Headline: “Key oil figures were distorted by U.S. pressure, says whistleblower”

The Guardian newspaper

Why would Western industrialized countries want to downplay the arrival of peak oil? There are two related reasons: First, as consumer nations they want to keep the price of oil low and second, they want to delay taking any action on climate change including spending hundreds of billions on shifting their economies to alternate fuels.

The United Nations climate-change summit in the Copenhagen next month has already been declared a failure — at least insofar as reaching any kind of agreement on capping emissions of greenhouse gases. Now the only hope is for an agreement on “principles” — whatever that means. It is clear that the Western industrialized nations are simply not prepared to sacrifice their prospects of economic growth or, more to the point, the potential profitability of their corporate sector and the wealth of their shareholders.

The U.S. is by far the biggest player on the issue and behind the scenes is putting enormous pressure on the International Energy Agency (IEA) to fudge the numbers to make it look as though peak oil is a long way off.

So say a couple of articles in the Guardian newspaper. The first, published just a day before the IEA released its yearly World Energy Outlook report, quoted a IEA whistle-blower — a senior official who stated: “The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the U.S. has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.”

Three days later the paper published a follow-up article reporting on a Swedish study out of Uppsala University which delivered a “scathing assessment” of the IEA’s predictions of oil production, use and discovery between now and 2020.

Kjell Aleklett, is a professor of physics at Uppsala and co-authored “The Peak of the Oil Age” a new report which claims the IEA’s World Energy Report (2009) prediction of 105 million barrels by 2030 is a gross exaggeration. It will, says the report, more likely be closer to 75 million barrels a day.

The main reason for the U.S. pressure on the IEA was revealed by Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France who stated: “If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one.”

One of the key criticisms in the Uppsala University study targeted the IEA’s predictions of the amount of oil coming from unconventional sources — specifically, tar sands.


Murray Dobbin

Murray Dobbin was rabble.ca's Senior Contributing Editor. He was a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over 40 years. A board member and researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy...