The Guardian posted an article alleging that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has fudged its figures regarding the future of oil at the behest of the USA. The source is unidentified, but Kjell Aleklett, President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), states he had a similar conversation with an IEA source;
This report was one of those discussed at a round table meeting that was held in the IEA’s conference room in Paris. At that opportunity, in November 2007, I had a number of private conversations with officers of the IEA. The revelations now reported in the Guardian were revealed to me then under the promise that I not name the source. I had earlier heard the same thing from another officer from Norway who, at the time he spoke of the pressure being applied by the USA, was working for the IEA. Since these anecdotes were not scientific evidence I never made use of the information other than as inspiration to continue our own research.
Over at The Oil Drum there is a keypost about the article, with the usual discussion.
Unidentified sources can always be problematic, but the fact that Kjell Aleklett has confirmed having the same conversation two years ago, and considering the context, lends credence to the claim. Those who have done the analysis, like Jeffrey Brown and Sam Foucher to name just two, have long asserted that the scenarios emanating from the IEA and the USA's Energy Information Administration (EIA) and US Geological Survey (USGS) were far too rosy. In the case of the IEA we may finally have confirmation, although Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA's Chief Economist, insists that the US was not applying pressure.
As a retired Federal manager I can confirm that the bureaucracy is accustomed to putting the proper "spin" on facts, figures, and events. After all, you don't want to look bad in the eyes of the populace or your boss. So it is not hard for me to imagine the amount of wordsmithing that occurred as the World Energy Outlook 2008 was written, not to mention the just released WEO 2009.
The Obama administration needs to put this at the front of their agenda, and visibly in front, meaning that the citizenry knows this is a priority and why. This is as important, if not more so, as healthcare reform. Softsoaping the issue by suggesting we can conserve our way out, drill our way out, or scale up renewables and nuclear to overcome the gap left by declining fossil fuels will be a breach of faith with the American people. Our entire approach to the economy and the good life needs to be rethought. We need to pursue every avenue available to power down gracefully, but the raw truth is we won't conserve unless our pocketbooks are squealing, we won't discuss powering down if we believe we can drill our way to safety, and renewables will never fill the gap. The truth will hurt, but watching the younger generation get their dreams crushed because no one insisted on being realistic will hurt more. And it will cost more as they race to deal with the issues we should be addressing now.
Is this really the legacy we want to leave for our descendants?