Right now petrol prices at the pump are more expensive than they have been for a while.
Petrol prices go up and down, but the underlying trend is informed by rising demand in developing economies, and conflict in oil producing nations. It is also a result of the cheapest easy-to-access oil being used first. The burden of oil left on the planet is more expensive to extract and more difficult to refine, than the oil we’ve already used.
I’ve written an opinion piece published today in the Otago Daily Times arguing the urgent case for planning the transition to alternative fuels.
There are alternatives. In the opinion piece I discuss renewable technologies and the possibility of cleaner electricity. Liquid fuels may also be part of the solution. In New Zealand efficient aquatic systems for producing biodiesel from algae already exist, for example in sewage ponds. They are not at an industrial scale and there is, as yet, no established route to market. Biopetrol is also able to be competitively produced, but only in small quantities. Large scale cellulosic-ethanol technology may well be prominent in New Zealand’s future (ie turning woodslash into ethanol). But there are many production hurdles, unique to New Zealand’s forestry systems, to iron out.
It is not that there are no signs of hope. It’s just that the current government is failing to show the leadership necessary to convert promise into commercial reality. As I’ve said in the ODT, the big problem facing New Zealand is a government with no plausible plan to manage the transition from cheap oil to a sustainable future.