You are viewing an obsolete version of the DU website which is no longer supported by the Administrators. Visit The New DU.
Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login
Google

Interview with Bob Hirsch - The Stonewalling of Peak Oil [View All]

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
This topic is archived.
Home » Discuss » Topic Forums » Environment/Energy Donate to DU
GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-08-09 04:54 PM
Original message
Interview with Bob Hirsch - The Stonewalling of Peak Oil
Advertisements [?]
Interview with Bob Hirsch - The Stonewalling of Peak Oil
on September 7, 2009

Question: What have been your primary areas of focus during your energy career?

Hirsch: I started out in nuclear power. Then I did fusion research and later managed the government fusion program. I spent a lot of time with renewables over the years, including managing the federal renewables program. From there I went to the oil industry where I managed long range refining research and then synthetic fuels. Later I managed upstream research and developmentexploration and production of oil and gas. Still later, I spent time in the electric power industryall aspects of electric power. And then I got into energy studies and have been doing them for a number of years with Rand, SAIC, and now MISI. Thats it from the work standpoint; from another standpoint Ive been involved with the National Academies in energy studies since 1979 and have been involved in almost every aspect of energy through the Academies, either as a committee participant or as Chairman of their Board on Energy and Environmental Systems.

Question: When did you first learn about the peak oil issue?

Hirsch: I learned about peak oil after I got out of the oil industry, because there was essentially no talk about it when I was involved. In the early 2000s I did a study for the DOE dealing with long range energy R&D planning. One of the six drivers that I came up with was peak oil; I had never really thought about it prior to that. Its kind of a tar baby; once you get your hands into it, you cant get your hands off of it. When oil production goes into decline, its going to be a defining issue for humanity. So Ive been involved for six or seven years in analyzing oil peaking and its mitigation.

Question: How did the 2005 peak oil study for DOEs NETL come about?

Hirsch: It was basically my creation. I was working with DOE NETL at the time, and they gave me a great deal of leeway to look into important subjects. I felt that peak oil was extremely important, so I did some study on my own and then proposed to NETL that I do a much larger study, with Roger Bezdek and Bob Wendling, who are extremely capable guys, who I had worked with along the way, and who were very pragmatic about energy and the real world. NETL accepted. I already was under contract, and they added Roger and Bob.

We coordinated closely with NETL as we did the study, so they had input and knew what was coming. But when they saw the final report, it shocked them, even though they could see what was coming. This is nothing negative about people at NETL, but when youre thinking about other things most of the time, bad news creeping up on you doesnt necessarily capture your attention immediately.

When the report was done, management at NETL really didnt know what to do with it because it was so shocking and the implications were so significant. Finally, the director decided that she would sign off on it because she was retiring and couldnt be hurt, or so I was told. The report didnt 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 NETLand these are really good peoplewas that they were under a good deal of pressure to not be the bearers of bad news.

Question: Under pressure from whom?

Hirsch: From people in the hierarchy of the DOE. This was true in both Republican and Democrat 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 appointeesI 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. Theres just no way to sugar-coat it, other than maybe to do what Ive done on occasion and that is to say that by 2050 well have it right and we will have come through the peak oil recessionquite probably a very deep recession. At some point well come out of this because were human beings, and we just dont give up. And I have faith in people ultimately. But its a bad news story and anybodys whos 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 heres what were 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. Were talking about something that, to take a middle of the road positionnot the Armageddon extreme and not the la-la optimism of some peopleis going to be extremely damaging to the U.S. and world economies for a very long period of time. There are no quick fixes.

Question: Given where we are today, if you were made energy czar, what policy initiatives would you pursue?

Hirsch: If I was involved in the government at a high level, I would argue very strongly to the president that he needs to take national and international leadership on the problem. He should do some homework to be sure that he hears what the issues are do it quietly and then stand up and say, world and country, weve got a very serious problem and here is what my administration is going to do about it. Thats what I would argue for because somebody has to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. Thats going to be very difficult because people dont like to hear bad news, and this is terrible news, and as it sinks in, markets will drop and there will be an immediate recessionary reaction, because people will realize that this is such a horrendous problem that having a positive outlook on employment and the economy is just simply unrealistic.

More at the link.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
 

Home » Discuss » Topic Forums » Environment/Energy Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002 DCScripts.com
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators


Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC