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We are all peakists now – Schlesinger

David Strahan, website
Former US Energy Secretary Dr James Schlesinger today claimed that the intellectual arguments over peak oil had been won, and that in effect ‘we are all peakists now’.

In the keynote speech at the first day of an oil depletion conference hosted by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil in Cork, Schlesinger said that the oil industry executives now privately concede that the world faces an imminent oil production peak, and argued that a recent report by the US oil industry grouping the National Petroleum Council constituted “a backdoor admission that in the next decade or two we face a moment of truth”.

In a wide-ranging interview with, Dr Schlesinger – who was also Defence Secretary and CIA Director – explains why he thinks “the battle is over, the peakists have won”, and discusses the delusions of US energy policy, Iraq, Iran and $100 oil.

Hear the interview with Dr James Schlesinger.

BA: Excerpts from the interview:

David Strahan: …You said today in your speech that conceptually the battle is over, the peakists have won. That’s an astoundingly bold claim. I was astonished. What did you mean by that?

James Schlesinger: If you speak to people in the industry, they will concede that “whatever my company may say publicly, we understand that we are facing a decline in our own production and that world-wide we are not going to be be able to produce more fuel liquids or crude oil in the near future.”

And if you look at pronouncements by governments, including the Energy Information Administration in the United States, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) what they show is that by the early 2020s we are going to have peaked out in terms of conventional oil productions. And that is an immense change from what we have seen before in the attitude of the industry.

DS: But it’s not what we’re hearing publicly, is it? From the executives, from governments, from environmentalists? All seem to be in denial or ignoring this issue, don’t they?

JS: Well “denial” may be too strong. “Ignoring” is probably right. One does not want to be the bearer of bad tidings. Cassandra has never been an appropriate role model for politicians. You do not ask the public to make sacrifices. If you concede that indeed the peak is coming, that we ought be making adustments, the adjustments will be costly and the public will bear the cost, which means that other things being equal, a decline in the standard of living. That is not the way to successful re-election.

… I was recently at a conference in New Mexico, sitting next to one of the recent CEOs of a major oil company. In response to a question from the audience, he said: “Of course I’m a peakist. It’s just a matter of when it is coming.” … Once one is retired as a CEO, one is freer … to say I am a peakist. And what you hear privately from almost all people – is we’re coming to it.

…the American public has been coached into believing that we can have energy independence, which is not obtainable as long as we have the internal combustion engine, and at the same time as we get energy independence, we can lower the price of energy. These are simply unattainable, but they are regularly promised.

…There is not going to be a turnaround [in U.S. energy policy] until you have public support and the public has got to be frightened by a serious crisis which persuades them that indeed the wolf is at the door.

… I think that many of these politicians will ultimately find that the public blames them for [their] failure to warn them. Of course in a sense the public is responsible because it’s the present public attitudes to which politicans play up – tell them what they want to hear. But when the view of the world changes, what the public wanted to hear some time ago is no longer what they want to hear in the future.

[Asked about Greenspan’s assertion that Iraq was about oil]

The reality is that concern about the supply of oil is always a consideration because the Middle East contains so much of the oil… What some people are suggesting is that the invastion was to get control of Iraq’s oil supply. No, we were determined to leave it up to free market pressures. And To the extent that they thought the United States was reaching for control, it is plumb wrong.

… I want to state quite clearly, that war is not the way to increase production near-term.

… We should be helping oil prices rise, particularly for gasoline.

… We are going to face a great difficulty in the near future. Whether or not it is defined as a crisis depends on how you define crisis. But there is difficulty, great difficulty ahead.
(17 September 2007)
James R. Schlesinger has been chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Director of Central Intelligence for six months under President Nixon, Secretary of Defense (1973-1975), and the first Secretary of Energy under President Carter.

An Unlikely Paul Revere (Lee Raymond)

Maria Bartiromo, Business Week
Oh, what a difference 20 months can make. When Lee Raymond retired in early 2006 after leading ExxonMobil (XOM ) to record profits, he was the quintessential Texas oilman. If the notion of developing alternative fuels and putting pressure on Detroit to build more fuel-efficient cars ever crossed his mind, it didn’t cross his lips. But as architect of a new study by the National Petroleum Council, a federal advisory group, Raymond has become a sort of Paul Revere of energy, warning of coming shortages by 2030 if America does not act now.

The NPC report says that world energy demand will increase by up to 60% in the next 25 years. Is production peaking?

