Final report from John on the ASPO Conference
I am back on the train to New York, reviewing what occurred in the last three days. Thinking over what I learned in the talks given on an autopsy of the Gulf Oil spill brings to mind the ones given in the “Message, Media and Outreach” section.
There was no question that in the speaker’s minds that the Gulf accident was the result of a series of almost inexplicable mistakes by the crew on the rig. There was a profound lack of communication between various levels of command both on the rig and above. As the errors were discussed, the realization of what was ignored became mind-boggling. Yet the speakers thought that BP technical actions on stopping the leak were more than adequate, if not commendable. When people asked why it took so long to stop the leak, the real issue is how BP was able to stop the leak so quickly. One speaker noted in discussing the issue of using a nuclear device (which was not possible in this case thank goodness), that Russia had success in stopping three out four gas well blowouts on which it was tried. The fourth gas well is still burning. Please note that I think that there was many other issues surrounding the way BP handled this leak that may not be at all commendable. It is an open question, maybe, whether the environment damage caused by the leak was made much worse by their actions.
Thinking back over the media coverage that I remember of this disaster, one issue that stands out in my mind was how it was claimed that this well was pushing the limits of deep water drilling. It turns out it wasn’t. Wells have been drilled that are more than twice as deep. The area was a tricky one to drill in, but the dangers of the high gas pressures that were encountered were well known. This well was not far from being an average deep water well, of which hundreds have been drilled. This ignorance of these facts was manipulated in typically fashion by certain groups. I will cite one that appears to be from “conservative” commentators – this accident was the government’s fault because by banning shallow water drilling, oil and companies were forced into deep water where they have little experience. Barf.
The observant reader will notice that I refer to groups in plural. I find what is now labeled as liberal opinions is often, but not always, far more factually correct than conservative ones. However such opinions often leave me with a burning question: “Yes, that is correct/good/moral. But what must we give up, and how, in order to do this?” (Sharon’s work does not invoke this response for some reason.)
For to give up things we will, whether it is now willingly, or later unwillingly. One way or another, we will lose our precious, our barrel of power. What did not come out clearly of the sound and fury surrounding the coverage of the Gulf accident was the why of where we were drilling. Yes, I know why and probably you do too. But my day job co-workers don’t and I bet yours don’t either. Once again, the opportunity to talk about peak oil and what it implies to the public was lost.
Yes, that issue of getting a society to peacefully give things up was addressed in the Media and Message section. But will those messages overcome the message that “It is the government’s/poor’s/blacks’/gays’ fault.”?
I though that giving things up was unsurprisingly a theme of the conference, especially the last day. From Dr. Schlumberger’s delightful talk on The Future of Air Transportation to Sharon’s thoughtful “Feeding a Planet after Peak Oil”, what we will give up and what we must not was a recurring theme.
At the end of the conference, a number of the panelists returned to the podium and were asked what they are doing in their life to prepare for what they see is going to happen. All had done something. Some had oriented their entire lives towards this (guess who), one had a careful plan to take their family to safety in another country in which they had deep roots. What are your plans?
Then it was over.
I want to thank Sharon so much for this opportunity to help her on this blog. It was an honor to be able to post on a site that I respect so highly.