Watchdog Group Fears Global Oil Crisis

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20 October 2009

A global watchdog group says world oil supplies are running low and that may lead to food shortages and spiraling armed conflict. Britain-based Global Witness says governments are doing nothing to prepare for this potential global disaster.

Global Witness director Simon Taylor says the end of the oil age will change life as we know it.

"The bulk of our food production on this planet is dependent to some extent or another on oil or products of oil, so this goes right to the heart of, frankly, the way our society functions," said Taylor.

The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental energy advisor, has projected an almost 50 percent decline in conventional oil production by 2020 and the potential for a serious gap between supply and demand by 2015.

The organization advised massive spending to bridge the gap, but Global Witness says more spending will not solve the problem.

In the report, called "Heads in the Sand", the group says a serious decline in the supply of oil coupled with increasing demand and few new projects planned, means the world needs to move away from oil.

Taylor says one of the biggest fears right now is that oil shortages will lead to increased violence and corruption in countries that supply oil.

"The world has been a very violent place in oil frontier places when we have had enough to go round. What are the consequence in countries, or for countries rather, when we do not have enough to go round," Taylor said.

He says it is poor countries that will be hit hardest by a downturn in oil supplies.

"Those who cannot pay will not be able to pay, they will be simply priced out of the market. So how do you feed a city like, for example, Nairobi or many other very large mega-cities with desperately poor people in them where food simply cannot be provided in cities without access to diesel and so on?" he asked.

Taylor says governments need to start investing in safe and sustainable energy alternatives.

"The first thing we need is governments to acknowledge that we have got a problem and then we need an urgent discussion about what to do about it and we need to move like there is no tomorrow," Tayor said.

Global Witness says trends in the number and average size of oil discoveries has been in decline since 1965.

The International Energy Agency has predicted a potential seven million barrel per day gap between supply and demand by 2015. That would be the equivalent to almost 40 percent of the projected demand of the United States.