GLOBAL oil shortages and rising fuel costs could spell disaster for Australia’s agricultural industry.
That’s the dire warning from Australian Association of the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) convenor Bruce Robinson.
He said farmers needed to be more alert to so-called peak oil, estimated to occur within the next five years.
“We have a crazy situation where we operate under the assumption that fuel availability will remain the same as it is now,” he said.
“Currently governments, economists, industry, investors and the community are all turning a blind eye to the probability of serious oil shortages and ongoing oil scarcity within a few years.
Mr Robinson likened the situation of oil shortages to Noah’s Ark and said planning has to occur now “before the flood because you can’t build an ark under water”.
“We need to be planning for sudden fuel shortages and for the permanent fuel shortages which will happen once peak oil arrives,” he said.
“Farmers need to think how a rise in fuel costs and fuel shortages resulting from a world oil shortage may affect their businesses and the decisions they make.”
Due to being heavily reliant on oil, the Australian agricultural industry is at risk from the issues surrounding future global oil shortages and increased costs.
Mr Robinson said a whole-of-industry approach was needed to look at the consequences of peak oil so farmers could begin to plan and safeguard their businesses.
Mr Robinson said there had been a number of important reports warning about future oil scarcity, authored from the International Monetary Fund, the Macquarie Bank, Lloyds of London and Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics.
“Nobody seems to be taking any notice,” he said.
Kalannie farmer Ed Sawyer said the effect on his business would be huge as fuel was one of his biggest expenses.
Like many farmers Mr Sawyer said he was heavily reliant on fuel and believed the unpredictability of farming made it worse.
“Even things like the weather can affect our fuel use,” he said.
“We received more rain over summer, so we have used more fuel due to our summer weed spraying program.”
Mr Sawyer said his business was a long way from being safeguarded against world oil problems and the effects fuel shortages would have, and was unsure of how he could plan to combat global oil scarcity issues.
“If I couldn’t get fuel I wouldn’t be able to make an income,” he said.
Mr Robinson agreed that many farmers were in the same situation to Mr Sawyer and said more talk was needed around the issues that arise from global oil shortages by governments and industry, so people could work out how to start planning, to help mitigate risks from issues surrounding world oil shortages.
“We have a situation where we have trucks driving around selling bottled water and governments doing things like trying to close rail infrastructure but widening freeways,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense in the face of rising fuel costs, and future oil scarcity.”