Saturday, September 18, 2010

peak oil : “a conspiracy to keep it quiet” in washington

Video - President Jimmy Carter telling the intolerable truth about energy 30 years ago.

blog le monde | [oil man] - What happened after you published your 2005 report on ‘peak oil’ for the US Department of Energy (DoE) ?
The people that I was dealing with said : « No more work on peak oil, no more talk about it. »

People that were high in the administration hierarchy ?
The people that I was dealing with were high in the laboratory level. They were getting their instructions from people on the political side of the DoE, at high levels.
After the work we did on the 2005 study and the follow-up of 2006, the Department of Energy headquarters completely cut off all support for oil peaking and decline analysis. The people that I was working with at the National Energy Technology Laboratory were good people, they saw the problem, they saw how difficult the consequences would be – you know, the potential for huge damage – yet they were told : « No more work, no more discussion. »

That was in 2006, under Bush administration. Has anything changed with the Obama administration ?
It has not changed. I have friends who simply won’t talk about it now. So I have to assume that they are receiving the same kind of instructions.

Yet in an interview he gave me in March 2010, Glen Sweetnam, who was heading the publication of DoE’s annual Energy Outlook at that time, admitted that « a chance exists that we may experience a decline » of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015. Less than a month later, he was transfered to the National Security Council, where he is now under direct authority of the White House. Were you surprised by his statement ?
Yes, I was very surprised by what Glen (Sweetnam) said, because everything in the DoE is very controlled. Glen must have gone ahead and done it, and nobody reviewed his remarks.

When I asked Secretary Steven Chu and the political staff of the DoE to comment on Glen Sweetnam’s statement, they replied with a « no comment ».
I think it would be very difficult to get any more information on this. Now that Glen Sweetnam is at the National Security Council, it’s like he’s not in the circulation, he’s not going to give any public presentation anymore.

Yet it seems like Steven Chu, Obama’s Secretary of Energy, is aware of the ‘peak oil’ issue.
Oh yes he is !

But ?…
Clearly Secretary Chu is a very good physicist. But I think he does not have a broad view of energy. He’s also an ideologue : he is academic in his approach of those matters. And that’s a big difference with people who have spent time in the industry, who had to make things happen, who are aware of the underlying reality.

Still, Steven Chu and Barack Obama are pushing renewable energy, aren’t they ?
Well… In the book that we are about to publish, we spend 60 % on oil, and then we look at the other sources of energy : coal, nuclear, renewables. We make very strong arguments that wind, solar cells and biomass will never amount to hardly anything. A lot of people are misguided because they think : let’s just go to wind and everything will be fine.

What about the Department of Defense (DoD) ? Two recent reports show that some people in the US army are willing to give very bold warnings.
You’re right. Things may be different there. The DoD is headed by Robert Gates, a brilliant guy and a good friend of James Schlesinger, the first US Secretary of Energy, who wrote the foreword of our book. Schlesinger is continuously used as an adviser by the DoD.

In 2005, Robert Gates took part in a war game named « Oil Shockwaves », with a number of other very high senior people involved in the administration, both Democrats and Republicans. What they did is they looked at a severe cut off of world oil production, something like five percent.

Like in 1973 ?
Something even worse than that. So they looked at the impact, and they saw severe problems for the economy. And they looked at the options that existed, and of course there are no options. There are no valves to turn on someplace.

They even considered military interventions in the Middle East as a means to change things. And they basically concluded that this was an impossible situation.

What about James Schlesinger : for how long has he been concerned about a possible decline of world oil supplies ?
He has been concerned about peak oil since he read the seminal paper by King Hubbert in the 60’s. That was before he became the Secretary of Defense under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

And then, there were those famous talks that Jimmy Carter gave about the US dependence on foreign oil…
Yes, James Schlesinger was behind this, as Carter’s Energy Secretary. And Admiral Rickover, the father of the US nuclear navy, was involved in those talks too.