Monday, August 6, 2012

Mitt Romney: peak oiler?

I was surprised to read what Cory Suter in "Polycimic" reports about Mitt Romney's 2010 book "No Apology; The Case for American Greatness. " In the book Romney  speaks about Peak Oil, cites Matt Simmons's book "Twilight in the desert" and says that, "whether the peak is already past or will be reached within a few years, world oil supply will decline at some point." And then he doesn't say that the solution is just drilling more. He says that using less oil and in finding alternatives for it are just as important as solutions.

Did any other presidential candidate with serious chances to win ever say something like that? I haven't checked the whole history of the US elections, but I can tell you that once I asked personally to Al Gore (after his unsuccessful run for president) what he knew about Peak Oil and he seemed to me less knowledgeable than Mitt Romney appears to be in his book.

On the other hand, regarding Mitt Romney there is always the joke that says (h/t "Jules Burn"):

A conservative, a moderate, and a liberal walk into a bar. The bartender says "Hi Mitt!"

At least, you can say that the guy is flexible. Anyway, here are the paragraphs about peak oil reported by Cory Suter from Romney's book (note that  I can't check the original book, but this information seems to be reliable).

 “Our own policies interfere with free-market mechanisms.  We subsidize domestic oil and gas production with generous tax breaks, penalize sugar-based ethanol from Brazil, and block investment in nuclear energy.  Our navy assumes the prime responsibility for securing the oil routes from the Middle East, effectively subsidizing its cost.  Thus, we don’t pay the full cost of Middle East oil, either at the oil-company level or at the pump.” (232)

“Market economists also identify a number of externalities – real costs that aren’t captured in the price of fuel – the most frequently cited of which are the health-care costs of pollution and the climate costs of greenhouse gases.  There is a further externality: potentially leaving the next generation in the lurch by using so much oil and energy ourselves – domestic and imported – that our children face severe oil shortages, prohibitively expensive fuel, a crippled economy, and dominion of energy by Russia and other oil-rich states.  No matter how you price it, oil is expensive to use; we should be encouraging our citizens to use less of it, our scientists to find alternatives for it, and our producers to find more of it here at home.”

“Many analysts predict that the world’s production of oil will peak in the next ten to twenty years, but oil expert Matt Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, presents a compelling case that Middle Eastern oil production may have already reached its peak.  Simmons bases his contention on his investigation into the highly secretive matter of the level of reserves in the Saudi oil fields. But whether the peak is already past or will be reached within a few years, world oil supply will decline at some point, and no one predicts a corresponding decline in demand. If we want America to remain strong and wish to ensure that future generations have secure and prosperous lives, we must consider our current energy policies in the light of how these policies will affect our grandchildren.” (233)


  1. Hopefully someone will ask him about the extent to which he stands by this now that he has to "keep the base in line."


    Mitt Romney looks set to declare war on America's wind energy industry, further emphasising the dividing line between the presumptive Republican presidential candidate and President Barack Obama on energy issues.[...]

    Romney's campaign later confirmed he planned to allow the tax credits to lapse, stressing that he favours an energy policy environment where technology-specific incentives are removed.

    However, green groups, renewable energy industry insiders, and Democrats were all quick to point out that Romney's desire for a level playing field on energy policy does not extend to oil and gas, where he has pledged to retain up to $40bn of subsidies and tax breaks that President Obama wants to see phased out.

    Romney also faces accusations he has flip-flopped on clean energy policy, given that as governor of Massachusetts between 2003 and 2007 he talked up the potential for renewable energy and approved state support packages for a number of clean tech firms.[...]

  3. One of the main qualities of Romney is to be a consistent flip-flopper, supporting whatever agenda is convenient at the moment, without even trying to acknowledge his flip-flopping. So whatever he wrote two years ago is not what he would say now, most likely. And anyway, unfortunately, one thing that Romney and Obama agree even now is that economic growth is the basic solution to all problems.The idea that growth costs more than it is worth, and therefore becomes literally uneconomic, is out of the picture. Romney is not a peak-oiler, not because of what he says, anyway, but because of what he does and the policies he supports.

  4. Professor Bardi -- I am a big fan of your work. Thank you!

    I wouldn't however project any peak oil awareness on Romney. His extravagant lifestyle somewhat speaks for itself (elevators for his multi-car garage), and its not really in the nature of equity managers to understand that Earth's limits :)

    More importantly, this is from his economic pamphlet he released about six months ago (this section quotes Senator Jim Talent, however by including it in his plan, he is endorsing the view):

    "Many Americans believe that the United States is deficient in energy
    resources. It is certainly true that energy costs America more than it
    should, and that our access to energy is less secure than it ought to be. But contrary to popular belief, our fundamental problem is not a shortage of domestic supply.

    America has hundreds of years of coal reserves. Recent discoveries
    are making the United States the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Producing
    nuclear energy is less a question of natural resources than of technological understanding, and in that America is still the leader of the world.

    Even oil, our scarcest commodity, is available in much greater quantity
    than many people realize. America has domestic reserves of at least twenty
    billion barrels of oil that could be recovered. That is not counting the oil that may be available, but which we do not know."

  5. Thanks for being a fan, Calvin! About Romney, don't take my post as anything more than an expression of perplexity. But I must also say that I am so deeply disappointed by Obama that I am almost desperate to find an alternative. Alas, that couldn't be Mitt Romney, I am afraid....

  6. I think it´s important to stress the question mark behind the title of Ugo´s posting. And it´s an interesting information on Romney´s book I did not know before.
    Well, although I´m understanding some disappointment on Obama one has to admit that he did adress the dependancy on fossil fuels as a threat and in some way peak oil, too.
    eg in this speech:

  7. Scoop: A preview of Romney’s energy plan

    again, whatever made him mention peak oil and the finite nature of fossil fuels two years ago, has quietly left the room.


  8. well, since i am at it, let's complete these entries about Romney with his absolute silence on climate change, since peak oil and climate change are not exactly distant cousins....

    thank you everybody for the attention, and have a great day.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)