Matthew R. Simmons died suddenly of a heart attack on Sunday. He was the controversial author of Twilight in the Desert, which shed doubt on Saudi Arabia’s continued ability to supply the world with oil. Mr Simmons – one of the most influential proponents of peak oil, the theory that world oil production had, or was about to, peak – did more than anyone to prompt the secretive kingdom to make available data on its oil industry.
His study of the world’s biggest oil fields and their steep production decline rates was closely followed by a similar study by the International Energy Agency, the rich countries’ energy watchdog. This helped thrust the debate from the sidelines of internet doomsayers to the mainstream, especially as oil prices were rising to the July 2008 record of $147 a barrel.