Peak oil & Tasmania’s energy security

by John Todd

‘Energy security’ means energy is available when we need it and at a price we can afford. Peak oil means we are no longer able to pump oil out of the ground at ever increasing rates. When this happens, the energy security of Tasmanians will be threatened.

In time fuel price will increase as countries try to outbid each other for restricted oil supplies. In Tasmania this will first affect lower income families and individuals who can no longer afford the fuel they need, i.e. their energy security will be threatened. There will be pressure to increase government assistance to low income groups to off-set rising prices, but this means less funding for other government initiatives such as education and health.

Gradually, or possibly quite quickly, the increased price of fuel will cause stress to a larger and larger proportion of the Tasmanian population. Government will simply not be able to subsidise all their needs, so more and more people will just have to make do with less transport fuel than they want.

The other critical issue is that shortages are never evenly spread. Some people will continue to get what they need; they might even stockpile their own supply.

Meanwhile others will only be able to purchase a fraction of what they need, even if they can afford it; and some will find they are unable to purchase any at all. The only option available to Government if this occurs is to introduce some type of rationing, so everyone has access to their fair share of limited fuel supplies. Rationing is something governments don’t even like to discuss, let alone implement.

As individuals, we do not have to wait for Government to act; we can start minimising our own energy security risk by:

    (a)  Purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles, this allows us to still travel but at lower fuel cost;

    (b)  Reducing our need for travel by planning to do all the things we need to do in one trip rather than multiple trips;

    (c)   Walking or cycling more often on short trips; and

    (d)  Lobbying local politicians for improved public transport.

These simple actions are worthwhile because they save money now, but they will become crucial when oil depletion starts to bite.

(John Todd is an environmental educator and consultant with a long-standing interest in energy and society.)