Former Manitoba NDP Premier Ed Schreyer is stepping back into the spotlight and warning about the threat of peak oil, and also to criticize Manitoba's government on the belief it's not doing enough to prepare for a coming energy crisis.
"When we do wake up and acknowledge the fact [about the existence of so-called peak oil], it may well be too late. That's the real fear," Schreyer, who is also a former Governor General of Canada, told CBC News.
Peak oil is the idea that world’s oil fields will inevitably pump out their maximum or ‘peak’ production of oil, and then start pumping less and less, due to ever-depleting finite oil energy reserves.
Schreyer is the founder of a national think tank on peak oil, called the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, and has given talks across the country.
'What I don't buy is the pretence that serious efforts are being made.' —Ed Schreyer
Schreyer says fuel prices will rise, perhaps dramatically with potentially major societal disruptions.
"If we do not put in place alternative energy... to replace a suddenly declining, fast-declining oil pool, with sharply-rising, crazily rising oil prices, then yeah, our food supply could be threatened, our ability to move, and therefore play becomes threatened."
Threatened, because Manitoba is critically dependant on petroleum energy to fuel our vehicles, run our farms, and transport to us everything from goods to groceries from distant suppliers.
The NDP government pledged in its throne speech to reduce Manitoba's dependence on $3 billion worth of imported fossil fuels — most of which is gasoline and diesel. That fuel bill is now rising, with every dollar rise in the world price of oil, now trading at well over $100 a barrel.
As a result, Manitoba gasoline hit a record $1.16 per litre last weekend, the highest daily average ever paid in any month of March.
Selinger downplays concerns
To offset rising fuel prices, the government says it's implemented a biofuels mandate, and will put a greater emphasis on the electrification of transportation, for example.
But Schreyer says current government efforts don't significantly cut our petroleum addiction.
'Manitoba is well-positioned on alternative fuels.' —Premier Greg Selinger
"What I don't buy is the pretence that serious efforts are being made. It's all show-window stuff," said the 76-year old.
Manitoba’s current Premier, Greg Selinger, downplays Schreyer's peak oil worries.
"Peak oil theories have come and gone in the last several years. The prices are spiking right now, with some of the challenges in the Middle East. Manitoba is well-positioned on alternative fuels," said Selinger.
Still, Schreyer says when he was premier, "we were going all-out with the development of the Nelson River" to cut fossil fuel dependence — a reference to the development of mega hydro dams in the north in the 1970s.
He says the Manitoba government has only developed half of the river's hydro electric potential.
"What's the point of saving we have a great resource which is renewable, and then holding back on the harnessing of it?"
"You see, the irony is we're not holding back on the harnessing of the depletables, we're holding back on the harnessing of the renewables."This is just backward, just ass-backwards."
Schreyer says hard data on world oil supplies shows that production has "plateaued" since 2007-2008.
"And it's being made up...by drilling deeper and deeper, and in more hazardous locations, the deep sea, and eventually the Arctic."
The International Energy Agency in Paris backs that up. The OECD authority, relied upon by Canada, says the vast majority of today’s crude oil fields are "post peak" and depleting rapidly at 5.1 per cent per year. It projects that two-thirds of today's crude oil production will simply be gone by 2030.
It also warns oil demand is surging, especially from China.
Energy experts have estimated the date of world peak oil anytime between now and 2030.