Matt Simmons, who founded investment house Simmons & Co. and who wrote several books on peak oil, died yesterday at his summer home in Maine; reports are conflicting; the source in Maine says it was by drowning and others, a heart attack. Matt was 67 years old. A Peak Oil advocate, Matt wrote a great book in 2005 about the state of the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, called Twilight in the Desert. He told me earlier this year that he was working on a second edition of the book to update for current affairs. I’m sorry to see that project come to an end; it was some of his best work.
Some called Matt a visionary; some called him a nut. Skeptics of his oil supply theories had to begrudgingly admit that many of his predictions came true, but some would say that “a broken clock is still right twice a day.” I found Matt to be a very interesting guy and one who could hold the attention of a room. Even though many disagreed with his Peak Oil conclusions, they respected his work and the way he derived his conclusions.
In recent years, though, Matt had begun to make some pretty radical statements about our own domestic production, especially about shale gas and offshore production. I happen to agree with some of his conclusions and believe that the shale gas plays are not the Shangri La that many companies would want us to believe, but don’t believe it’s as apocalyptic as Matt declared. Matt had also become very interested in wave-generated power and was pushing several projects.
Since the Macondo well blowout, Matt had become a very outspoken critic of BP, but also started asserting that the blowout we were seeing on the video feed was not the real one, that another mysterious hole 5 miles away was spewing 120,000 barrels a day, there was a huge lake of oil 450 feet thick, so on a so forth. Everyone in the industry and most in the main stream media ignored these dire declarations, but many who are unfamiliar with oil and gas production clung to the assertions; suddenly there was talk of massive methane bubbles and tsunamis created by this volcano of oil, and even predictions of the end of the world as we know it. I was asked about it on occasion, and my answer always was that this disaster is big enough without resorting to hyperbole.
All that aside, I will always remember Matt Simmons fondly. It was his boldness and self-confidence that gave me the confidence to begin speaking out about my beliefs, not only about the oil and gas industry and energy policy, but also about social justice and politics. I credit Matt for helping me find my own voice.
I’ll miss him.