Fuel crisis 'not being taken seriously'

23:51, Mar 26 2011

A looming 1973-style oil crunch is not being taken seriously enough by the Government, a leading motoring commentator says.

Dog and Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said yesterday that severe oil shortages would not only end New Zealand's petrol addiction but could even trigger a change in Government.

"The current Government ministers can't get their head around a post-oil world, so they simply act as if it's going to be business as usual," he said.

"I don't think any of our current leaders are capable of making the really hard decisions at present, because they've never known any other lifestyle than the one they have."

The situation was very similar to the 1970s oil crisis, when the New Zealand economy was virtually gutted by the 1973 oil shock and pitched into recession.

"We wake up each morning and there's petrol in the petrol stations, so we don't get any sense that there's danger," he said.


"[But] there's strong potential for serious and ongoing disruption to oil supplies from the Middle East."

The problem was not that oil was running out but that access to cheap oil was at an end. The Libyan civil war had caused oil prices to spike to their highest point in more than two years, and Opec announced yesterday that it would cut oil shipments to their lowest level since October as civil war halted Libyan exports.

Non-Opec production, which accounts for 60 per cent of world output, had not increased significantly since 2004, the journal Science reported yesterday, and added that some experts thought it would never increase again.

"The only real solution is to start seriously reducing our energy and resource consumption," Mr Matthew-Wilson said.

He dismissed most so-called "green" initiatives so far, such as electric cars, as little more than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

New Zealand could solve a third of its energy problems with conservation measures such as car pooling and using more rail, and solve another third by using alternative energy such as wind power. The remaining shortfall would have to come from using less energy and other resources.

In the meantime, building more motorways such as those in Auckland was nonsense and "like attempting to put out a fire with petrol".


The Dominion Post