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Commentary: DOE Responds to ASPO-USA - Too Little, Too Late ... or a Good First Step?

(Note: Commentaries do not necessarily represent the position of ASPO-USA)

In October 2011, ASPO-USA conducted a news conference in front of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) headquarters in Washington D.C. to express deep concerns about the reliability of projections for future oil and gas supplies by DOE and the Energy Information Administration. Representatives of ASPO-USA presented a letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu which outlines these concerns and asks for answers to seven specific questions. The letter also urges DOE to initiate and lead the development of a National Oil Emergency Response Plan. A staff member from the Office of the Secretary was on hand to receive the letter. This month DOE sent their response - printed below. ASPO-USA will continue to follow up with DOE to pursue further meetings and additional dialogue on these critical issues.

[Read the ASPO-USA Letter to Steven Chu and other related materials here]

In March, five months later, DOE sent a formal response to ASPO-USA in the form of a letter from Howard Gruenspecht, Acting Director of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), to whom Secretary Chu referred our original letter.

[Read the Letter from Howard Gruenspecht to ASPO-USA here]

ASPO-USA is pleased to receive a response from EIA/DOE, however late, but the five-month delay is not a good sign for the development of an Emergency Response Plan, and does not address our request for a meeting with Secretary Chu to discuss the plan and other areas of urgent national concern. For example, further discussion between our own experts and the government's could provide enlightened discussion rather than heated rhetoric regarding gasoline prices, accelerated drilling programs, hydrofracking and shale production, decline of foreign oil supplies, and the effects of these factors on our national security and economic health.

But we know that DOE is busy with many other challenges, and we appreciate Dr. Gruenspecht's letter which admits that, "Energy projections by EIA are not statements of what will happen but of what might happen ..." and notes that, "... the existence of world oil prices greater than historical highs is not necessarily the result of limited oil resources."

Dr. Gruenspecht goes on to explain that "EIA's analyses and projections are based on the economic principle that long-term energy supply and consumption are equilibrated through market prices ..." and that, "When oil prices rise, consumers have the incentive to reduce their demand for those oil-intensive energy services."

Dr. Gruenspecht helpfully suggests that, "biofuels can be substituted for gasoline and diesel; and natural gas can be substituted for diesel and residual oil to generate heat and electricity."

And he concludes his letter by acknowledging that, "... the role of EIA does not encompass all of the issues raised in your letter," but hoping that, "the information provided will be helpful to your understanding of EIA's approach to many of the topics of concern to you."

There are mixed feelings about the DOE response to ASPO-USA's letter: some feel it's too little, too late; others feel it's a good first step; and still others agree that we should follow up with further communication to address the unresolved points raised in our original letter.

ASPO-USA's Response to DOE's Response - Please Add Your Name to the Letter
ASPO-USA will carefully consider its formal response to the DOE letter, and we welcome feedback in the form of comments and suggestions from our membership and the Peak Oil community at large. Some initial feedback concludes that we need a meeting with both Secretary Chu and Dr. Gruenspecht; that the National Emergency Response Plan be developed and discussed in further detail, and that our initial letter to Secretary Chu be turned into an "Open Letter" to show widespread support for ongoing communication between our own energy experts and those of the government.

In addition to the initial list of distinguished signatories on the original letter, many more names have been added during and since our November conference. We now invite you to add your name to the letter that will be modified as an "Open Letter" to restate our request for meetings and ongoing discussions.

Please send a quick email to [email protected] and we will proudly add your name to our distinguished list of signatories.

We will keep you apprised of further developments, and we appreciate your ongoing support of our work.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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