In a previously unreleased Oct. 5 letter to ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, chairman of the National Petroleum Council, Bodman asked for a study of the industry's ability to produce enough oil and natural gas at prices that won't cripple the economy.
"He's asked them to take a big-picture look out several years. ... He wants to get some definitive information," says Craig Stevens, an Energy Department spokesman.
The most noteworthy aspect of Bodman's request is a reference to the "peak oil" debate. At issue: the claim by a vocal minority of energy experts that the world is at, or near, maximum oil production.