Who is to blame for the public misinformation about oil reserves?

The Federal government relies on ABARE for its resource information. Part 3 of this special edition of 4 Corners on peak oil shows how the then head of ABARE before the Senate inquiry into peak oil. This is what happened (from transcript).

In Canberra, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics, ABARE, has consistently forecast in recent years that oil prices are about to fall.

SENATOR MILNE: How do you account for the fact that ABARE keeps on suggesting that the oil price will gently recede from its current value, when that is so far removed from the reality?

DR BRIAN FISHER, EXEC. DIRECTOR ABARE: Madam Chair, there’s no doubt that I have made the occasional mistake with my oil price forecast and quite a few other forecasts, frankly.

JONATHAN HOLMES: Backbenchers on both sides of the political fence are becoming sceptical.

MR HEFFERNAN: Does ABARE agree with Geoscience in terms of when we’re going to reach the crossover point between production and demand? I mean, are we…?

JONATHAN HOLMES: A Senate Committee chaired by Western Australian Green Senator Rachel Siewart is due to report on global oil supply by September.

RACHEL SIEWART: Has Australia commissioned any such research? Is anybody aware of that? And looking at the potential impact of peak oil and whether peak oil is a reality?

DR BRIAN FISHER, EXEC. DIRECTOR ABARE: Madam Chair, I’m…well, nobody’s asked ABARE to do such work.

JONATHAN HOLMES: ABARE insists that there’s no need for panic – or for government intervention.

They assumed that economics would always solve our resource problems. Later in the interview he jokes that “If the price of eggs is high enough, even the roosters will start to lay!” Ho ho ho — what a comedian, trying to shrug off the biggest national security and intelligence stuff-up in Australian history — missing the imminence of the final oil crisis! If any one individual is to blame, it’s this guy and his department. They just did not think to ask “how much of this stuff is there?” and “Is supply the problem driving up prices?”

It was his job to forecast price and he forgets to look at Supply. Dr Fischer, let’s revisit basic Primary School economics shall we? Price is a function of Demand and Supply…

He could have more accurately claimed, “The dog ate my homework”.

It’s hard to believe that this screened on our ABC in July 2006 and we are STILL talking about reducing tax on petrol as if the final oil crisis was not looming on the horizon. The level of denial out there is incomprehensible. We should be raising the tax on oil to fund the train and tram upgrades we have to fund!

Read the transcript or watch the full program on 4 Corners Broadband edition (Note: Dr Brian FIscher shows up in Part 3 if you just wanted to watch that section. Your browser needs the Flash plugin, version 8 or newer)

For further reading access key articles and reports presenting both sides of the peak oil debate. Read Australian perspectives on the urban impact of declining oil, plus a section presenting renewable energy alternatives.


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