Time to end oil reliance
An automotive expert warns we have five years to find a new source of fuel, writes NEIL McDONALD
AUSTRALIA faces a severe oil supply crunch within five years, according to respected Melbourne-based automotive engineer Laurie Sparke. Diesel fuel supplies for the transport sector will be particularly hard hit as global oil production is squeezed, Sparke told a Society of Automotive Engineers Australia conference on gas fuels.
‘‘Rapid growing use of diesel fuel is of concern because it will require increased imports of diesel,’’ he says.
He believes the country needs to secure its future fuel resources, citing LPG and natural gas as potential fuel sources.
LPG and natural gas have the greatest potential to insulate the country from any future global oil shocks, he says.
‘‘World energy consumption stripped world supply,’’ he says.
‘‘Australia will not have access to enough oil in the immediate future.
‘‘In order to secure a sustainable future we need to remove its current dependency on oil.
‘‘The opportunity to utilise natural gas in a way that has less environmental impact than oil has is a compelling one.’’
Australia produces less than half the oil it needs, but has vast reserves of gas that could secure our transport future, he says.
‘‘Most importantly, gas can replace the shortfall of oil in the near future,’’ he says.
The International Energy Agency predicts that global oil supplies could become ‘‘extremely tight’’ within five years.
‘‘This will be felt disproportionately in Australia,’’ Sparke says.
With global demand growing at 2 per cent a year, he cited research by Australian govern-
out- ment economic research agency ABARE that there was a 90 per cent probability of a significant and immediate shortfall of oil.
‘‘Shifting to LPG needs to be promoted as the wise and socially responsible thing to do.’’
Sparke says oil production in most of the nations suppling Australia is falling.
Many of these nations are building their own economies, which will require more oil for their own domestic purposes, he says.
Most of Australia’s imported oil comes from Vietnam, where oil production peaked in 2004. Since then there has been a significant decline in production each year and oil exports have almost halved because of increased domestic demand.
Of the four main suppliers of oil to Australia, only the United Arab Emirates continues to maintain production, he says.
Sparke retired recently after a long career at GM Holden.
Unsustainable: Laurie Sparke (left) says we need to replace oil with gas.