What the report says is that there are more than adequate resources. The problems that the world faces are not related to what I call geologic risk. They’re related to above-ground risk. They’re related to political issues, access issues, financing issues, scale issues, technology issues. The important thing for people to understand is that major projects in this industry take a long time. So even in the most optimistic case, I suspect that the industry would have trouble keeping up with the growth in demand.

So how do we deal with that?

We make the point that it’s all hands on deck. By that I mean all sources of energy that meet the competitive standard set by the market should be encouraged. That’s coal, clean coal, nuclear, conventional oil and gas, nonconventional oil and gas, biofuels, solar. Anything that can clear the economic hurdle needs to be encouraged.
(24 September 2007)

Peaking of World Oil Production: Recent Forecasts
(21-page PDF)
Robert L. Hirsch, U.S. Department of Energy
Executive Summary:
Because oil is a depleting, finite natural resource, world conventional oil production will reach a maximum, called “the peak,” after which production will decline. Using differing methodologies and information of widely varying quality, experts and organizations have attempted to forecast the likely year of conventional oil production peaking. Their range of estimates extends from late last year to an apparent denial that it will ever happen. Almost all forecasts are based on differing, often dramatically differing geological assumptions. Explicit account of investment rates in new and expanded production has been relatively rare.

Because of the large uncertainties, it is difficult to define an overriding geological basis for accepting or rejecting any of the forecasts. However, the IEA recently warned that worldwide investment in expanded oil production has been considerably less than needed to continue world oil production that is adequate to meet expected world demand. Thus, geological limits may be yielding to investment limitations.

As noted in previous literature, peak oil presents the world with a risk management problem of tremendous complexity and enormity. Prudent risk minimization requires the implementation of mitigation measures roughly 20 years before peaking to avoid a very damaging world liquid fuels shortfall. Since it is uncertain when peaking will occur or whether it will be due to geological or investment limitations, the challenge is indeed vexing.
(5 February 2007)
I don’t remember that this report Robert Hirsch got much attention when it came out earlier this year. Thanks to reader JG who pointed it out. -BA

Peak Energy Panel

Alex Smith, Radio Ecoshock
A panel of 6 experts debate what to do, now that we know about Peak Oil. 1 hour radio show from Vancouver – following screening of “Escape from Suburbia” – download at
56 Megabytes.

They are, in the order you will hear each speak:

Conrad Schmidt, Founder of the Work Less Party, and the World Naked Bike Ride. John Stonier, Director of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. From the film, Jan Steinman, the tech guru who says it’s time to get out of town. Ifny Lachance is an activist working with the Free Geek computer recycling company. And finally, Richard Balfour is an architect and city planner.

It all happened in a hall of the Ukranian Church in Vancouver, August 17th. Gregory Greene’s new film “Escape from Suburbia” was the big draw. We covered the film, and did a long interview with the director, on our August 10th show. Hundreds of people are still downloading that one, from our website.

So many speakers, so many different solutions. But we all agree there is an energy crunch looming. Billions more people want to live just like us. In India, the Tata company is bringing out the world’s cheapest car – just $2500. Drivers in China are competing with you at the world’s biggest oil fields – and all that CO2 in the atmosphere is leading us to a different, and not so friendly world – as it runs out of oil.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock
(5 September 2007)

Peak oil on Hong Kong Radio RTHK 3
Backchay, RTHK 3′
What is ‘ Peak Oil ‘ with guests:
Ian Dunlop, Co-Convenor, Association for Study of Peak Oil;
Alex Tancock, Wind Prospect/;
Puru Saxena, Puru Saxena Ltd. ;

(14 September 2007)
The peak oil segment begins at about 5 minutes into the recording. Alext Tancock on the program is one of the people behind the new Peak Oil Hong Kong website.

Contributor ML writes:
On Hong Kong radio RTHK 3’s “Backchat” programme today there is a discussion on peak oil that includes Puru Saxena (from and ASPO-Australia’s Ian Dunlop. the website to access the audio file is:
but the files are not downloadable.

The Truth About Reservoirs, Drilling and Cheap Oil
Margot Gerritsen,
We’re not running out of oil, but we may be running out of the oil in easy-to-reach places. That’s because oil doesn’t sit in a big pool just below the surface – it’s always been hard to reach, but the more we use, the harder it’s getting. In this second podcast in a series on oil, gas and coal, we continue to learn about some of the hard realities facing us as we deal with the energy sources we will all depend on for the foreseeable future.
(7 September 2007)
Contributor Wag the Dog writes:
Another 20 minute video by Margot Gerritsen, professor in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University, that explains why the easy to reach oil is running out.

There is no mention of peak oil on the SmartEnergy blog, but this comes close. Other energy videos by professor Margot Gerritsen are also available online from: