Those who understand resource depletion and the coming crisis that will be created by surging energy prices have a topic they like to argue about. Does the government know about Peak Oil and if so, how much has it shaped government policy? Some say no, how could they? They would be doing something to prevent what will be a very unhappy period in the history of humankind. Others say yes, of course they know. Jimmy Carter didn’t put on a sweater and tell the American public to turn down their thermostats for the good of his political career. A 1982 State Department report and a 1977 CIA report show pretty strong support for the latter.
Earlier this month The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce met specifically to discuss Peak Oil. The audio is available by clicking here. Back in March Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican from Maryland, gave the first of several special order speeches to the House of Representative on the topic. I’ve seen video of one of the speeches. It was late in the evening and almost no one was present to here him. Now it seems that the issue is getting more formal attention in Washington. Representative Bartlett was present at the above mentioned committee meeting and gave remarks. Also in attendance was Robert Hirsch. Dr. Hirsch was the project leader for a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy entitled, “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management”. Interestingly the report was released with almost no coverage by the media. I find this strange because the report states, “Dealing with world oil production peaking will be extremely complex, involve literally trillions of dollars and require many years of intense effort.” It goes on to say, “… the problem of the peaking of world conventional oil production is unlike any yet faced by modern industrial society.” If you haven’t read it you should. I would like to think all of our representatives have read this very important government commissioned report. And then I get this.
It was recently mailed to my home. Representative Robin Hayes is my local congressman. He was invited by fax to attend my screening of The End of Suburbia earlier this year. It took place 2 blocks from his Concord Office. I must defend his absence as his representation of the 8th Congressional District of North Carolina means he spends quite a bit of time in Washington. I do wish he would have sent someone though. I can not however, defend overly simplistic publications such as this one. After spending quite a bit of time blaming high energy prices on “our narrow refining capacity” he misses the point. Why haven’t oil companies built a new refinery on U.S. soil in almost 30 years he asks? Because they know global oil production will soon peak just like many in the Federal Government have known for years. He goes on to tout his defense of energy assets against aggression by “the Chinese Communist government.” He failed to mention 70% of the products in Wal-Mart stores were made in China and shipped to this country- an operation made possible by cheap fuel prices- an operation that won’t be possible when fuel prices reach a certain point. He also failed to mention that China buys American debt to the tune of almost 1/2 billon dollars a day. I wonder what will happen when China gets unhappy about not begin able to spend its debt dollars in the global free market? But I digress. My Representative went on to briefly mention biofuels, hydrogen cells, and conservation. He did so though in ways that made me unsure as to whether or not he even understands them. “Fuel cells which use hydrogen can power homes and automobiles with virtually no emissions.” He leaves out the fact that Hydrogen fuel cells require energy to split water into hydrogen. They’re batteries that store power not energy sources in and of themselves. The front cover was the most disappointing though. The first thing he wanted the reader to see was a number to call to report possible price gouging violations. It was discouraging to see this sort of pandering to the public’s baseless suspicions. As fuel prices rise many will believe they’re being ripped off by the big bad oil companies. The leaders of our nation are happy to let them believe this as long as it takes the heat off of our representatives. It also avoids tackling the real reason prices are on the rise. I hope Representative Hayes gets a chance to read the Hirsch report and spend a little time with fellow Republican Roscoe Bartlett. I’d like some thoughtful representation in Washington when it comes to Peak Oil and I don’t want to have to move to Maryland to get it.