil price touching US $110 per barrel, the price of petrol in New Zealand set a new record today: it reached $1.77.9 a litre for unleaded 91. This strikes me as a good time to draw your attention to an article I first had published in the Dominion Post in November 2007, The Future of Oil.

The Future of Oil describes a problem which has kept on getting worse since the article was published. But what should we do about the problem?

The first requirement, as a nation, is to start taking oil depletion / Peak Oil seriously, and not delude ourselves any longer that rising oil prices will magically make new oil production come onstream to meet rising demand, or make alternative fuels for the internal combustion engine materialise in huge quantities. We’re going to have to get used to living with less oil.

For ideas on what we need to do, especially in the field of transport, see the papers on the topic produced by the Sustainable Energy Forum at – for example, Peak Oil: A Major Issue for New Zealand (PDF, 60 KB). There’s the beginnings of a wider discussion on what it will take to move New Zealand to a low-fossil-energy consumption future at the Transition Towns website, (is your town a Transition Town?)

What there hasn’t yet been is any systematic official consideration of the ways in which New Zealand will be affected – not just in transport, but in trade, tourism, food production, and all other aspects of economic and social life – by the end of the era of cheap and readily available oil, nor of what New Zealand as a country should do to face up to this issue. The Green Party and the Maori Party have both issued calls for a Commission or similar body to investigate this and recommend action. So far, those calls have fallen on deaf ears. With the 2008 general election campaign approaching, it’s time for the major parties to start paying attention.

You can read The Future of Oil, and the discussion that followed it, on the Be The Change web site.