SPOKANE, Wash. – Are the run-up in gasoline prices and energy supply problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina just short-term issues? Or are we now receiving a troubling preview of our uncertain energy future?

On Oct. 4-5 at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, some of the nation’s leading experts on oil production, global energy demand and alternative energy strategies will come together to examine the national and international energy outlook at Washington State University’s Conference on Global Oil Depletion and Implications for the Pacific Northwest.

Presented by the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU, with principal sponsors that include Avista Corp., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Spokane Rotary 21 and the Washington State Department of Ecology, the conference will present the best science available on oil depletion and the state of research for energy alternatives and efficiency.

It is designed to bring together energy and business experts and policy-makers from around the Pacific Northwest to create a better understanding of potential energy challenges and solutions, and develop responsive energy policy and mechanisms to address these issues sooner rather than later.

“This conference is a first step in gathering people together to raise awareness of the growing gap between the demand and supply of oil and natural gas, and to begin a process for planning mitigation initiatives in the Pacific Northwest,” said Melissa Ahern, an economist and associate professor at WSU Spokane.

One keynote speaker will be Matthew Simmons, an energy investment banker and founding chief executive officer of Simmons and Co., who has written the provocative new book “Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy.” In the book, which is based on Simmons’ first-hand reporting and his examination of hundreds of technical studies, Simmons raises doubts about the Saudis’ ability to increase production to meet growing international demand and foresees sharply increased oil prices.

“Now if I tell you that, you are free to forget it,” wrote James Strodes, former Washington bureau chief for Forbes and Financial World magazines, in reviewing Simmons’ book for the Washington Times. “But Matthew Simmons has been the secret card in the Rolodex of most energy reporters for more than 20 years.”

 “We need to start preparing for the fact that, in all likelihood, oil supply is reaching sustainable peak supply on a global basis and start radically preparing a different economy that is less oil-intensive in use,” Simmons said in an Aug. 24 interview on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

The conference will begin the evening of Oct. 4 with an address by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire on the state’s energy policy and priorities.

On Oct. 5, Simmons’ remarks will be followed by another keynote address by Roger Bezdek, president of Management Information Services Inc. Bezdek is co-author of “Peaking World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management,” a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy earlier this year. He will discuss strategies to mitigate the economic disruption caused by rising oil prices and shrinking supplies.

Herman Franssen, former chief economist of the International Energy Agency, will address the conference at lunch. He will discuss the geopolitical impact of rising international demand for energy as world population increases and industrializing Third World economies demand more energy.

Conference sessions will present the most current research related to liquid fuel alternatives, the range of electricity sources and energy efficiency strategies. Presenters will include representatives from WSU, the Spokane Conservation District, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, CH2M Hill and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

“The global oil depletion conference ensures discussion of an issue essential in our daily lives now and in the future. We deeply appreciate the extensive collaboration supporting preparations for this conference,” said Eric Lear, dean of College of Liberal Arts at WSU.

“We see this conference as a vehicle for doing public service in the best traditions of the namesake of our institute, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas Foley,” said Ed Weber, director of the Foley Institute. “The forum raises awareness about a critical public policy issue by engaging citizens, public officials, and some of the world’s top experts in a dialogue over what we know and the various alternatives for addressing energy issues that are not going away.”

A conference schedule, additional information on the speakers and online registration is available at http://capps.wsu.edu/globaloil/ or contact Conferences and Professional Programs at WSU at (800) 942-4978 or Joy Thompson at (509) 335-4194 for more information.