The Energy Enemy: Addressing Green Technology in the Defence Sector

Contributor:  Rick Munroe
Posted:  11/10/2010  12:00:00 AM EST
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It is reasonable to hazard a guess that vast elements of the public and private sector are completely unschooled in the ‘peak oil’ debate.

This introduction will hopefully serve to set the stage for future arguments addressing the issue of future oil supply, and we will work from two chronological ends simultaneously: both a retrospective on landmark documents as well as a critical review of the recent groundswell of media attention proving central to the debate.
The first thing that should be established is that when we peel back the layers of knowledge contributing to what we know about peak oil, serious contributions by military and security analysts only date back approximately five years.
What is 'peak oil'?
First, a definition is in order. Peak oil refers to the point at which the world achieves maximum oil production. Please note the specific emphasis on maximum, and not minimum. This is not about ‘running out of oil’, at least not yet.
The central point of the peak oil theory is that difficulties emerge (and create sizable impact) not when we run out of oil, but ironically, as we approach that apex of maximum production.
If you are already familiar with the peak oil literature, you will know that this is a very controversial topic. There are many who characterise peak oil analysts as overly pessimistic, even alarmist.

What you may not know is that those sectors which appear to take peak oil most seriously are the military and security sectors.

But even their academic interest is fairly recent. Indeed, one of the most recent of these military analyses of peak oil is a report originating from the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr, reviewed here.
These relatively recent contributions to the field stand apart from (but are inexorably linked to) foundational work done in 2005. In upcoming segments, we will examine three seminal studies on oil supply, all from 2005: the Hirsch Report (‘Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management’), the Oil Shockwave exercise and the US Army Corps of Engineers study, ‘Energy Trends and Their Implications for US Army Installations’.
The Hirsch Report (Feb. 2005)
This 91-page report is widely regarded as the most central single document in the peak oil discussion.
In 2004 the US Department of Energy hired a team of analysts to examine the issue and implications of the peak oil scenario. This team was headed by Robert Hirsch, who was assisted by Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, all of whom were experienced energy analysts. What they concluded was not what DoE expected or seemingly wanted to hear (nor anyone else), and it appears that there may have been significant effort exerted in keeping the conclusions quiet.

This interview provides insights into those aspects. The Hirsch Report was finally released in February, 2005 but despite its alarming (or alarmist) conclusions, it received very little attention in the mainstream media.
It should be noted that the Hirsch Report immediately set out the unprecedented nature of the problem, couched in a very specific context. Its opening sentence: “The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem.”
Fortunately, the Hirsch Report did not escape the notice of military analysts, many of whom picked up on its concerns, found them to be credible, and then explored their implications (both for the armed services and for the economies which fund them).
The three co-authors of the Hirsch Report reconvened to co-author their recent book, ‘The Impending World Energy Mess’.
For those who have not yet examined the Hirsch Report, this article provides an introduction and link to the 91-page original report.

Rick Munroe Contributor:   Rick Munroe

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