Peak oil is not a threat but an opportunity to force through the policies needed to combat climate change, according to London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Mr Livingstone was speaking at the Ecobuild trade fair in London’s Earls Court last Thursday, during an environmental hustings featuring the three main candidates in the election for London mayor, to be held on 1st May. In answer to a question from and Global Public Media about what the candidates would do to protect London from peak oil, Mr Livingstone said “I don’t see this as a threat, I see it as an opportunity… it may be the only way that we face up to having to reduce our energy consumption”.


Mr Livingstone said that “almost every government on the planet is too cowardly to tell its people how much they should pay for energy”, but when peak oil brings escalating prices “we’ll know the real cost of putting oil in the tank of our car, and we will scale down our energy consumption to cope with that”.

The mayor’s reply was the most coherent of the three, but none of the candidates appeared to grasp the severity of the crisis peak oil is likely to provoke. None offered policies that would address peak oil specifically, and all recited the usual list of technologies favored to combat climate change: solar, wind, hydro and carbon capture. The Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, a former police officer, somehow thought it was relevant to insist that “nuclear is not the answer”.

Earlier in the debate all three had spoken enthusiastically about combined heat and power, without appearing to recognize the increased vulnerability of CHP to the serious threats to European the gas supply over the next decade. CHP forms a major plank of Mr Livingstone’s energy and environment policy and can deliver huge reductions in gas consumption and emissions, but it also means a far greater exposure to a single fuel for both heat and power. In a timely reminder of the risks, Gazprom again threatened to cut supplies to Ukraine this week. Gazprom supplies 25% of Europe’s gas, and 80% of that comes through Ukraine.

Tory candidate Boris Johnson did come up with one interesting idea: to use the massive excavations of the planned Crossrail transport project to install geothermal generation, which he said could match an entire power station.

Mr Livingstone used the occasion to announce a major contract to refurbish 42 Greater London Authority buildings and achieve emissions reductions of 25%.

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