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13th Aug 2022

End of oil era in sight, Rifkin warns

Controversial US thinker Jeremy Rifkin told the EU on Monday (12 September) that the world will witness the end of the oil era in the present generation's lifetime, as MEPs launched a new initiative to promote hydrogen fuel.

The chief of the Washington-based NGO Foundation on Economic Trends indicated that the world will have used up over half its oil reserves by 2027 at the latest or between 2010 and 2020 at the earliest.

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"Let's hope and pray that we don't peak in the next two to three years, or we are going to be in trouble like we have never been before in human history", he said.

Mr Rifkin urged world leaders to focus research and investment on developing renewable energy over the next 25 years in order to usher in a third industrial revolution after steam and oil power.

He predicted that oil might soon cost over $90 dollars a barrel, blaming hurricane Katrina on global warming and the consumption of fossil fuels and contrasted the positive response of European politicians to relative inertia at the highest levels of the US government.

"I truly believe Europe will lead the way to a new energy era", he added.

Eurobonds might fund research

MEPs from the conservative, socialist, green and liberal groups who launched a new EU hydrogen manifesto on Monday echoed Mr Rifkin's arguments.

Under the scheme, the European Parliament hopes to raise money for hydrogen research by selling eurobonds to European investors, as well as pushing through energy-saving directives on higher car taxation, public transport use and home insulation.

MEPs also aim to produce a roadmap for investments in late October under the EU's long-term scientific research fund, called the Seventh Framework Programme and to hold an energy conference with progressive Californian authorities in the next few months.

"We hope this report will be picked up by those in the EU with the power of action", European Parliament president Josep Borrell stated.

Meanwhile, Greek environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said Brussels "should do more" to alter energy consumption and supply patterns.

He added that Nordic countries, including Iceland, which are already leaders in hydroelectric power have so far shown the most interest in EU energy reform.

Industry not as worried

Industry experts painted a less alarming picture however, saying that proven world oil resources continue to increase as technology improves in terms of deep water drilling and conversion of non-oil hydrocarbons such as tar sands into oil-type products.

Yields from the Middle East, Canada, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola and the former Soviet republics are set to ramp up in the next five to ten years even as resources dwindle in the North Sea.

Proven world oil reserves currently stand at some 1.18 trillion barrels, compared to 761 billion 20 years ago, and are not expected to run dry until 2045 at the earliest, British Petroleum (BP) said.

"Based on BP's work and statistics, the world is not facing a shortage of hydrocarbon resources", a spokesman said.

International Energy Association (IEA) chief economist Fatih Birol told EUosberver that world oil resources will not reach the half way mark until 2030 if investments are made quickly in the Middle East, adding that today's high oil prices are helping industry fund research into maximising yields.

No room for complacency

But Dr Birol added that hydrogen fuel cells could become financially viable in the next few decades and that world leaders should not become complacent over oil.

"Even if Mr Rifkin's figures are wrong, it is true that one day we will run out of oil", he said. "We must leave oil before it leaves us".

IEA oil markets analyst Lawrence Eagles also warned that things could get worse before they get better.

"We are still at the beginning of the hurricane season", he pointed out, adding that European consumers are beginning to slow spending in other areas, as high petrol prices bite.

Renewable hydrogen fuel works by using wind or solar-generated electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then generating fresh electricity by recombining them within a fuel cell.

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