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.
Before becoming peak oil’s number one advocate, Mr Simmons founded Simmons & Company, the energy investment bank, whose chairman and chief executive, Michael Frazier, said: “We are deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of a true visionary and friend. As a pivotal figure in the lives of many of our employees, and countless others across the energy industry, Matt will be sorely missed.”
Energy Intelligence, the industry newsletter, said Mr Simmons may finally be best remembered for what he was doing when he died.
“Simmons may yet have a more enduring legacy born of his real career as an investment banker. Founder of the Ocean Energy Research Institute in Rockland, Maine, Simmons was just beginning to see this three-year effort bear fruit. His goal was to build the world’s largest deepwater wind farm off the coast of Maine, utilizing 900-foot, tip-to-tip blades being especially designed for the project. And that’s just the first phase; The second would pipe nearly freezing deep ocean waters onshore for cooling. Offshore wind was Simmons’ last great passion and he spoke of this $25 billion project, which will undoubtedly survive him, not as an end in itself but as a prototype for things to come.”