21 Sep 2007
ASPO 6. In Praise of … #1. ASPO 6 Itself.
Just back from Ireland after a great few days. I travelled there on the coach, which wasn’t as grueling as I feared it would be (honestly). It was my first time back there after 2 years away, and it was delightful to see old friends and places. The first two days were spent at the ASPO 6 conference in the City Hall (I’ll tell you about what I did afterwards when I have finished my ASPO 6 musings). ASPO 6 was a great improvement on ASPO5, a much higher standard of presentations, more debate and discussion, a broader range of subjects and (thankfully) less interminable presentations on peak oil models.
Although I took reams of what now, in the cold light of day, appear to be pretty much illegible notes, I am not going to write exhaustive accounts of all the talks. That is already being ably done over at the ever-wonderful Oil Drum (Day 1 here and here, Day 2 here and here). The conference began by being told by James Schlesinger that “we are all peakists now” (more on that tomorrow), and concluded with Eamon Ryan, Ireland’s energy minister, using the word “powerdown”. In between there were a diversity of presentations, mostly insightful but occasionally frustrating.
Once again we had to endure the nuclear fantasies of Pierre-Rene Bauquis, whose bonkers nuclear nonsense at ASPO 5 was unsympathetically reported here at **Transition Culture**. This year he had been in the programme as speaking about “Variations on Natural Gas”, which was a great relief that we might be able to avoid his nuclear views, but no, he changed the theme of his talk, and we were back in nuclear-land.
Nuclear power, he told us, is the solution to society’s woes, the only way of avoiding what he called the “regression of mankind” (others of us might prefer the term ‘energy descent, with the good connotations the phrase has a well as the bad). He proposed nuclear power as the power source for tar sands extraction, nuclear power in urban areas (like that’s ever going to happen) and that by 2100 60% of our power could come from nuclear power, in combination with oil.
It is perfectly feasible, according to Bauquis, to run the world’s cars on nuclear generated electricity. Life after the peak will be, according to Bauquis, a Golden Age for both oil and for the nuclear industry. If Bauquis ever runs for President, please don’t vote for him.
Other than that, most of the talks were of a very high quality, even the very difficult to follow Professor Xiongqi Pang from the China Petroleum University (yes, such a thing does exist), whose Powerpoint set out the very real challenges that peak oil present to China. It is clear that awareness on the peak oil issue within China is growing rapidly.
Many of the other talks I will discuss in more detail in subsequent “ASPO 6. In Praise of…” posts (there will be 7 in total). In conclusion, it is clear that the peak oil debate is moving forwards very fast. In #2 I will talk about the presentation Ray Leonard gave, which was, for me, probably the most insightful talk of the conference, offering an insight into the panic and chickens-coming-home-to-roost that is happening within the oil industry.
It is also praiseworthy that this conference focused more on solutions, and allowed space for speakers whose insights are beyond the usual ASPO comfort zone. These included Nate Hagens’ excellent presentation on evolution and psychology as they relate to consumption and our relationship with oil, Debbie Cook’s presentation on municipal scale responses to peak oil, and my being able to speak about Transition Initiatives and the concept of resilience.
This was the ASPO conference where peak oil, as Schlesinger said, became mainstream, thanks in no small part to the indefatigable chairman, Dr. Colin Campbell. That in itself, and the fact that during the conference oil broke through its price record and hit $82 a barrel, gave it a feeling of something historic. As in any conference, perhaps the most useful bits of ASPO 6 were the connections and conversations over coffee, and the evening talks over pints of Murphys. Congratulations must also go to conference organiser Richard O’Rourke.