This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 04, 2007

GAO Report: Strategy Needed to Address Future Peak in Oil Production

The U.S. federal government is not sufficiently prepared to address the timing and consequences of a peak in global oil production, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Although most studies estimate that the world's production of oil will peak and begin to decline sometime within the next three decades, there is no coordinated federal strategy for reducing uncertainty about the peak's timing or mitigating its consequences, says the GAO report. The report warns that an imminent peak and sharp decline in oil production could cause a global recession, while a peak that is decades away would allow time to develop better biofuels and ramp up their production. GAO recommends that DOE work with other agencies to establish a strategy to coordinate and prioritize federal agency efforts to reduce uncertainty about the likely timing of a peak and to advise Congress on how best to mitigate consequences. According to GAO, DOE and the Interior Department generally agreed with the report and its recommendations. See the abstract of the GAO report, which links to the full report.

DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) most recently examined peak oil production in July 2000, and found a wide range of potential dates for the peak in oil production, ranging from 2021 to 2112, although either extreme is unlikely. Using a demand growth of 2 percent per year, and using the mean value for the amount of oil reserves, the study predicted that petroleum production will hit its peak in 2037. The study was revisited by EIA in 2004. See the article from the September 1st, 2004, edition of the EERE Network News.

Portland, Oregon, is one of the few U.S. cities that has attempted to address a future peak in petroleum production. The report, issued in March by Portland's Peak Oil Task Force, urges strong and immediate action to reduce Portland's exposure to rising fuel prices and to prepare the city for the impacts of volatile energy markets. The report recommends a combination of energy programs, social and economic support systems, and emergency plans. See the task force report (PDF 372 KB). Download Adobe Reader.