Tributes to Matt Simmons

posted Wednesday, August 11, 2010        

Matt Simmons, global energy expert, dies at 67

Statement by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas  – USA

August 9, 2010

ROCKLAND, Maine — Matt Simmons, Chairman of ASPO-USA’s Advisory Board, died Sunday night at his home in North Haven Island, near Rockland, Maine.

The founder of Houston-based Simmons & Co. International, Matt wrote the 2005 book “Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy,” addressing  concerns about Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves and the impending peak of worldwide crude oil production.

Simmons also founded The Ocean Energy Institute, a think tank and venture capital fund in Rockland to promote offshore wind energy research and development.

The institute is a part of the consortium led by the University of Maine, which aims to design and test floating deep-water wind turbine platforms.

“Matt Simmons was an innovative thinker who pushed ideas that have the potential to yield a more environmentally and economically sustainable future for Maine and the world,” said Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who attended the opening of the institute’s headquarters last month.

Matt was an unstinting supporter of ASPO-USA and an outspoken energy reform advocate. He wrote and spoke fearlessly to warn us about the dangers of status-quo energy policy.

It is impossible to define Matt by any single aspect of his wide ranging interests or any one period of his life and work.  He was a husband and father, an investment banker, an author, and a friend and visionary who lent his name and energy to the organization and evolution of ASPO-USA.  He will be missed by us all.


The Death of Matt Simmons is a Great Loss

By Kjell Alecklett, Geophysicist, Uppsala University, Sweden and President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas International

August 10, 2010

Yesterday afternoon I received a message from Matt Simmons’ assistant Laura Russell that I found difficult to believe – it read that Matt had died suddenly. A few hours later the news had spread over the entire world . It is with great sorrow that I now write these words.

In the autumn of 2001 I visited Colin Campbell in Ballydehob in Ireland. During the visit we discussed the possibility of organizing an international workshop on Peak Oil in Uppsala during the spring of 2002. I remember that I said that we needed speakers from the Middle East, Russia and the USA if we were to call the conference “international”. From the USA we thought of Matt Simmons. Matt had just studied future conventional natural gas production in the USA and was of the view that the conventional gas production had reached its peak. He was also very concerned about the impending peak in world oil production. We contacted Matt and he agreed to attend.

Our workshop was held during a Thursday and Friday at the end of May in 2002. I remember that Matt was feeling stressed because that Saturday his daughter was to receive her high school diploma. Matt gave his presentation on Thursday and on Friday morning he flew back to Houston. We had managed to interest Bruce Stanley of AP, Associated Press of London, in attending. He came to Uppsala and wrote about our workshop. When Matt awoke on Saturday morning in Houston he could read on the first page of his local newspaper that he had been and spoken in Uppsala. It was in that article that the expression “Peak Oil” was used for the first time in the international press :

”The dispute centers on the precise timing of what is variously described as “peak oil” or “the big rollover” — the predicted date when existing oil production, together with new discoveries of crude, can no longer replenish the world’s reserves as quickly as consuming countries are depleting them.”

The thing that made Matt’s involvement especially interesting was that in 2000 he had been an advisor on energy to George W. Bush during his presidential campaign. Matt’s lecture in Uppsala became the beginning of a deep engagement with Peak Oil.

Since the first Peak Oil conference it was a given to invite Matt Simmons to all those that followed. Together with Colin Campbell his presence was one of the main attractions.

In 2005 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences established an energy committee and their first project was to research oil depletion, i.e. whether “Peak Oil” was close at hand. I was given the task of organizing a symposium on “Global Oil Reserves” in Uppsala and they wanted me to invite a number of important speakers.

It was obvious that I should invite Matt to this important meeting and, since he also thought it important, he took a plane from Houston and came to the meeting on 23 May, i.e. three years after our first Peak Oil conference in Uppsala. I know that the discussions that the energy committee had with Matt had a significant impact on their final report, ”Statement on Oil”.

During the years since our first meeting we met in person about 10 times but through email and over the phone Matt was always close at hand when I needed his help. We will miss him greatly. Naturally, my thoughts go to his wife Ellen who used to accompany him on his trips. Normally they had time for a dinner or some other social activity. I hope that Ellen will also be with us in future when we ASPO folk meet.

