The first day of the ASPO conference involved a lot of smaller sessions, most of which I missed because I was speaking or at the press conference and congressional briefing. The congressional briefing was a wild success – absolutely packed. The press conference was smaller (we were competing with the IMF and several other events) but the press follow up has been pretty good. Since what I care most about is ASPO’s ability to extend the message out to the overwhelming majority of people who have no idea that their life is going to change, this was useful and interesting.
Day two (Friday) was everyone in the same room – and let’s just say I didn’t get out much. Hermetically sealed hotels are not a farm girl’s natural environment, either. But it was worth being there – because in many ways, it is as interesting and probably as important to watch the audience watching the speakers as it is anything else.
Best quote of the day came from the bone dry but very funny former Secretary of Energy and of Defense (at different times, not simultaneously) Dr. James Schlessinger. “Can we rise to meet the political challenge? I see absolutely no cause for optimism.” Best moment was Nicole Foss’s sleeper hit – I think the majority of ASPO attendees didn’t know what to expect from her. Most useful presentation to me was Art Berman’s brilliant assessment of shale gas.
The most useful moment of the conference so far, however, occurred at the congressional briefing when a fellow from some think tank stood up, after listening to a panel of six experts explain, sometimes clearly and succinctly, sometimes with perhaps a bit too much technical detail, over and over again, what energy limits we’re actually running up against. The gentleman then asked a question that had already been answered quite clearly by several other presenters – “but what about all these big Deepwater discoveries, isn’t their impact enough…”
Here’s a guy who came to a policy briefing to learn something, who was at least marginally open, and who was challenging their presentation, but not with hostility. It was a useful and important reminder of how many times people have to hear a story, perhaps told many different ways to have it connect. My take is that the gentleman in question was simply seeking to reconcile what he was being told and what he had been told and that that was going to take multiple repetition.
It easy on the peak oil end to get frustrated with hearing the same story over and over again. It is easy to think that because we’ve said it once, we shouldn’t say it again. I admit, I tend to get easily frustrated with saying it again Sam – I don’t want to sit down and explain the basics every time. But that’s the project here – because out of 310 million Americans, maybe 1 million (and that’s probably a high estimate, actually) really get peak oil. That means 309 million aren’t yet able to grasp why you would want local or policy solutions to address it. That means 309 million people have no personal preparations and not the faintest idea why you would want them. And 309 million people are out there banging as hard as they can into “solutions” to a situation that isn’t solvable and that are making things worse.
Some people are going to accept arguments from authority – having a former Secretary of Energy Stand up and quietly tell them that peak oil is real and present is how you tell them. Some people will need graphs and data and want to see for themselves. Some people need a storyteller. Some people need a fiery debate. Some people need anger or joy or even fear. Some people need a celebrity. Some people need persuasion. Some people will never get it. But I can think of few things more useful than trying to turn one million people into two million. It isn’t going to happen only here, but so far, in the net, I think it isn’t a bad beginning.