Chapter 1 - Introduction
The Senate referred the inquiry to the committee on 29 November 2005. The terms of reference are:
Australia’s future oil supply and alternative transport fuels,
with particular reference to:
of oil production and demand in Australia and globally and the implications for
availability and pricing of transport fuels in Australia;
of new sources of oil and alternative transport fuels to meet a significant
share of Australia’s fuel demands, taking into account technological
developments and environmental and economic costs;
economic and social impacts in Australia from continuing rises in the price of
transport fuel and potential reductions in oil supply; and
for reducing Australia’s transport fuel demands.
The committee advertised the inquiry in The Australian and wrote
to many peak bodies inviting submissions. The committee received 194
submissions and held nine hearings. The committee thanks submitters and
witnesses for their contribution.
The inquiry was prompted by the question whether Australia should be
concerned about 'peak oil'. This refers to the theory that, for fundamental
geological reasons, global conventional oil production will reach a peak and
then start an irreversible decline soon enough to be of concern. Proponents of
peak oil arguments commonly predict a peak somewhere between now and 2030. They
suggest that this could cause serious economic hardship if mitigating action is
not started soon enough.
There are additional concerns about recent rises in the price of oil,
and concerns about the possible longer term effect as Australia's need for
imported oil increases.
The inquiry was informed by the knowledge that there is a convergence of
concern about increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and
declining global oil supplies. It was understood that solving the transport
fuel challenge without reference to reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be
a flawed response. The Committee determined to identify transport fuel
solutions that were also consistent with the objective of reducing emissions.
The committee made an interim report on 7 September 2006. This report replaces the interim report.
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 summarises predictions of Australian and world oil production
Chapter 3 notes the arguments of the peak oil proponents and responses
by their critics. It concludes that the possibility of peak oil before 2030
should be a matter of concern.
Chapter 4 describes the possible social and economic impacts of
sustained high oil prices.
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 discuss possible supply side responses to long term
high oil prices, including more exploration for oil in Australia; alternative
fuels from gas, coal and oil shale; and biofuels.
Chapter 8 discusses possible demand side responses to reduce dependence
on oil-fuelled transport. The items most mentioned in evidence were encouraging
more fuel efficient vehicles, reducing reliance on cars for transport in
cities, and encouraging more use of railways for long distance freight.
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