Political documents vs. scientific ones
Tuesday the International Energy Agency released its annual “World Energy Outlook” report http://www.iea.org/speech/2009/Tanaka/WEO2009_Press_Conference.pdf, in which it forecast that by 2030 world oil production would increase from the current 85 million barrels per day to 105. But yesterday the Global Energy unit at Uppsala University in Sweden issued a report “The Peak of the Oil Age” which claims oil production is more likely to be 75 million barrels a day by 2030. The diagrams below, from the Guardian, illustrate the radical difference between these two views of our next twenty years.
Kjell Aleklett, professor of physics and director of the Global Energy, unit has described the IEA’s report as a “political document”. Scientists who have worked on IEA reports have spoken of “pressure” being applied by the USA to misrepresent reality, the motivation being to keep oil prices low and to prevent a stock market panic.
The juxtaposition of these two “authoritative” reports raises two major quandaries for economists and policy makers: how to forecast and plan for the next twenty years, and, more generally, how to tell a political document from a scientific one.