The Paradise Spell
By EV World
Randy Udall is tall and lanky, the stereotypical Westerner with a rye sense of humor and a folksy sagacity about him.
He and his extended family have been involved in a mix of presidential politics and the environment dating back at least two generations. It was Stewart Udall, his uncle, who helped inspire many of America's groundbreaking environmental legislations. His father 'Mo' Udall lost the Democrat presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Two cousins and his brother Mark are currently members of Congress.
So, when Randy speaks, he usually has something worthwhile to say. His luncheon address at the ASPO USA conference at Boston University in October 2006 was no exception as he talked about how Americans, in particular, and the developed world, in general, have unwittingly grown accustomed to living like 'gods' in terms of the energy that we have at our beckon call.
He pointed out that in Cleopatra VII's time -- she's the famous paramour of Julius Caesar -- the Ptolemaic queen of Egypt could order 60 slaves to row her up and down the Nile in her royal barge. Those sixty men produced power equivalent to 6 hp, about the same output of a common lawnmower engine. Today the average American woman has twenty to thirty times that power available to her as she drives to work, goes shopping or runs her offspring to soccer practice.
The reason for making this comparison, he explained early in his talk is because there has been a recent backlash against the notion of peak oil. Decades of consuming evermore oil and gas and electricity have inured us, conditioned us into assuming that these energy sources are infinite.
He said that energy is and will be the defining issue of both this generation and the coming century, though it is reassuring to know that finally a lot of very bright people are beginning to take the problem seriously and are starting to apply the needed intellectual 'horsepower' to find possible remedies.
"It is reassuring that now, finally, a day late and a dollar short, we are focusing on this problem in a way that we need to," he commented.
He commended ChevronTexaco for their "Will You Join Us?" advertising campaign that sought to alert the public to the fact that oil is a finite resource and that the era of easy oil is now over.
Udall then cited an interview that respected oil industry analyst Charlie Maxwell gave to Barron's Magazine just before the conference critical of ExxonMobil for misleading the government and the people with their own advertising campaign that implied peak oil wasn't a problem.
"This verges on the irresponsible because it says to the government, there is no problem. It says to the media, there is no problem. It says to the public, there is no problem. So we are to march with fife and drum, banners flying into the maw of destruction because Exxon tells us there is no problem."
Curiously, he noted that on many points, Daniel Yergin and his colleagues at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, who are some of the most vocal opponents of peak oil, actually agree with the peak oil movement. Not only does CERA agree that new discoveries are falling and that depletion rate is 5%, but one of their charts in their most recent report shows global oil production peaking in 2010, a date many peak oil advocates see as the turning point when demand will begin to outpace production.
"When you get deeper into CERA's report, it is almost like they can't bring themselves to believe what the evidence says... So they use all kinds of statistical ways, 'yet to find oil', 'oil under appraisal'. They bring all of the natural gas liquids in as a function of expanding natural gas production globally. They bring all of that into the oil category, and then they call it all capacity... and neglect all the things we're familiar with. They're wrong on Norway. They're wrong on Mexico, They're wrong on (Russia). It's astounding the lengths they go in this report to not reach the conclusion that peak oil is near.
"So I want to explore why I think that's going on," he explained.
You can listen to his analysis using either of the two MP3 players at the top of the page, or you can download his 34-minute talk to your computer hard drive for transfer and playback on your favorite MP3 device.
EV World expresses its appreciation to ASPO USA and the conference organizers for granting us permission to record and make available the conference proceedings to EV World readers/listeners.