Matt Simmons’ engagement with Peak Oil will continue via innumerable presentations on, for example, YouTube and through his writings. His book on oil production in Saudi Arabia, “Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy” is already a classic that has been translated into several languages.

Thank you Matt for all you did – we needed you also in our future.


Maine Governor Mourns Passing of Matthew Simmons

Statement by the Ocean Energy Institute

Augusta, Maine (August 9, 2010) — Governor John E. Baldacci today learned of the death of Matthew Simmons of North Haven. Simmons was a leading energy investment banker, a former White House energy advisor, an author and the driving force behind the Ocean Energy Institute, based in Rockland, Maine. The Ocean Energy Institute (OEI), founded by Simmons in 2007, is a nonprofit think-tank and venture capital fund dedicated to expanding offshore energy through research and development.

“Matt Simmons was an innovative thinker who pushed ideas that have the potential to yield a more environmentally and economically sustainable future for Maine and the world,” said Governor Baldacci. “I visited Matt and his team last month and thanked them for their partnership with the State as we aggressively build an independent energy future for Maine. Our State has been viewed as a leader in alternative energy in part because of the groundbreaking work spearheaded by Matt Simmons and the Ocean Energy Institute. His leadership and commitment to a better world will be missed, and we need to continue Matt’s work and vision as a way to honor him. Matt was also a kind and generous man. At this difficult time, we send our deepest sympathies to his family.”

Simmons is the author of the 2005 book “Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy,” which laid out an argument of peak oil, that the world was approaching peak oil production. Simmons believed that to meet future energy needs, we need to look beyond fossil fuels and to develop energy by harnessing our vast natural resources in a responsible way. He met with the Governor a number of times and the Ocean Energy Institute is a part of the consortium led by the University of Maine that has received millions of dollars from the federal government to research and develop offshore wind turbines. Governor Baldacci also recognized Matt Simmons’ leadership during his State of the State address delivered earlier this year.


Matt Simmons Embodied Integrity

By Nick Snow,  Oil and Gas Journal, Washington editor

What I remembered first when I learned that Matthew R. Simmons died at his summer home in Maine on Aug. 8 was the anguish in his voice when we spoke by telephone in early 2001 as it became increasingly clear that Enron Corp.’s problems extended to other companies and businesses.

“It’s truly awful,” he said when I mentioned my dismay that the so-called Chinese Wall between investment banks’ research and marketing departments had simply disappeared. “It will take years, if not decades, for our business to regain the trust it has lost. I’m not certain that it ever will.”

Trust mattered a lot to Matt Simmons. Several years before, when his brother, L.E., bought a share of another trade publication I worked for, the two of them tracked me down during the Offshore Technology Conference because I had cited a Simmons & Co. International report in one of my stories. They weren’t satisfied until I assured them I’d used the material because it was good, and not because it came from a company run by the brother of one of the newspaper’s new owners.

I saw Matt frequently in Washington at trade association and government events. Often, he would be on his way out the door to get to the White House or Department of Energy for meetings, yet he always made time to talk. His concerns about the actual extent of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves still make some people nervous. They deserve to be taken seriously because his track record on other issues is so good.

When he started the Ocean Energy Institute after he retired from the helm of what probably is Houston’s most successful energy investment bank, Matt made OEI a venture capital fund as well as a think-tank to address the challenges of US offshore renewable energy.

“OEI approaches energy R&D and investment from a systems point of view; not just generation, but usage, storage and transmission all together as an interdependent set of opportunities and the next driving force of the international economy,” its web site notes. “OEI is working to coordinate the diverse factors that will help make ocean energy a reality: energy system architecture, offshore wind technology, environmental interests, stakeholder concerns, industrial partners, academic research, financial firepower and political factors.”

“Oceans are the last energy frontier, yet we know so little about how to harness them,” he said. “The Ocean Energy Institute’s mission is to quickly fill this knowledge void and let our oceans supply us the energy that fossil fuels have provided for the last hundred years.” Others share that vision but aren’t working out specific solutions. Matt and other thoughtful men and women began to do something about it. They will continue the work he started. More information about OEI is available online at

Leave a comment