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Australian election 2010: next phase of peak oil ignored

It is unbelievable: peak oil (=limited oil supplies at 73-74 mb/d of crude oil) started in 2005 and 5 years later this is still not an election issue. What we have seen so far is the response of the economy and the financial system to oil production NOT growing. Peak oil hit when the economy had a pre-condition of accumulated debt. Debt can only be paid back (or easily rolled over) in a growing economy. But our oil-dependent economy can only grow if the annual efficiency improvement in the use of oil is higher then the oil decline rates ahead of us. However, governments are NOT working on a portfolio of projects which would ensure this to actually happen. A 2nd airport for Sydney, a ring road for Mackay, a Princes Highway duplication and planning money for more tollways in Sydney are not the sort of projects which will increase oil efficiency.

Because the electorate is not being told about peak oil and its consequences voters are buying the wrong cars and the wrong houses in the wrong suburbs. When in the not too distant future voters realize they have not been properly informed, the backlash will be enormous. The current government is lucky that the combination of high oil prices and the credit crisis resulted in an oil demand destruction of about 5 mb/d in OECD countries, oil which was snatched away by China, for example, allowing it to grow. That meant a continuation of the mining boom. But that luck will not last long as China will also get stuck in peak oil.

Today’s transport announcements are typical for the continuing peak oil ignorance:

Gillard’s $2b transport fix

Some may just see “election pork barrelling” but these proposals give a revealing insight into the untested assumptions the government is relying on. It is thought

  • we have time until 2014-2017 while by 2015 we are going to be in a deep oil import crisis
  • money for expensive rail tunnels will be available from a surplus budget while many economists are predicting a continuing financial crisis
  • we can also build more road tunnels because our car based society will continue
  • and all this infrastructure is needed to accommodate growth

While the headline is on rail, real planning money is wasted on new road tunnels. It is still not understood that peak oil means the end of our car culture in this coming decade and that every month counts to prepare for declining oil production. In urban areas, the job at hand is to replace EXISTING car traffic of the EXISTING population by public transport. As car traffic will go backwards with declining oil production, we can use the road corridors for rail development.

Let’s analyse the above article:

(1) Timing


“THE Gillard government will make a push into western Sydney today with a promise to build the long-awaited $2.6 billion rail link between Parramatta and Epping.

The state government contribution will be spent first with the federal funds not scheduled to be available until 2014-15, by when the budget is due to be back in surplus.”

One may ask what will happen if the budget is not in surplus in that year. This is because by that time Australia will be in a deep oil import crisis.

MARTIN FERGUSON, RESOURCES MINISTER: Australia’s got a huge challenge. We’ve got huge problems on the trade front,
but also importantly, a real problem in terms of energy security and our economic future by 2015.

Here are the facts which can be found in my previous posts (old hats, but still ignored)

Western Australia’s battle for offshore oil: Crude Oil dropped by 27% in 2009

IEA: Iran’s crude oil production to decline by 700 Kb/d by 2015
This means Iran needs an oil price of $130 a barrel to balance their budget

Note on the rail map that Carlingford Court, a large car-based shopping centre (1,400 car spaces)
would not get any underground station which shows the NSW government hasn’t understood the task ahead, namely to rescue these car oriented centres.  A Carlingford Court station was considered in the original EIS but the cheapest option 1 (existing Carlingford station) was preferred:
Indeed, a station under the Carlingford shopping centre would be very deep, around 50 m:

It has now transpired that the original planning approval for the rail link has lapsed already in the 1st quarter of 2007.

Here is an excerpt from a recent project summary document of the Parramatta-Epping Rail Link (PERL)  of the NSW  government.
The program for construction of this link is estimated to be six years.
This demonstrates that the NSW government has killed precious time since Transport Minister Costa cancelled the Epping to Parramatta leg of the Chatswood to Parramatta link.
It also means that – contrary to what the Prime Minister said on 16/8/2010 – the rail link is NOT ready to go:

KERRY O’BRIEN: ……. So how rigorous was the Cabinet process on your promise last week, clearly designed to help you in marginal Western Sydney seats to find $2.6 billion for a rail link from Parramatta to Epping?

JULIA GILLARD: Well our Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, has had this project under consideration for some time. It’s ready to go, Kerry. That’s what recommends it.
On the positive side, the need for a revised EIA creates the opportunity to rethink the whole concept and plan for a light rail/surface metro on Carlingford Rd with a short, only 15-20 m deep metro type tunnel under Mobbs Hill. That leads us to the next point

(2) Costing

For every tunnel Km one can build 10 light rail kms. We are going to see a replay of the CBD metro disaster:

Too late for Sydney Metro Tunnels

(3) Real (planning) money is spent on road tunnels

“Ms Gillard and the Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, will announce today that the upgrading of the M5 East, and the F3-to-M2 link, will also be overseen by Infrastructure Australia.”


The traffic forecasts for these 2 projects have been embellished just like those of the Lane Cove Tunnel.

F3-M2 road tunnel

“$150 million for planning; road paid for by private sector”

Here goes your tax money down the drain and your super annuation, too. And the winner is:  peak oil ignorant consultants. This was my submission to the F3-M7 corridor review 3 years ago:

13/4/2007  End of Freeways – the tipping points of Peak Oil and Global Warming

In her final report Mahla Pearlman, former Chief Judge of the Einvironment Court, writes on page 82:

“However, I note these claims [on peak oil and global warming issues] for completeness, and so that they will not be lost sight of in any further progress of the Link.”

Well, not only sight has been lost, but the planning money, too. The same applies to the M5. In an Alexandria community meeting on the M5 in December 2009 one top official of the RTA responded to peak oil by saying that in California they are developing hydrogen cars with electric motors in their wheels. It is hair raising to hear on which naive thinking multi billion dollar investments are based.

12/3/2010 Car pooling and rail freight for M5 corridor

7/2/2010 Which bank would now finance more road tunnels?

It is still not understood that the simultaneous double challenge of peak oil and global warming (=all coal fired power plants must be replaced ASAP) will mean there’ll be a severe energy crisis:

M2 widening: Primary Energy Dilemma for cars

(4) Population growth

“Patronage forecasts would grow because, according to his own government’s metropolitan strategy, job numbers on the lower north shore would also grow by as much as 70 per cent by 2031, as would housing around Carlingford, Dundas and Telopea.”–and-just-the-ticket-for-commuters-20100810-11y72.html

As soon as physical petrol shortages arrive at filling stations, motorists will demand a reduction of immigration as they will immediately understand that every new arrival will mean longer petrol lines.

Australian Population Scenarios in the context of oil decline and global warming

Natural population growth will peak between 24-25 million. I encourage the reader to do his or her own calculations, using treasury’s software. Follow these steps:

(a) Visit this site:

(b) Download XLS file

(c) Open fertmod.xls and enable macros

(d) “Click here to Start program”

(e) Set immigration to zero; accept all other parameters; press “OK’

(f) In the “Inputs” sheet, under “key results” the long run population growth is zero and the population peaks at  a theoretical 25.6 million in 2051, a year when even our children are already in retirement.

Transport Solutions

Submission Sydney’s Metropolitan Transport Plan

Example Adelaide:


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