Texas

Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Ex-Shell CEO and Peak Oil Researcher Face Off Over America’s Energy Future

What happens when “drill baby drill” meets peak oil prognostication? An audience found out firsthand this week, when two power policy pugilists faced off at the University of Wisconsin.

In one corner was Texas’ own Dr. Tad Patzek, incoming president of the Association of the Study of Peak Oil, and Chair of UT’s Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering. In the other corner, former CEO of Shell Oil Company and domestic drilling proponent John Hofmeister.

Highlights include Hoffmeister’s prediction that gasoline is likely to reach $5 a gallon this summer, and that America’s energy crunch will lead to new lows in political partisanship.

“We will look at the campaign of 2012 as lightweight stuff when we get to the campaign of 2016,” he said in his introductory remarks.

“If I think about the United States I think about a grown up baby who is now very large, and on a cold night wants to cover herself with a baby blanky. And no matter what she tries there’s always a part of her body uncovered and exposed to the cold weather. That’s where we are.” - Dr. Tad Patzek

Hoffmeister advocates expanded domestic drilling in the U.S. to ensure American growth and security. “We live in a nation that has more oil than it will ever use,” he said, but without an aggressive drilling policy, he predicts US drivers will be waiting in line for gas by 2015.

Patzek agreed that gas prices are bound to rise, but he said they would go up even if all of the world’s non-traditional energy is developed. In fact, the higher cost of deep-water drilling, tar-sands refining, and shale oil extraction dictates that prices will rise, he said.

Dr. Tad Patzek is the Chair of UT's Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering .

“If I think about the United States,” Patzek said, “I think about a grown up baby who is now very large, and on a cold night wants to cover herself with a baby blanky. And no matter what she tries there’s always a part of her body uncovered and exposed to the cold weather. That’s where we are.” 

Patzek’s solution is the same one he advocated in a recent interview with StateImpact Texas: the U.S. needs to “de-power.”  That’s to say, Americans should begin using less power in their day-to-day lives to avoid an energy crisis as developing nations begin to use more of the global energy supply.

The debate took place at an event entitled “The World Oil Supply: Looming Crisis or New Abundance?” at the University Of Wisconsin.

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