Today I read an article in the Guardian newspaper which reawakened my curiosity regarding how much those in authority are really aware of both peak oil and how bad things really are beneath the surface. Whilst not the focus of the article the following paragraphs immediately grabbed my attention. Link.
Late last year, Rob Hopkins went to a conference. Most of the delegates were chief executive officers at local authorities, but it was not a public event. Speaking in confidence, three-quarters of these officials admitted that – despite what they say publicly – they could not foresee a return to growth in the near future.
"One said: 'If we ever get out of this recession, nothing will be as it was in the past,'" Hopkins recalls. "Another said: 'Every generation has had things better than its parents. Not any more.' But the one that stunned me said: 'No civilisation has lasted for ever. There is a very real chance of collapse.'"
As the largest consumer of oil in the world and still a major producer in its own right it would seem logical to assume that the American government would have some awareness of the issue and sure enough the Bush family with its oil ties would seem to be a good place to start.
In May 2001, George W Bush said “What people need to hear loud and clear is that we’re running out of energy in America.” Link.
A couple of years earlier in 1999 at a speech at the London Institute of Petroleum Autumn lunch Vice President Dick Cheney had the following to say “By some estimates there will be an average of two per cent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead along with conservatively a three per cent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?." Link.
Fifty million barrels a day is more than half of the total daily world production. Whilst there is no direct evidence that the present US administration is aware of the issues involved I have heard anecdotal evidence that Steven Chu the former United States Secretary of Energy was fully aware of peak oil.
In 2010 a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command said the following "By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," The report had a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis. Link.
Also in 2010 a think tank linked to the German Military published a study that warned of a potentially drastic oil crisis. The team of authors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas further warned of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations and of the "total collapse of the markets" and of serious political and economic crises. Link.
Two weeks prior to the German military report, a leak from the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) revealed that they are keeping documents secret. Link.
When I attended the 2012 ASPO meeting in Vienna Jeremy Leggett, the head of the cross party peak oil task force recounted a tale involving the former UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne. From memory it went something like this:
He had set up a meeting with Chris Huhne and everything seemed fine, but when the press got a hold of the story it was promptly cancelled with Chris Huhne’s office denying that the meeting had ever been scheduled.
My conclusion is that numerous high level figures in various governments are acutely aware of the problem, but it is political suicide to mention this in public. Couple this with the fact any potential solutions will likely not favour the status quo and the official silence becomes inevitable.