SAIC Advisor Warns of Peaking of World Oil Production
Jenna Orkin, World Trade Center Environmental Organization

"The era of plentiful, low-cost petroleum is approaching an end," writes Robert Hirsch, Senior Energy Program Advisor for SAIC in "The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production," published in this month's bulletin of the Atlantic Council. "The good news is that commercially viable mitigation options are ready for implementation. The bad news is tha unless mitigation is orchestrated on a timely basis, the economic damage to the world economy will be dire and long-lasting."
Explaining that reserves should not be confused with production since after a field arrives at peak, the reserves are harder to extract, Hirsch warns that worldwide demand for oil is expected to rise 50% by 2025. At the same time, production is in decline in 33 of the world's 48 largest oil producing countries. Hirsch describes OPEC's position as changing from one of publicly projected confidence to warnings that are more in line with Matthew Simmons' recent book. Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. By way of illustration he quotes Dr. Sadad Al-Husseini: "[A] whole new Saudi Arabia [will have to be found and developed every couple of years] to satisfy current demand forecasts."
Hirsch points out that many of the alternative fuels being touted as replacements for oil are not liquid and can therefore not be used for transportation. And he explains why economists (sometimes referred to by exasperated experts in peak oil as 'flat earth economists') fail to 'get it' about the oncoming shortage of liquid fuel: They "are accustomed to dealing with hard minerals whose geology is different."
Referring to the study which Hirsch himself, along with Robert Wendling and Roger Bezbek, performed for the U.S. Department of Energy, he cites the oft-quoted section that lays out three scenarios:
1. If mitigation began twenty years before the arrival of peak oil.
2. If mitigation began ten years before the arrival of peak oil.
3. If mitigation began with the arrival of peak oil.

"It became abundantly clear early in this study," he writes, "that effective mitigation will be dependent on the implementation of mega-projects and mega-changes at the maximum possible rate.... If mitigation is too little, too late, world supply/demand balance will have to be achieved through massive demand destruction (shortages)"
Contrary to the classic Platonic picture of peak oil with a symmetric slope on either side of the peak, Hirsch asserts that in the countries which have passed peak, the peaks were sharp, not gently varying or flat-topped and that in some countries, such as the U.K., the declines were rapid. If world peak follows the pattern of these countries, he says, the world will have less than a year's warning.
Thanks to Jan Lundberg of for bringing this report to our attention.