remember, tuesday is soylent green day
Maybe peak oil prices will make us rethink our reliance on Soylent Green - because it's made of people!
Several theories were emerging yesterday over the environmental effects of oil at $130 a barrel or more. In the green corner were the optimists, who believe that the shock will force people to cut their energy use, invest in renewables and energy conservation, downsize their cars, take fewer foreign holidays and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Others fear that oil prices at this level for any length of time will usher in a new bleak period where governments turn to extracting coal, growing biofuels and deforestation.
There was evidence of both trends yesterday. As Honda announced it was increasing output of its hybrid cars because of high fuel prices, Barrie Johnstone, chief executive of Solartwin.com said inquiries about his company's solar panels to heat water had risen by more than 50% in five months.
Tom Burke, environmental scientist and visiting professor at Imperial College London, said that in the short term the oil price rise would cause a rush to exploit oil tar sands in Canada and Venezuela, and possibly deforestation in the Amazon to clear space for biofuels.
"We have passed the peak of cheap oil. I do not think it will slow down Indian and Chinese vehicle use. It will really hit the aviation industry and could cut the ground under the push for the third runway at Heathrow. It could also strengthen the localisation movement." The majority of companies, he said, had already done a lot already to reduce their energy use.
Environmental consultant and former -director of Friends of the Earth Charles Secrett said the lesson of history in high oil prices was that it was an opportunity for change. "In the years after the 1973 oil shock, energy efficiency soared, but governments did not step in with policies to encourage alternatives energies to flourish. They have the real choice now."