Matthew Simmons – A Greatly Missed Hero


The man who brought the term ‘peak oil’  into popular awareness turned many people who were unconcerned about energy supply into active monitors of world energy consumption and oil usage. Against the backdrop of energy shortages, lineups at the gas station, Gulf Wars and climate change, Simmons’ message became louder as he turned the world’s attention toward sustainable energy solutions.

While to some Matthew Simmons’ message remains unheard, to others he is their hero. Matthew Simmons founded and became chairman emeritus of the Simmons & Company International and was a well-regarded figure when it came to the field of peak  Simmons was motivated by the 1973 energy crisis to form an investment banking firm to aid oil companies. He had served as an energy adviser to then United States President George W. Bush and was a member up until his death of the National Petroleum Council, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations. He died at his vacation home in North Haven, Maine on August 8, 2010 because of “accidental drowning with heart disease as the contributing factor”.

Simmons authored the well received book published in 2005: Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. He mobilized a growing awareness toward the depletion of oil reserves and the unreliability of Middle East oil reserves. Because of his advocacy — he spoke to thousands regarding Peak Oil and the water shortages — world governments increased support for sustainable energy solutions many years before the signs of Peak Oil began to be felt. Simmons was also the founder of the Ocean Energy Institute in Maine, which supports his vision of making Maine the leader in energy in areas including offshore wind and ocean power.

Simmons was a very good analyst especially when it came to identifying big trends and was pretty much comfortable challenging conventional wisdom. As much as he was concerned about the current effects of peak oil, his knowledge extended far beyond the near term. During an oil industry tour in Saudi Arabia in 2003, he got the inspiration to estimate the world’s biggest oil reserves. Through extensive research that involved poring through engineering data which has been supposedly neglected, he came to the conclusion that the country was very close to its peak output. Through this knowledge, he was able to successfully build his own energy firm and challenge one of its most accepted precepts – that the quantity of oil in the world is nearly unlimited.

According to Simmons during his slide presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, the demand for energy has turned into a “runaway train that cannot be easily slowed or reversed.” According to him, the world is now in the early stages of a global train wreck in which demand is higher than the supply and the shortages are starting.

The controversy surrounding peak oil is more or less politically based. Those who believe that peak oil is near and we are running out of  fossil fuels are making efforts to prepare the economy for future shock and the decline in oil, as well as price hikes due to increasing demand. While those who continue to contend that there is nothing wrong are often connected with the oil industry and fossil fuels and believe that fears of the decline are alarmist.

Today, even oil company executives acknowledge that we are running out of oil, and an acute shortage could be felt as early as 2015.

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