Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"The Stonewalling of Peak Oil," By Dr. Robert Hirsch, ASPO-USA, September 7, 2009

Dr. Robert L. Hirsch is the lead author of a seminal report, "Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation & Risk Management," written for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL) and released in early 2005.

"When the report was done, management at NETL really didn’t know what to do with it because it was so shocking and the implications were so significant. Finally, the NETL director decided that she would sign off on it because she was retiring and couldn’t be hurt, or so I was told. The report didn’t get widely publicized. It somehow was picked up by a high school someplace in California; eventually NETL put it on their website. The problem for people at NETL—and these are really good people—was that they were under a good deal of pressure to not be the bearers of bad news -- pressure from people in the hierarchy of the DOE. This was true in both Republican and Democratic administrations. There is, I think, ample evidence, and some people in DOE have gone so far as to say it specifically, that people in the hierarchy of DOE, under both administrations, understood that there was a problem and suppressed work in the area. Under President Bush, we were not only able to do the first study but also a follow-on study that looked at mitigation economics. After that, visibility apparently got so high that NETL was told to stop any further work on peak oil.

Yes, that was terrible. And it was strictly politics and political appointees—I have no idea how far up in either administration (the current one and previous one) these issues went or now go. People in the Clinton administration had talked about peak oil, including President Clinton and Vice President Gore, and the same thing is true in the Bush administration, and the same is true, to the best of my knowledge, in the Obama administration.

The peak oil story is definitely a bad news story. There’s just no way to sugar-coat it, other than maybe to do what I’ve done on occasion and that is to say that by 2050 we’ll have it right and we will have come through the peak oil recession—quite probably a very deep recession. At some point we’ll come out of this because we’re human beings, and we just don’t give up. And I have faith in people ultimately. But it’s a bad news story and anybody’s who’s going to stand up and talk about the bad news story and is in a position of responsibility in the government needs to then follow immediately and say “here’s what we’re going to do about it,” and no one seems prepared to do that.

Peak oil is a bigger issue than health care, than federal budget deficits, and so forth. We’re talking about something that, to take a middle of the road position—not the Armageddon extreme and not the la-la optimism of some people—is going to be extremely damaging to the U.S. and world economies for a very long period of time. There are no quick fixes."


Blog Comment: Dr. Hirsch says that "there’s just no way to sugar-coat [Peak Oil]," but that is what he does. There is no plan or technology for replacing oil, nor is there time or capital to do so. After listening to his speeches, it is clear that his beliefs in America, technology, and the human will distort his scientific analysis. Denial is way of avoiding the horror of the reality ahead.

1 comment:

Jan Rufer said...

We are now in 2011 and sadly there is no influencial politicial that is prepared to tell the truth...