The IEA Flap

Oil rigThere’s good news and bad news about oil depletion. The good news is that the International Energy Agency (IEA) and our government are both a lot smarter than we thought!

Two senior IEA officials (one current, one former) recently told the Guardian, a prominent newspaper in the U. K., that key oil data is being distorted by the IEA under American pressure, and that the reality is that we are much closer to oil shortages than we think. We’ve known for years that the official IEA figures are silly; that’s not news. What is news is that the IEA itself knew this.

Just a few years ago the IEA predicted that world oil production would reach 120 million barrels per day (mbpd) by 2030. (For perspective, the high in 2008 was about 87 mpbd, which is about a 1000 barrels a second. Do the math.) “The 120[mbpd] figure [projected for 2030] always was nonsense but even today’s number [of 105 mbpd by 2030] is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this,” said one of the officials; “but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further” [emphasis added]. In other words, we are now facing the limits to growth, the IEA knows this, but the truth would spread panic.

Kjell Aleklett, a professor of physics at Uppsala University who was recently in Denver at the ASPO-USA conference, confirmed that he had known about this for several years himself: “I am not surprised that some within the International Energy Agency have leaked this news. Rather, it is astonishing that this has not become known earlier.”

It is hard to know what is worse: that our government is too stupid to realize that we have a problem, or that our government does know this and is actively suppressing discussion. In the first case, ignorance is our enemy. In the second case, we have a very different kind of problem.

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