A chessboard and Crude Britannia

 A new series of programmes’ Crude Britannia”, on North Sea Oil, can be seen, starting on BBC4 this week, and when it was touted as a part solution to energy security can be seen at ‘When the Circuit Breaks’ the two parts of which can be viewed at the links below.

My letter below, was published in April 2007 in ‘Professional Engineering’. We have failed to educate ourselves to understand these simple realities and the risks and costs of ignoring them, of failing to ‘Keep ahead of the Oil Curve’


A simple understanding of compound interest is all that is needed to see that the current predictions of growth are the pipe dreams of economists.

Take a chess board andput one unit on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third and continue doubling up. In the world of steady growth we are trying to live in, the time to each doubling is 70 divided by the rate of growth i.e. 7%/annum is equal to 10 years.

Add the squares together 1+2+4 = 7  that is – the sum of all previous doublings is less than the value on the next square – 8

Oil was first commercially exploited in 1859 and we are now at around 30 billion barrels/year and on the 32nd square. At the present rate of growth, ignoring aviation rates, we will need more oil in the next 20+ years than in the previous 150!

Even if this amount of oil exists, finding, extracting and applying unknown technologies to turn the poor quality, heavy, and polluted crude we obtain into usable product is clearly not possible on this time scale,  and the ‘energy returned on the energy invested’, EROEI, is falling fast.

And that’s without the climate crisis and the fact that we need a fair amount of the remaining oil to create a low carbon economy.

Now create a Google alert for ‘Oil Supply’ and watch the world unravel


Crude Britannia http://tiny.cc/4AAm3

When the Circuit Breaks Part 1 http://tiny.cc/At7BC

When the Circuit Breaks Part 2 http://tiny.cc/kQez8

Join the ‘One Planet Network’ on Linked in http://www.linkedin.com/home


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s