4 Questions to Kjell Aleklett: What will happen when oil flow declines?

(Annick Hulth asked these questions in ”Nya horisonter”, [New Horizons] that is Uppsala University’s magazine on research, education and the interplay between these two activities. The magazine is published twice annually in April and October in both Swedish and English. New Horizons is distributed to decision makers, alumni, the media, the university’s collaborators and all its employees. 28,000 copies of the Swedish version are printed and 6,000 copies are printed in English. In Swedish:
http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/952f82f9#/952f82f9/10)

What will happen when the flow of oil declines?

“More powerful than all the armies in the world is an idea whose time has come”. That quote from Victor Hugo is included at the end of Professor Aleklett’s new book “Peeking at Peak Oil”. The book summarises ten years of research on what will happen when production of the world’s fossil fuels begin to decline.

How long have you been conducting research in this area?:
– For ten years. To do research on the world’s oil supplies one requires information that is not easy to access and so there is a dearth of academic research in this area. I discovered that this deficiency existed despite it being one of the world’s most important questions. Today “peak oil” is a well known expression. We have assembled a unique database, produced four Ph.D. theses and over 30 scientific articles that have been widely cited. And now the world’s first chair in the area of “sustainable development focusing on global energy systems” has been established. I am very proud of that.

How can the problem be addressed?:
– On this topic it is important to show how little any oil production in the Arctic will affect our overall access to oil. It might delay a decline in total world production by about one year but it will not solve the problem. We have data that shows this. The issue must be taken seriously. We must reconfigure our entire lifestyle. The slowing of oil production is, for example, one of the factors contributing to the economic problems in Europe.

The topic is controversial since there is no general agreement on how long the world’s oil reserves will last. What has it been like to be regarded with skepticism?:
– The final chapter of my book is titled, “An Inconvenient Swede”. I have nothing against being described in that way. Swedes usually try to be diplomatic but that does not suit me. – If one presents a new idea and is not cut off at the ankles for ones efforts then the idea cannot be that important. Therefore, the opposition I have encountered has been inspiring. It now seems as though many people have begun to realise the seriousness of the situation and the concept has begun to spread rapidly.

What audience is the book directed to?:
– Everyone, but one must, of course, be interested in the issue and in the significance of energy to our society. Each chapter starts with a story from real life so it is, at the same time, a kind of biographical account of the previous decade.

In fact, there was from the beginning a fifth question that I will add:

What is meant by “peak oil”?:
– The term was coined in 2001 and describes that point in time when the rate of crude oil and other oil productions reaches its maximum. After that moment oil production begins to decline and this has very significant economic and political consequences for the entire world.