Hirsch has served as a consultant and on advisory committees for government and industry. He is past Chairman of the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academies, has served on a number of National Research Council committees, and is a National Associate of the National Academies. In recent years, he has focused on problems associated with the peaking of world conventional oil production and its mitigation.
In 2008, Hirsch stated that declines in world oil supply caused proportionate declines in world GDP. His suggested framework for mitigation planning included:
"(1) a Best Case where maximum world oil production is followed by a multi-year plateau before the onset of a monotonic decline rate of 2-5% per year; (2) A Middling Case, where world oil production reaches a maximum, after which it drops into a long-term, 2-5% monotonic annual decline; and finally (3) a Worst Case, where the sharp peak of the Middling Case is degraded by oil exporter withholding, leading to world oil shortages growing potentially more rapidly than 2-5% per year, creating the most dire world economic impacts."
Hirsch holds 14 patents and has over 50 publications in the energy field.
Hirsch, Robert L. (February 27, 1979). "Method of mounting a fuel pellet in a laser-excited fusion reactor". US Patent 4,142,088.
Hirsch, Robert L.; et al. (November 6, 1990). "Coal seam discontinuity sensor and method for coal mining apparatus". US Patent 4,968,098.
Hirsch, Robert (1996-03-01). [dead link] "The Energy Plateau". Public Utilities Reports, Inc.
Hirsch, Robert L.; et al. (February 2005). "Peaking of world oil production: impacts, mitigation, & risk management". US Dept. Energy/National Energy Technology Lab. p. 91.
Hirsch, Robert L.; et al., Roger; Wendling, Robert (November 28, 2005). "Peaking of world oil production: impacts, mitigation, & risk management". AIChE52 (1): 2–8. doi:10.1002/aic.10747.
Hirsch, Robert L.; et al. (2005). "Peaking of world oil production: impacts, mitigation, & risk management". US Dept. Energy/National Energy Technology Lab.
Hirsch, Robert L. (October 2005). "The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production". Atlantic Council of the United States, BulletinXVI (3).
Hirsch, Robert L.; Bezdek, Roger H.; Wendling, Robert M. (February 5, 2007). "Peaking of world oil production: recent Forecasts". US Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Lab. NETL-2007/1263.. See the Hirsch report
Höök, Mikael; Hirsch, Robert L.; Aleklett, Kjell (June 2009). "Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production.". Energy Policy37 (6): 2262–2272. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2009.02.020.
Hirsch, Robert L., Roger H. Bezdek, Robert M. Wendling The Impending World Energy Mess: What It Is and What It Means to You, Apogee Prime, 2010.