The United States, on the other hand, uses 18.5 million barrels of oil daily, but produces only 7 million, meaning that we are increasingly dependent on foreign oil. Hofmeister pointed out that at present the world consumes 88 million barrels of oil a day. “We’ll need 97 million barrels daily by 2015 and this just isn’t going to happen. What we are going to see is a demand squeeze that will increase global oil prices.”

The former head of Shell Oil said Americans had better be prepared to stand in long gas lines like the U.S. experienced in the 1970s, in which gas supplies were scarce and prices high, and gunfights, brawls and obscenities were common occurrences at neighborhood gas stations. He said the lack of a long-term energy strategy in the U.S. — a country which has many untapped oil reserves in states such as Alaska, Colorado, Montana and elsewhere — prevents these oil-rich places from providing energy because “they are off limits.”

He added that energy sources such as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, hydroelectric, biofuels and solar and wind energy — if utilized, funded and developed to their fullest potentials — would easily keep the U.S. energy sufficient for the next 300 years. “Our problem is quite simply none of our energy sources comes to material scale. For instance, the nation’s wind farms are only a tenth of the size they should be and, while the country’s automobiles are 90 percent cleaner today than in the 1990s, combustible engines still waste about 20 percent of their energy.”

He returned to warning about the “energy abyss” in the U.S. and said the remedy lies in reforming the political system by removing the energy puzzle from the hands of politicians. He said the federal system has 13 cabinet-level offices governing energy, 26 committees in Congress oversee energy matters (with some lawmakers changing every two years), and 800 federal judges across the nation who can adjudicate energy issues. “We need to change the system. We need a long-term, 50-year energy plan that extends beyond election cycles. These various committees and offices do not cooperate with one another. We need something like an Independent Regulatory Energy Commission that doesn’t answer to Washington. Energy is the lubricant for our lifestyles; it makes it all work. We are in a political, economic and cultural crisis. This energy abyss is a growing problem we have never had to face before.”
Even though popular comedian Jack Gallagher made the audience laugh during lunch time, most of the Ag summit consisted of bad news.