An article in the international edition of Der Spiegel breaks the story of a leaked Bundeswehr think tank report, which grapples with the economic and security implications of Peak Oil:

The term “peak oil” is used by energy experts to refer to a point in time when global oil reserves pass their zenith and production gradually begins to decline. This would result in a permanent supply crisis — and fear of it can trigger turbulence in commodity markets and on stock exchanges.

The issue is so politically explosive that it’s remarkable when an institution like the Bundeswehr, the German military, uses the term “peak oil” at all. But a military study currently circulating on the German blogosphere goes even further.

The study is a product of the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr Transformation Center, a think tank tasked with fixing a direction for the German military. The team of authors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Will, uses sometimes-dramatic language to depict the consequences of an irreversible depletion of raw materials. It warns of shifts in the global balance of power, of the formation of new relationships based on interdependency, of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations, of the “total collapse of the markets” and of serious political and economic crises.

The study, whose authenticity was confirmed to SPIEGEL ONLINE by sources in government circles, was not meant for publication. The document is said to be in draft stage and to consist solely of scientific opinion, which has not yet been edited by the Defense Ministry and other government bodies.

The original leaked report is in German, however the team over at The Oil Drum has already managed to put up a translation of all the main points of the report. Overall, the report is wise to avoid predicting specific events and dates, and concentrates on general warnings calling for drastic change in advance of peak oil:

The report sees significant risks arising from an unavoidable peak in oil production, which go beyond gradual shifts in energy systems and economies. This will likely lead to economic change and new geopolitical risks that affect much more than just what we can anticipate. The overall ability to describe exact outcomes is very limited, as many scenarios are possible, and further research is required.

Overall, more emphasis needs to be put on understanding and shaping international relationships with respect to energy security, anticipating and integrating the ongoing shift to different players in a resource-constrained world.

In any case, Germany has to identify and implement alternatives to the current transportation technologies that require oil, and put a similar emphasis on avoiding other dependencies, for example concerning rare earths.

For armed forces, Peak Oil creates significant risks, both from a mobility standpoint as well as from dependencies on other societal services. Understanding those risks requires further analysis and likely a very different approach in the future.

In general, more preparation is required for society and the army to make sure that problems are recognized and solutions are actively implemented.