An e-mail that is attributed to Matthew Simmons, posted to a yahoo newsgroup:
Dear Dr. Scott:
Thanks for your excellent set of questions. I will try and shed some light on what I now think I know about Middle East Oil. When you quote me saying that Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels of proven reserves, totaling 25% of global production, which lasts 90 years if you take their straight line production today and assume it stays level until "the cupboard is bare"...these are their official numbers and the general mantra folks use to then ignore the prospect that we might now be approaching peak oil.
Until two years ago, I assumed these numbers were probably true as I had heard them so many times from so many experts. A single six day trip to Saudi Arabia set off various questions I had as to whether these "facts" were really facts or simply opinions or educated guesses. This led me into the most intense research I have ever done and the effort resulted in my pending book, "Twilight In the Desert". John Wiley & Sons are publishing it and publication date is May 27th. The book will set out hundreds of pages of data on an astonishing story.
The myth that Middle East Oil is so abundant at such a low price that there is not even a need for more Middle East exploration was only a thesis. There were educated technicians at Chevron and the other Aramco owners as early as 1972 who were beginning to get concerned that if the handful of key oil fields in Saudi Arabia were produced at a 9 to 10 million b/d rate, these fields would go into irreversible decline by the early to mid 1990's.
By early 1979, as the old Aramco owners were packing their bags and Aramco was being taken over by Saudi's, the sense that these fields could produce even 12 million b/d without starting into a sharp decline in the early part of the 2000 decade was getting widespread among the real technical experts. Sadly, this knowledge was kept under wraps and the entire world began to assume that oil was so abundant that we had about 15 to 20 million b/d shut in supply as the price of oil collapsed in the mid 1980's.
We then spent two more decades in the comfortable illusion of cheap oil forever.
It was never true.
I hope the lengthy two years of work that went into my pending book will finally be a tipping point to begin educating energy planners that Peak Oil is here.
What all this means is also important for people to understand as it does not mean social chaos if everyone understands what the issues are.
I spent a great deal of time in my final chapter called Aftermath trying to spell out a series of things people need to begin thinking about to avoid the panic your questions implied. All this sounds like an advertisement for the book but I am hopeful it gets wide readership as its message is of the utmost importance.
Feel free to use any or all of these comments to any others interested in the topic.