Peak Oil: No Magic Bullets, Only Poison Pills
Dr. Roger Bezdek is the president of MISI and the co-author of the what has become known as the "Hirsch Report" after its lead author and project leader, Robert L. Hirsch.
In the report's executive summary Hirsch, Bezdek and Robert Wendling state that, "The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking".
The challenge for the world and the West, especially, is to identify replacement strategies, resources and technologies sufficiently far enough in advance to prevent serious social, economic and politic disruption.
As Bezdek noted at the Denver Conference, the purpose of the report wasn't to identify any specific time frame for when world oil production will peak, but to assess what its potential impacts will be once it does occur.
As other presenters at the conference noted, the problem the world is facing isn't an "energy crisis" per se, but a transportation fuel crisis because 95% of the world's peoples and good are moved by petroleum. And what makes the problem particularly daunting is the long lead time it takes to replace the current oil-dependent vehicle fleet, which presently numbers more than 600 million cars and trucks with other energy sources and technologies.
"[Oil] peaking is maximum production. It's not running out of oil," he stated. "We'll have lot of oil twenty years from now, fifty years from now. Probably a hundred years from now. At what price, I don't know, but there will be a lot of oil out there. It's maximum production, whereas thereafter production declines. It's a liquid fuels problem, not an energy crisis".
He acknowledged that M. King Hubbert's 1956 prediction that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970 or '71 proved accurate and that the current debate over global oil production peaking rests on much more data than Hubbert possessed in the mid-1950s, suggesting that those who criticize Hubbert and other analysts for warning that ever-growing world demand for oil will outstrip production are making a serious miscalculation.
"People continually talk about the 'Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf' syndrome, failing to realize the message of that parable is that people were eventually eaten by the wolf", a comment that drew chuckles from an appreciative audience.
"Oil consumption is now outstripping discoveries. That alone should be enough to give people pause… The potential economic consequences are huge, they're enormous, they're almost mind-boggling.
"We may be facing sometime in the not too distant future what may be the world's first forced energy transition. It may be forced and it may not be pretty."
Bezdek stressed that the Hirsh Report authors didn't try to predict any timing for when the world's demand for oil exceeds global production, but they feel it will be "soon", and by that he means within 20 years. According to him, that's just barely enough time to ward off the consequences of oil prices going to $100, $200 or $500 a barrel, and we have to get started now because any effective mitigation strategy will take decades to make any appreciable dent in oil demand.
So, what are the consequences of dramatically higher prices and what are our options in terms of remediation strategies? You can find out when you listen to this 44:00 minute presentation using either the Flash-based MP3 Player above or by downloading the 10.3 MB file to your computer hard drive for play back on your favorite MP3 device.
EV World expresses its thanks to ASPO USA, Steve Andrews and Randy Udall for granting us permission to attend and record this historic event. The next conference will be held in Boston, Massachusetts in 2006.