“The U.S. was warned in 2005. Its own Department of Energy commissioned a report by Robert Hirsch to examine peak oil and its potential consequences to the US. The introduction stated:
“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 main conclusions reached by the experts who worked on this report were:
1. World oil peaking is going to happen, and will likely be abrupt. World production of conventional oil will reach a maximum and decline thereafter.
2. Oil peaking will adversely affect global economies, particularly the U.S. Over the past century the U.S. economy has been shaped by the availability of low-cost oil. The economic loss to the United States could be measured on a trillion-dollar scale. Aggressive fuel efficiency and substitute fuel production could provide substantial mitigation.
3. The problem is liquid fuels for transportation. The lifetimes of transportation equipment are measured in decades. Rapid changeover in transportation equipment is inherently impossible. Motor vehicles, aircraft, trains, and ships (and ferries) have no ready alternative to liquid fuels.
4. Mitigation efforts will require substantial time. Waiting until production peaks would leave the world with a liquid fuel deficit for 20 years. Initiating a crash program 10 years before peaking leaves a liquid fuels shortfall of a decade. Initiating a crash program 20 years before peaking could avoid a world liquid fuels shortfall.
5. It is a matter of risk management. The peaking of world oil production is a classic risk management problem. Mitigation efforts earlier than required may be premature, if peaking is long delayed. On the other hand, if peaking is soon, failure to initiate mitigation could be extremely damaging.
6. Economic upheaval is not inevitable. Without mitigation, the peaking of world oil production will cause major economic upheaval. Given enough lead-time, the problems are soluble with existing technologies. New technologies will help, but on a longer time scale.
The Hirsch Report clearly laid out the problem. It urged immediate action on multiple fronts. It is now 5 years later and absolutely nothing has been done. In the meantime, it has become abundantly clear that worldwide oil production peaked between 2005 and 2010. The Hirsch Report concluded we needed to begin preparing 20 years before peak oil in order to avoid chaos. We are now faced with the worst case scenario.”